A song-for-song remake of the 1981 compilation of obscure rockabilly, rock 'n' roll, surf and vocal groups.
[Updated] A recent issue of The Wire features essays on compilations, some framing the act of compiling, others analyzing memorable compilations. The essays considered the effects of the contexts in which we heard music, but no one wrote about a compilation that was an mind-opener for me, 1981’s Jukebox at Eric’s. The comp was distributed by Rough Trade Records and presented in a half-hour or so a version of rock ’n’ roll history that was all about idiosyncrasy and fun. Many of the R&B, surf and rockabilly tracks were amateurish in performance or production, but most of them have personality. They’re not necessarily great ideas, but they’re all individual ideas, and it’s hard to imagine who beyond Brian Wilson or Phil Spector invested more musical ideas in one song than The Rays did in “Elevator Operator.” The Ponderosa Stomp tells a similar story of vital, life-affirming music that exists outside of any official history of rock ’n’ roll (the Stomp included Jukebox artist Ray Sharpe), and Jukebox at Eric’s tells the story more efficiently than the Songs The Cramps Taught Us series.
Part of the album's charm is the way it slipped easily through time. Eric's was (maybe still is) a rockabilly club in Liverpool, which brought The Beatles to mind even if there's nothing on the album they would have sung or heard. The homemade quality of the songs on Jukebox at Eric’s connected with DIY punk singles of the moment, and like punk, many of the songs had futurist-for-their-time elements. Punk and post-punk was self-consciously about reimagining the future, and it’s hard to imagine that whoever worked up the nuclear sound effect on “50 Megaton” didn’t think he’d just gone where no studio person had gone before.
As much as I loved the album, I have never owned Jukebox at Eric’s. When I was doing campus radio, CFMU-FM at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario had it. I’ve never seen it reissued on CD, nor have I seen vinyl copies. I still hold out hope, but since it’s on my mind, I searched and found all but one of the songs on YouTube. Here is the album pulled together as a playlist so that you can hear it as an album:
Here it is as a series of videos if you want to check the songs out selectively.
Track three is "Jim Dandy Handyman" by Shelby R. Smith, which I'm unable to find on YouTube.
Note: This video goes straight into a second Bobby Lee Trammell song. It's fine, but the draw is Trammell's declaration of himself as the first American Beatle and approximation of French.
Updated June 4, 10:48 a.m.
The YouTube playlist was added to make it easier to listen to the music as an album.