When I was 18, few if any legit Little Richard records were in print (or otherwise available in southwest Missouri). Also, unbelievable but true, I had never heard a song of his on the radio. I HAD read about him: “anarchy in the USA,” someone wrote. That sounded irresistible. As a freshman in college, somewhere I read that this album was available through Rather Ripped Records in California. $20 was a fortune for me then but I wrote a check and mailed it off.
When the record arrived, I stopped everything I was doing and put it on. A second or two of silence, then “Long Tall Sally” EXPLODED out of the speakers. Whatta voice! Whatta band! What an attack! I think I listened to it 10 times that day. It’s hard for streamers to understand the feeling of only being able to read about some incredible music but not find it–true for many of us until the CD boom brought forth a reissue boom–and this hit collection lived up to everything I’d ever read about Richard’s music, in fact surpassed it. It’s still my gold standard for first impressions. No album has ever so immediately convinced me. I was so convinced I wrote a short story around it (the only one I’ve ever written) two weeks after I got it in the mail. And the album art and message? Effing perfect.
He lived a long, sometimes tortured, painful, and lonely life, and you can probably listen to everything essential he ever recorded in a couple of hours–he wasted no time on wax–but make no mistake: he was a giant. A giant who has intriguingly continued to be very important and inspiring in different ways over the years. We shall not see his like again.