If my perusings of NME, Melody Maker and Disc in the 50s were anything to go by we had nothing like Little Richard in my backwater of mid-Staffordshire nor indeed anywhere in Britain. He was, how shall we put it, different. He wore as much make-up as my mother. He screamed more than my sister did. He had eyes, teeth and a pompadour haircut that latter day girlfriends would have been proud of. He dressed in baggy mohair zoot suits more usually associated with jazzers but he had the mannerisms of Liberace. He fluttered his eyelashes coyly at anyone who would watch him - and his voice was not exactly double hard macho either! All this is hardly the stuff you would expect from someone at the cutting edge of rock'n'roll - and that was Art Rupe's Specialty label - but make no mistake, that is what we have here - the full-fat double cr?©me de la cr?©me of Richard Wayne Penniman.
Forget Little Richard's early blues shouters. Forget those 'iffy' live recordings and the later self parodies that found their way onto those cheesy, cheapo compilations. This is the real McCoy. These 26 tracks come from 1955-1964, all but defining Ace's Golden Age of American Rock'n'Roll. They were released in Britain on the London American label, each bearing the legend "Recorded by SPECIALTY, Hollywood" - a phrase that promised pounding piano riffs, honking sax solos, a solid backbeat , and as much screaming excitement as anyone ever squeezed into a record groove.
They are on the CD in the order that they first hit the British shores, A-side followed by B-side. This is how we built up our Little Richard collection but that was certainly not the order in which they were recorded. We got his third US release as a starter and eventually picked up his first two hits after a softening up process. My advice? Read the CD booklet, make notes and programme your machine to play them in whichever order you like, but play them - OFTEN AND LOUD!
By Roger Cope