If Elvis reigned as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Chuck Berry was the Poet Laureate, then The Coasters served as the Clown Princes, singing sly and humorous songs with more hits than Robin Hood at an archery tournament.
In fact, they started out as The Robins in Los Angeles in the late 40’s, but didn’t find serious success until hooking up with a couple of young songsmiths who had recently smashed the hit parade with a little tune called “Hound Dog.” You may remember Leiber and Stoller from a few weeks ago. The chartbusting duo signed the vocal group to their newly formed indie label and penned a couple of R&B classics for them, but when Atlantic Records offered to buy Leiber and Stoller out and give them a sweet production deal, only two of The Robins chose to go with them. It proved a wise and lucrative decision. Those two added two more and became The Coasters.
One year into their new incarnation, The Coasters scored two Top 10 hits, and one year after that, in 1958, appeared on jukeboxes everywhere with their first (and only) across the board #1, “Yakety Yak.” The group’s winning ways continued into the 60’s and greatly influenced the beat groups in the UK, especially The Beatles, who covered half a dozen of their songs during their early touring years.
Teens in the 50’s were definitely interested in sex and rebellion, the twin pillars upon which rock ‘n’ roll resides, but everybody still loved a bit of silliness, too. These were just kids, after all, saving up their pennies for some uncomplicated fun. And The Coasters gave them their money’s worth.
So bring in the dog and put out the cat. Here’s the least you need to know:
Like everyone else in the late 50’s/early 60’s, the attention of The Coasters centered almost solely on the singles. Finding those hit songs and getting them played on the jukebox, the radio, and the portable hi-fi in every kid’s bedroom – that was the goal. So you’re looking for a compilation here. Like every other act of the time, there are 10 billion compilations. A single disc is enough, but The Definitive Soul is an excellent double-disc set. Just make sure the record label says Rhino, Atco, or Atlantic – that way you can be sure you’re listening to originals and not re-recordings.