Friday, 8 June 2012

The Platters - radicals of Rock

Herb Reed, who founded The Platters, has died, aged 83. The Platters? Even the name sounds antique. Modern audiences don't know LPs and probably wouldn't know the word "platter" if it hadn't been revived in  restaurant-speak. But the Platters were one of the biggest names in popular music in the 50's and 60's. Those were the days before the concept of "teenager" even existed, and everyone listened whatever their age or culture. The Platters were radical because they were part of the Rock and Roll Revolution, though they were more crooners than R'n'B. They were also radical because they were black musicians who crossed race boundaries. Movies made black people visible.

Below is a clip from Rock Around The Clock, the 1956 film that created teenagers in the media. Nice, sheltered whitebread kids throw a party and dance to bands that don't wear tuxes or croon. Bill Haley and the Comets star. Plaid shirts, duck tail quiffs instead of GI  haircuts. When Elvis came along, Haley seemed so tame. But in 1956, this movie created shock waves. The Platters featured, a black band given star treatment next to whites. The front man is tenor Tony Williams. Hear the trademark crack in his voice!  Get the full movie if you can, as it's well made, full of pithy quotes. (If you like this, enjoy The Secret History of Louie, Louie)

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