Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quite Contrary

In Chuck Eddy's Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll, the determinedly contrarian rock critic makes the outlandish claim that Paper Lace more or less invented rap on "The Night Chicago Died." "The latter," Eddy writes, "by five happy hacks from England, has the distinction of being the first rap record ever to top the charts" here in the U.S.

Now, I have no problem with contrarianism. I can't quibble with Eddy's skepticism toward Bruce Springsteen, or his downright disdain for U2, as long as he can make the case. I am glad to see artists like Debbie Gibson and the Kingston Trio get taken seriously, although Eddy pushes his luck when he tries to resuscitate Stacey Q.

The real problem with such contrarianism is that is leads him to disregard what is as plain as the nose on Pete Townshend's face, such as the fact that "The Night Chicago Died" is not a rap record. It's got very little melody in the verses, and the lyrics are a bit staccato, but they don't have the cadence and flow and internal rhyming of rap. Frankly, they don't sound like rap at all, and if anybody is going to be making or defending outlandish claims on behalf of Paper Lace, you've gotta figure it's going to be me.

This discussion occurs when Eddy is ruminating over rap lyrics in white pop songs, and what really tips his hand here is that he never mentions Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." He has room for "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!," and "Gimme Dat Ding," and even Steve Martin's "King Tut," but not the song that Run-DMC covered.

I suspect it's the desire to ignore the obvious that also leads Eddy to leave off "You May Be Right" in his list of songs with breaking glass in them, or in his discussion of songs with partying noises going on in the background, to never even once mention Johnny Rivers. If that - and constant invocation of Def Leppard, who, despite Eddy's fawning over them, are neither especially good nor bad enough to be interesting - is what contrary wisdom gets you, I'm happy to run with the herd.


MJN said...

I've heard Robert Preston's 1957 recording of "Ya Got Trouble" described as Early Rap.

T. Nawrocki said...

That starts with T, and rhymes with P, and that stands for Paper Lace.

Joe said...

Stacey Q's "Baby Love" is pretty awesome. Though as I remember, Chuck Eddy likes her second album.

T. Nawrocki said...

He doesn't really talk about the hits. Eddy treats Stacey Q solely as an album artist.

Anonymous said...

The rap part of "The Night Chicago Died" is the INTRO, dude: "Daddy was a cop/On the East Side of Chicago/Back in the U.S.A./Back in the bad old days." Go back and listen again; you'll see what I mean.

As for "Walk This Way," Run DMC covered that song because Rick Rubin read a Village Voice review of Done With Mirrors I'd written in which I called "Walk This Way" rap. 22 years ago! You can look it up. (I called "Lord of the Thighs" rap, too, but nobody ever covered that one.)

Anonymous said...

Er, "Anonymous" is me, Chuck Eddy. Not sure how that happened, actually.

And isn't "Baby Love" Regina, not Stacey Q?