Album: Various Artists, British Rock'n'Roll Anthology (Spectrum)

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The Independent Culture

As much as anything, this box set charting the development of British pop from 1956 to 1964 confirms that the medium is indeed the message.

Such a stranglehold did the BBC wield on radio back then that alongside some genuinely innovative and exciting moments – from "Rock Island Line" to "Telstar", "Shakin' All Over" to "Shout" – these five discs are littered with the establishment-sanctioned, sanitised pap that the Beeb deemed appropriate for the nation's youth. It seems absurd that Fifties teens were expected to groove to housewives' favourite Frankie Vaughan, big-band holdover Ted Heath, or the novelty songs with which the airwaves were stuffed (significantly, the first rock'n'roll hit was not Tommy Steele's "Rock With The Caveman", as often assumed, but "Bloodnok's Rock'n'Roll Call" by The Goons). But creativity burst out regardless amongst the young, well represented by sparkling contributions from Lonnie Donegan, Joe Brown, Billy Fury, Tom Jones, Joe Meek and of course The Beatles, captured in the first flush of "Ain't She Sweet". The beat-boom's origins in R&B are illustrated via the likes of Joe Cocker, Cyril Davies, Georgie Fame, The Animals and Rod Stewart; but it's hard to ignore the absence of anything by Cliff Richard or the Stones.

Download this: 'Rock Island Line', 'Telstar', 'Shakin' All Over', 'Shout', 'A Picture of You'