Sunday, January 07, 2007

Great Balls of Fire

The only thing I find more interesting than reading about old Welsh gigs is reading about old Welsh gigs that never actually happened. Yes, I know, it's a character flaw.

Like for instance when Jerry Lee Lewis first came to Britain in May 1958. A tour had been arranged and Cardiff was on the itinerary - two shows lined up at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets went on sale and adverts (see pic) were printed. Youthful rock'n'rollers at last had the chance to see in person "the dynamic young American star".

Teddy boys and teddy girls from all over South Wales were in a state of heightened excitement. They'd already heard his incredible record Great Balls of Fire on the wireless; and seen him attacking his piano in a recent film.

And then the shit hit the fan. Jerry had just got married again. To a 13-year-old girl. She was his cousin. He hadn't yet actually got divorced from his previous wife. The British press went ballistic.

Morally outraged the Rank organisation quickly pulled the plug on his tour including the Cardiff gig. Thus the Welsh public were denied seeing the planet's most visceral, demonic, musical phenomenon performing live in his absolute prime. A genuine cultural tragedy.

Of course he's been back to play in Wales since but it's not quite the same is it? It's not the real badass 23-year-old Jerry Lee up there, not the devil personified, not The Killer! So it's his phantom gig at the Capitol Theatre that I prefer to remember.

*Rather curiously Jerry Lee's sister Linda Gail Lewis used to live in Penarth. Check out her book The Devil, Me and Jerry Lee for a good insight into her relationship with the rock'n'roll legend.