When last we left the UK, back in the late 50s, skiffle had spread like wildfire across the land and the kids were developing a nascent rock & roll scene based on imported American records. The UK produced a couple of pretenders to the throne with “edgy” names like Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde, but really, everyone was simply too polite for the gut-bucket rock all the kids craved.
The first British rocker with a homegrown hit was Elvis-wannabe Cliff “That’s Sir Cliff To You” Richard with “Move It” in 1958, but he sold out and went soft right quick — which is how he became a knight of the realm, a beloved icon, and a multi-millionaire. The middle of the road is paved with gold.
The truly wild ones, however, lived on the fringes. And sometimes wore an eyepatch. And wielded a cutlass.
Meet Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, one of the first groups to put on a high-kicking, theatrically costumed, rockin’ your bones all the way down to your Davy Jones show! Formed in London in 1959, their first single hit the charts with respectable sales, but their fourth, “Shakin’ All Over,” climbed to the top of the main-mast in 1960 and cemented their musical legacy as pioneers of British rock. Featuring a memorable guitar riff and Kidd’s impassioned vocals, “Shakin’ All Over” made no waves in North America until a cover by The Guess Who stormed the charts in 1965.
The other Who (the ones without the Guess) also added the song to their repertoire, and to their 1970 album Live At Leeds. Although it was fairly standard to have two guitarists in the early 60s, The Who’s instrumental lineup of one guitarist, bass, and drums — known in the biz as a power trio — came about as a direct result of seeing a performance by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
So drop the needle and prepare to come about — it’s time to get your timbers shivered.