“Wop-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bom-bom”: the world changed with this joyous, nonsensical scream by a black drag queen tortured by his own religious convictions. Although to this day Little Richard has never quite figured out if he’s a sexually promiscuous rock’n’roll star, a preacher, or both: Little Richard is the spirit of rock’n’roll. Elvis may’ve been the looks, Chuck Berry the songs, but Little Richard is its soul: driving, raw and crazy.
The twelve tracks of his debut hold a power of their own over 50 years later and were before the complications set in. Looking sharp with a mile-high quiff and zoot suit: to this day it rocks like little else has or will ever do. Musically, it’s classic rock’n’roll: every song is pretty much the same (a sped up blues jam), made individual by Richards relentless hammering of piano chords and his unique squeal of a voice. It’s a celebration of chaotic, confused, hyper youth: he screams, yells and hollers his way through twelve undeniable things: ‘Tutti Frutti’ (the original lyric was “A wop bop a loo mop, a good godamn! Tutti frutti, a loose booty. If it don’t fit, don’t force it, you can grease it, make it easy”), ‘Long Tall Sally’, “Slippin’ And Slidin’”, “She’s Got It”, “Jenny Jenny”.
By the time of his release rock’n’roll was just emerging out of the Southern US states, and it’s hard to specify what Richard did so differently from the pre-runners or his contemporaries, except that the unique appeal of his raw, gospel-driven, lunatic vocals and relentless, pounding, unyielding piano are a both powerhouse performances.
He only did two more albums like this – Little Richard and The Fabulous Little Richard – and then found God, but he was book at the keys soon enough, but never quite like this. The album’s a pure wheel of excitement: pure, innocent, addictive - the original appeal still lingers. If you want to know where modern popular music really started, this isn’t a bad place to begin. He may’ve not been the first; the most musically proficent; the most successful, but it is the best.