Link Gets Atomic!
So powerful a 45 that they had to give it TWO drill holes!!
Listen – Link Wray & His Ray Men – Jack the Ripper – MP3
Listen – The Raybeats – Jack the Ripper – MP3
I hope that everyone made excellent use of their weekend days, whether it be carousing at the end of a frosty bottle of beer or chilling on the sofa with a cuppa joe.
No beer (but plenty of coffee) for me as I soldier on what appears to be an eternal state of sleep deprivation, that I don’t expect to end until my kids are in college. That’ll be sometime around 2024, which means I’ll have years of sleep to catch up on, which means if I hit the sack right as soon as I retire, I’ll likely be dead before I pull enough Z’s out of the debit column and break even.
I’d better get to work…
Back in my early 20’s, in the embryonic days of MTV, I saw a video that dented my brain so severely that I have yet to fully recover almost 25 years later.
That video, built largely on film clips of atomic tests was for ‘Jack the Ripper’ by the Raybeats.
I already had the first Raybeats LP (which featured a boss cover of ‘B-Gas Rickshaw’), but nothing on it could have prepared me for the sounds shredding the tiny speaker on my TV set.
That the video featured clips of atomic destruction was apt, as the sonic assault of ‘Jack the Ripper’ was positively brutal, all power chords, buffalo stampede drums and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea reverb.
I wasted no time in procuring myself a copy of the LP ‘It’s Only a Movie’, slapped it on the old victrola and beat the living shit out of my poor speakers, over, and over, and over again, pausing only – with the fall of darkness – to strap on my headphones and repeat the process by sending the lightning directly into my eardrums.
They’re still ringing today.
When I took the time to read the label, I was shocked, nay stunned…no…perhaps pole axed is a better word, to discover that ‘Jack the Ripper’ was in fact a cover of a song by the mighty Link Wray.
In addition to having maybe the coolest name in the history of the guitar (with Yngwie Malmsteen at the other end of the scale), Wray created some of the greatest instrumentals in the history of axe-ology, including his hit ‘Rumble’, as well as ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Run Chicken Run’. He was a pioneer in the use of distortion, reverb and power chord-ery, and was every inch the leather jacketed, slick haired paragon of cool.
Following the Raybeats, I set out on a quest to track down Link’s original version of ‘Jack the Ripper’, and it wasn’t long before my search yielded pay dirt and I had a copy of the 1963 single on the Swan label (backed of course by the excellent ‘Black Widow’, a fortuitous A/B side match up if ever I’ve heard one).
Hearing the original ‘Jack the Ripper’ was something like having your mind blown apart and then reassembled haphazardly by a mad scientist. Sure, all the parts are there, but the wiring is somehow askew.
Where the Raybeats had gotten their claws into the song 20 years after the fact and ripped it limb from limb (in a good way, of course) the original was every bit as spare and haunted as the cover was bombastic. Where the Raybeats evoked the dark spirit of the atom age in their video for ‘Jack the Ripper’, Wray’s version – created during a time when the canned food in the country’s bomb shelters was still edible – like a mushroom cloud on the horizon was possessed of an eerie energy, pushed forward by minimalist drums and bass (like a martian heartbeat).
Link’s own guitar veers wildly from echoey washes, to high-pitched leads and chicken scratch plucking, all straining his amp to it’s limits.
So dark a sound flies from the grooves that I can picture someone driving home alone at night in 1963 getting the willies and turning off the radio (or stomping on the accelerator like a maniac) when ‘Jack the Ripper’ came over the airwaves.
So, pull down the ones and zeros, send them through your ears and into your fevered brain.
Come the sunrise (should you survive) you might just thank me.
PS Thanks to Coop for putting me back on the Raybeats tip, and saving me the trouble of digging out the LP and digi-ma-tizing their version of the tune.