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Long Tall Sally - Little Richard

It's get up on the nearest table and dance yourself stupid time.

Most people rate "Tutti Frutti" with its "whap bap a-loom app, a-whap bam bam" opening - pure rock and roll poetry - as Little Richard's masterpiece, but for me, its follow up, "Long Tall Sally" , shades it.

In the 1950's Pat Boone rivalled Elvis Presley in the eyes of young America as the country's leading rock and roll singer. From his first hit "Two Hearts", his 1955 cover of an Otis Williams and the Charms doo-wop track, Boone achieved his initial success from his hit versions of r&b recordings. In the early days of rock and roll, mainstream (ie: targeted at white audiences) US radio stations seldom played records by black artists, and Boone profited from this by covering songs originally recorded by "artists of colour" such as Fats Domino, the Eldorados, the Flamingos, Ivory Joe Hunter and Big Joe Turner. Nowadays, he is seldom played by anyone, and is often cited as the supreme example of cultural exploitation that was so common in popular music in those days, with the suggestion that many black artists would have been more successful had their versions stood alone. Little Richard has been more magnanimous than that, saying that Boone versions of his records helped build his own reputation amongst white audiences. At the time, though, after his first hit, "Tutti Frutti", had been covered by Boone and reached number 12 in the US charts while his own version peaked at only 21, Little Richard vowed to make a record that Boone couldn't possibly cut. And "Long Tall Sally" was it. The great thing about much early soul and rock and roll was the double entendre motif equating dancing with having sex as exemplified in Etta James's wonderful "Roll with me Henry" and, whatever story Little Richard is telling in "Long Tall Sally", there's no doubt that there's a lot of "shenanigans" taking place. And the whole feel of Richard's vocal is "steamy" to say the least:

"Well, I saw Uncle John with bald head Sally he saw Aunt Mary comin' and he jumped back in the alley.........

....well, long tall Sally she's built sweet she got everything that Uncle John need"

and if you don't believe me, just listen to Lee Allen's racy sax solo.

Needless to say Pat Boone did cover it, and once again beat it 8 to 13 in the Billboard charts. But history has made a laughing stock of Boone and the US white record-buying public: in comparison to Little Richard he sounds like a middle-aged American travelling salesman in a toupée and checked suit, washed up and alone, doing karaoke in a Blackpool winter bar about ten minutes before closing time.

That's if you can be bothered to listen to it. Best just take my word for it. Life's too short.

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