Did someone order a riff? Cause we got a riff goin’ on right here!
Shakin’ All Over, by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 4th – 11th August 1960
I mentioned – without realising this song was coming up next – that our previous #1, Cliff & The Shadows ‘Please Don’t Tease’, had given us the merest hint of a riff; riffs having been fairly absent from our rundown thus far. However, this record isn’t just giving us a whiff of riff – it’s giving us full-on riffage and then whacking us over the head with it. Repeatedly.
It’s basically impossible to transcribe a riff – to turn notes from a guitar into phonemes on a page – but I will, without fail, try to do so every time one comes along at the top of the charts. Diddle-iddle-iddle-iddle-din… Diddle-iddle-iddle-iddle-din… Trust me – it sounds much cooler than it looks written down…
When you move in right up close to me… That’s when I get the shakes all over me… Johnny Kidd has a girl who is bringing on some pretty drastic symptoms. Then the best bit of the song, one of the best bits from any of the one hundred and five chart-toppers so far: the pause… and TWANG! Quivers down the backbone, I got the shakes in the knee-bone, Ye-eah the tremors in the thigh-bone… Shakin’ all over!
There are plenty of other great things about this record: the little drum fill before the solo, the gritty solo itself, and a fade-out loaded with sexual suggestion – we-ell you make me shake and I like it baby… But nothing can top that pause… and TWANG!
This is rock ‘n’ roll, and I’m feeling so invigorated by listening to this song on repeat that I might go further than that and drop the ‘n roll’. This is rock, plain and simple. Killer riff? Check. Lyrics about sex? Check. Slightly rough-round-the-edges recording? Check. Johnny Kidd & The Pirates also wore outlandish pirate costumes on stage (eye-patches, cutlasses and the like), bringing us glam a good ten years ahead of schedule. And they parted acrimoniously – as any rock ‘n’ roll band worth their salt has done at least once – The Pirates abandoning Kidd when the hits dried up.
But the most momentous thing about ‘Shakin’ All Over’? More momentous than the eye-patches and the TWANG. This is a British rock record (gasp!) – Kidd and The Pirates having formed in London. The elusive coming of age of British rock ‘n’ roll, hinted at by Tommy Steele, promised but not delivered by Cliff… It finally arrives at the top of the charts!
I knew the importance of this record before embarking on this post – anyone who has a passing interest in the history of rock music will surely know this song. But actually hearing it in context – listening to it arrive amongst all the Cliff hits, next to ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ and ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ – really hammers home how important this track is. It also consigns my claims about the castration of rock ‘n’ roll to the dust. Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well; it just isn’t always to be found at the top of the pop charts.
Johnny Kidd even managed to die in a suitably rock ‘n’ roll fashion – in a car crash in 1966, aged just thirty. In truth, he had been struggling for hits long before that. But this one song is more of a legacy than most can hope to leave. The cover versions speak for themselves: check out those by The Who, Wanda Jackson and Rose Hill Drive – who contributed their version to the soundtrack of a mid-00s video game which I picked up second-hand on a whim years ago. Isn’t it weird how some songs find you? In truth, any aspiring rock ‘n’ roll band should be required by law to include ‘Shakin’ All Over’ in their first set-lists. It’s a song that would sound just as great being thrashed out in a garage as it would on an arena tour. And that, folks, is as sure a sign as any that we have a rock and/or roll classic on our hands. Enjoy…