Rip It Up

Watching old recordings of formative rock and roll songs by innovators such as Little Richards feels a lot like gazing at ossified sea creatures at the natural history museum. Wow, did all of life really spring from this? You’d be hard pressed to find Little Richard’s DNA in the musical stylings of, say, Fuck Buttons, but yet you know that it’s in there, just like you know that you carry the genetic material of some hominid in the Nile River Valley who got eaten by saber-toothed tree sloths or something. And that makes you mist up a little at the grandeur and awesomeness of human progress and the forces of nature that have buffeted it. Unlike the progress of hominids, though, the evolution of rock music as a cultural genus has taken place all in a single lifetime, which is to say, the lifetime of Little Richard, who is still alive at 85. A lot has changed in 85 years, but one thing hasn’t; you can still make yourself a star by mastering the two-and-a-half-minute rock song format that Little Richard helped to establish.