Ronnie Dawson

Action Packed

Composed by Jack Rhodes

Song Review by

No song by cult rockabilly singer Ronnie Dawson could be said to be well known. But certainly the most well known song that he recorded was "Action Packed," which though not a hit has received retroactive acclaim as one of the most exciting, manic 1950s rockabilly singles ever. Dawson was still billed by the name of Ronnie Dee when it was released in 1958, and looking and sounding much younger than his 19 years. His high, boyish voice takes command right from the very beginning, where he declares, "gimme the downbeat, maestro!" A throbbing low riff sets a hyper-fast pace as Dawson speed raps about his urge to move in a spoken, echoed voice for almost half a minute, continually interjecting "hear me?" Those interjections certainly aren't, strictly speaking, necessary: if it was real life, you wouldn't need a microphone to hear him, so bold are his exclamations. But they add a sense of giddy impatience to the proceedings, of a guy who even a rocket can't get fast enough from here to there. The spoken bits are broken up by similarly rapid musical interludes in which Dawson sings a kind of ants-in-his-pants gospel-rockabilly hybrid in which he declares if music's gonna move him, it's gotta be -- what else? -- action packed. The comparatively straight-sounding doo wop-pop backup singers ground the tune with just a bit of normalcy. And those spontaneous-sounding "hear me?" exhortations continue throughout, key to the over-the-top energy of the song, which nonetheless doesn't sound contrived, as many ridiculously amphetamined obscure rockabilly singles of the 1950s do. "Action Packed" was written by Jack Rhodes, who'd established rockabilly credentials for writing Gene Vincent's first B-side, "Woman Love," as well as co-writing Vincent's "B-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Go." "Action Packed" was covered by Jonathan Richman on his self-titled 1989 album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Rockin' Bones: The Legendary Masters 1996 Crystal Clear Sound 2:17