Live at the Star Club, by Jerry Lee Lewis
Suggested by Mike Wootton
According to Lemmy, the iconic frontman from Motorhead, before Rock and Roll there was nothing but jazz musicians doing heroin. Honestly, if I were forced to play Jazz all day, I’d be on drugs too.
When discussing the nascent Rock and Roll scene, a handful of names are oft repeated like a mantra. Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis. These pioneers paved the way for the bands that paved the way for the bands that paved the way for the bands we know and love. Feel free to remove as many layers of that sentence as applicable to your age and musical tastes.
I find it hard to reconcile how Jerry Lee Lewis inspired the Motorhead sound, but if Lemmy himself claims these influencers as his own, then who am I to argue? Personally, when I listen to Chuck Berry or Little Richard or similar, I’m rather bored by the whole affair. I mean, sure, it’s energetic, but it sounds so dated now. Thanks for the foundations, Grandpa. We’re building the forty-second floor today.
And with Jerry Lee Lewis, you have to look at him through the married-his-thirteen-year-old-cousin lens. While he was twenty-two, and still married. And they had a kid when she was fourteen or fifteen. So… yeah. Great Balls of Fire doesn’t make up for being a paedophile, mate.
Live at the Star Club was recorded in Hamburg in 1964, when Jerry Lee Lewis was aged 29. Still in prime playing age, the electricity in this recording is palpable. Over eight frenetic tracks (on the streaming services – the original release has thirteen), Jerry Lee wows what sounds like an intimate and appreciative crowd with all the classics you’d expect. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Good Golly Miss Molly, and my standout track Great Balls of Fire… the hits just keep coming.
As with most live recordings, the vocalist takes a beating doe to the expended energy of working the room, but even with this considered, there is electricity in each and every track. So much so, in fact, that it’s impossible for Jerry Lee to keep it all in. Almost every song has Jerry dictating and modulating the pace throughout, as if he’s chasing the musical pack then galloping ahead and asking the ensemble to catch up. It’s jarring in places, but it’s good clean fun.
It’s easy to see why this is heralded as one of the top five live albums ever made, but even so, it’s still Fifties rock and roll. Hoist by the petard of its own success, the songs are overplayed and almost hackneyed, despite their restless legs. No matter how ground-breaking the show I Love Lucy may have been, I’m firing up Prime and binging The Boys instead.
In deference to his pedigree, I give Live at the Star Club a middling 6/10. Musically, it’s decent enough, but there are a lot of troubling aspects to both the album and the legend that created it.