History Of Rock On Vinyl: Historians Question The Earliest Rock Hits

Jimmy Preston’s “Rock the Joint” is sometimes called the prototype of future rock and roll recordings. Since it was released in May 1949, historians have long felt it came out around the time people started to really notice that rock music existed. Bill Haley later released a cover of the song in 1952, and it’s probably a good deal harder than most of what Haley recorded in his career. Many of the more famous rock and roll albums of the 1950s, including those of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, share musical similarities with this particular single.
Debating over the Earliest Hard Rock Song

Joe Hill Louis recorded “Boogie in the Park” in 1950. Louis was essentially working as a one-man band when he made the song, and his guitar work on it is considered a sort of distant ancestor of later hard rock recordings. Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats soon followed with distorted sounds on their “Rocket 88” single, which was recorded in 1951. Historians argue back and forth over who started a trend towards edgier music, but it’s probably irrelevant. Both of these tracks were recorded independently, and collectors appreciate either of them.

Grooving Down in Jamaica

While it usually isn’t considered a chapter of the rock music canon, rocksteady has its place in the history of the recording industry. As native calypso and mento hits started to mix with outside influences, new soulful sounds started to be heard in Jamaican record shops. By the time Johnny Nash recorded “Hold Me Tight” in 1968, it was starting to get to the point where genres were no longer clearly defined. However, Nash got further and further away from this sound, and he’s probably better known for having recorded the more sugary track “I Can See Clearly Now.”

Revolution was Coming

Nevertheless, some bands didn’t care about being pleasant. As the recording industry seemed fixed on cheerful ideals, there were those who wanted to go for a much more aggressive sound. When Iron Butterfly recorded “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in 1968 they were perhaps unknowingly starting a revolution along with Steppenwolf. The recording industry was getting ready to pick up on heavy metal, and psychedelic rock was really starting to carve it’s own niche.

Record collectors will want to pay close attention to the techniques used on some of these recordings. Audio signal processing technology developed in the 1960s made it possible for bands to start using what’s called a phaser technique. Altering sound phases is probably more associated with house music acts in the modern era, but it really helped to draw attention to psychedelic bands at that time. Many records from that time period that made use of the technique have become popular with fans.

WORDS BY: Eric Blair writes about his growing vinyl collection with help from distributors like SoundStage Direct