Released: March 1956
Cole Porter had written the track back in the 1930s but it was covered by Sinatra for his ‘Songs For Swingin’ Lovers’ album in 1956 . The smooth, daytime jazz waltz became one of his trademark tracks. But his delivery belied the lyrics, which rather unsettlingly suggested the creeping sense of an inescapable obsession.
Released: September 1956
An air of otherworldly mystery hangs about this bluesy stomp. Tales of recording sessions happening in a state of inebriated revery and the track being banned for being too ‘cannibalistic’, and no wonder, Jay sounds like a cartoon villain as he intones the lyrics.
Released: April 1956
Brown was never more energized than during this early period of his career when his Gospel roots collided with the passionate blues of his Famous Flames band. This track was famously used as a key part of his gig routine, when a handler came out, covered Brown in a cape and escorted a seemingly overwrought Brown off-stage. It made his legend.
Released: May 1956
Written as a pledge of marital devotion and penned as a ballad, it was producer Sam Phillips who suggested the breezy, arrangement. Although Cash’s music and career would inhabit darker, more complicated and ornate territory, the simplicity of ‘I Walk The Line’ is one of his most memorable moments.
Released: May 1958
The reverend of the double entendre, Little Richard’s portrait of a good time “mama” is unforgettable. With a ragtime piano and a crowing vocal, Little Richard creates a sonic romp that suggests there’s a lot more going under the covers than one initially suspects.
Released: January 1958
The birth of rock 'n roll meant that screaming teens were the norm. It also meant that it was just a matter of time before songs were written about them. Berry’s song follows one such rabid fan over a simple blues riff. As she follows her favourite band around the country, her “sweetness” oscillates between chats with her “mommy” and struggling with “the grown up blues.”
Elvis may have the more popular version but nobody delivers ‘Hound Dog’ like the Mama; altering her inflections on every line she delivers by far the most captivating rendition. This was the first version, and inspired no less than six covers within a month of its release.
Released: July 1955
Hard to re-appraise objectively after its use and abuse on films and adverts – from Hot Shots to So I Married An Axe Murderer, Alvin And The Chipmunks and beyond - over the years, The Platters’ sweetly harmonised ballad is nevertheless a total classic.
Released: July 1959
It’s hard to believe but this track, Ray Charles’ first gold record, the one he finished every set with, one of the cuts that’s credited as kick-starting a small genre known as soul, a frisky nugget currently residing in the national recording registry, started life as an improvised thing at the end of a set.
Released: January 1956
Where the sound of street doo-wop met rock and roll, the precocious Harlem teen Lymon and his vocal harmony group The Teenagers sang with the type of honesty about teenage love angst which that only a (then) 15 year old could have known about .