Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Songs of Love and Dates; Jerry Leiber Was a Dream Weaver A[euro]" a Writer of Songs about the Teenage Condition

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Songs of Love and Dates; Jerry Leiber Was a Dream Weaver A[euro]" a Writer of Songs about the Teenage Condition

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Hasted of The Independent

THE death of Jerry Leiber this week breaks another link with a generation of 1950s songwriters who helped to define the teenage dream.

With his writing partner, Mike Stoller, a long sequence of hits including Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and Stand by Me, Leiber (pictured right) acutely addressed adolescent romantic and rebellious urges.

Rock'n'roll as it has played out over the past half-century made its seismic, still rumbling impact through the shocking sight and sound of performers such as Elvis Presley and his wilder Southern peers, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

But the jobbing, mostly Jewish and African-American young songwriters who put words in their mouths were equally vital.

In the following decade, Bob Dylan and The Beatles would establish rock and teenage longing as more self-consciously serious forces, sometimes toying with literal rebellion.

Leiber's generation found a language for and legitimised more primal concerns: hormonal frustration, girls, cars and dancing.

The year 1956 was when pop changed. In January, Frank Sinatra recorded Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, his definitive LP interpreting the songbook of the 20th century's first half.

Songs such as Cole Porter's I Get a Kick out of You were not lacking in excitement, but they plainly applied to the world of adult relationships inhabited by the besuited, 40-year-old singer.

Like the mature cool of jazz artists such as Miles Davis, who would release his album of George Gershwin songs, Porgy and Bess, two years later, this was music for teenagers dutifully to grow into, not live their lives to.

Elvis's first US No 1 hit, Heartbreak Hotel, came in February.

The almost Gothic gloominess of its account of lovelorn depression, written by Florida schoolteacher Mae Axton and country singer Tommy Durden, is worthy of The Smiths.

Although based on a newspaper account of the hotel suicide of a man consumed by existential despair, when sang by Elvis it could also be taken as a portrait of the absolutism of teenage crushes.

The 21-year-old singer's version that year of his old Sun Records labelmate Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes then toyed with the life-and-death importance of teenage fashion, as he valued his beloved footwear over a house or car.

Elvis's recording of Leiber and Stoller's Hound Dog, his third No1 when it was released in July, added the earthy sexuality of the blues and R and B songs admired by its writers, high-school teenagers themselves when they wrote it.

The duo, East Coast natives who paired up while at an LA high school, were adding to a long tradition of Jewish writers as conduits for black American culture.

Leiber and Stoller added illicit tastes from across the tracks.

Hound Dog spoke of a raw world of sexual experience: thrilling hormonal dreams unavailable on Sinatra's songs of bar-room regret. …

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