Various Artists

It Came from the Suburbs: Rare Teen Rock from the Kennedy Era

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The title of this CD compilation, along with cover art featuring a cartoon of car-cruising teenagers, gets you geared up for some of the most whitebread early-'60s rock & roll imaginable. However, while these 27 tracks are certainly rare (about half, in fact, are previously unissued), the "suburbs" from which the labels recording them hailed refer to Downey, CA -- which is actually quite close to Los Angeles. And, while much of this material's on the innocuous side, it's not whitebread. Instead, this assortment of late-'50s/early-'60s rock & roll, rockabilly, doo wop, instrumental rock, and novelty tunes is actually a fairly representative sampling of the wide variety of sounds populating the jungle of the early L.A. pop/rock industry. All of it was recorded for the Downey label, though some of it appeared on affiliated labels such as Jack Bee. And absolutely none of it made a substantial commercial impact, though Downey did have a big national hit with the Chantays' "Pipeline," and a much smaller chart entry with the Rumblers' "Boss" (though no cuts by those two groups are featured on this CD).

Indeed, few of the acts here made much of a name for themselves, except for an over-the-hill Jessie Hill (whose "Chip Chop (My Fair Lady)" is a shameless cannibalization of his earlier hit "Ooh Poo Pah Doo") and the Pastel Six (whose 1963 hit, "The Cinnamon Cinder (It's a Very Nice Dance)," was done for a different label). There's also Carl Burnett, whose "Sweet Memories" (arranged by a young Barry White) is a lukewarm follow-up of sorts to Little Caesar & the Romans' "Those Oldies But Goodies" -- on which Burnett had sung lead. Truth be told, much of the CD presents very heavily derivative, none-too-impressive music from the underside of the young L.A. rock scene. Sometimes the inspiration is quite obvious (Eddie Cochran, for instance, for Jimmie Hombs' "Joe Cool," and Dion for Richard Ward & the Hustlers' "The Well of Loneliness"); some of the doo wop-ish tunes are pretty trivial; and some of the novelties pretty forced (like Johnny MacRae's "Betty Boop," an obvious attempted "Alley Oop" cash-in). There's some mild fun to be had from the voodoo rock novelties by Darrell Glenn ("Hoo Doo the Voo Doo") and Jimmie Hombs ("Voo Doo Dolly"), though as the titles signify, these weren't exactly the most subtle such things. But this anthology's really only for the dedicated collector of all things on small indie rock labels of the period, not the more discriminating seeker of buried treasure.

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