Do you like the song, “Great Balls Of Fire?” Then you’ll dig this album. That is, if you can look past his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin when he was 22. Frankly, that’s not an iota as heinous as what the Lostprophets frontman was guilty of (conspiracy to rape an infant). I can’t in any good conscience listen to anything by Lostprophets anymore, but Jerry Lee Lewis is still OK. Better than OK, actually. I could easily imagine listening to this album or others by him outside this project. Check it out.
Live at the Star Club is a 1964 live album by rock and roll pianist Jerry Lee Lewis and The Nashville Teens. The album was recorded at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany on April 5, 1964. It is regarded by many music journalists as one of the wildest and greatest rock and roll concert albums ever. The album appears in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Live at the Star Club was produced by Siggi Loch, who was head of the jazz department at Philips Records. In Joe Bonomo‘s book Lost And Found, Loch states that “…I realized that there were all of these young, mainly British, bands who were playing Chuck Berry and other white American rock & rollers, their big heroes…And I went to the owner and made a proposal to start recording bands at the Star-Club, which I did.” According to Loch the recording setup was uncomplicated, with microphones placed as close to the instruments as possible with a stereo mike placed in the audience to capture the ambience. The results were sonically astonishing, with Bonomo observing that “Detractors complain of the album’s crashing noisiness, the lack of subtlety with which Jerry Lee revisits the songs, the fact that the piano is mixed too loudly, but what is certain is that Siggi Loch on this spring evening captured something brutally honest about the Killer, about the primal and timeless center of the very best rock & roll…”
Sixteen songs were recorded over two sets, the first set comprising “Down The Line,” “You Win Again,” “High School Confidential,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “What’d I Say (Parts 1 & 2), and “Mean Woman Blues.” The second set featured “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Matchbox,” “Money,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Lewis Boogie,” “Hound Dog,” “Long Tall Sally” and “I’m On Fire.” “Down The Line,” omitted on the original LP due to a sound fault at the beginning, was released on French Mercury single Les Rois du Rock, Vol. 8 : Jerry Lee Lewisand included on later CD and LP releases of Bear Family Records. The tapes for “You Win Again” and “I’m On Fire” are believed to have been lost.
For decades the album was only available in Europe due to legal constraints. In 2014, Lewis told biographer Rick Bragg “Oh, man, that was a big monster record” but that the record company “never paid me a penny.” Speaking to Patrick Doyle ofRolling Stone in 2014, Lewis remained proud that he “stuck with rock & roll when the rest of them didn’t, I kept the ball rollin’ with that.”
Live at the Star Club, Hamburg is generally regarded as one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made. Recorded during his “wilderness years” following the fallout surrounding his 1958 marriage to his thirteen year old second cousin Myra, the album showcases Lewis’s phenomenal skills as a pianist and singer, which had been honed by relentless touring. In a 5 out of 5 stars review, Milo Miles raved in Rolling Stone that “Live At The Star Club, Hamburg is not an album, it’s a crime scene: Jerry Lee Lewis slaughters his rivals in a thirteen-song set that feels like one long convulsion. Recorded April 5th, 1964, this is the earliest and most feral of Lewis’ concert releases from his wilderness years …”. Q Magazine commented “This might be the most exciting performance ever recorded…”. The album was included in Mojo’s “The 67 Lost Albums You Must Own!” – “[A]n unbelievably seismic document of rock ‘n’ roll so demonic and primal it can barely keep its stage suit on…. It’s up there with James Brown’s great live albums.”
AllMusic said of the album: “Words cannot describe – cannot contain – the performance captured on Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, an album that contains the very essence of rock & roll…Live at the Star Club is extraordinary – the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record…He sounds possessed, hitting the keys so hard it sounds like they’ll break, and rocking harder than anybody had before or since. Compared to this, thrash metal sounds tame, the Stooges sound constrained, hardcore punk seems neutered, and the Sex Pistols sound like wimps. Rock & roll is about the fire in the performance, and nothing sounds as fiery as this; nothing hits as hard or sounds as loud, either. It is no stretch to call this the greatest live album ever, nor is it a stretch to call it the greatest rock & roll album ever recorded. Even so, words can’t describe the music here — it truly has to be heard to be believed.”
Joe Bonomo calls “Mean Woman Blues”, the opening number on the album, as “nothing short of a concert in itself”. Author Colin Escott describes Lewis’s performance of the Hank Williams classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart” as a one man tour-de-force, “a stunning fusion of everything that was Jerry Lee Lewis. The bluesy piano licks thrown into the middle of the stone hillbilly classic and a vocal of scorching intensity.” “ In the 2014 book Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story Rick Bragg marvels that on Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, the piano “sounds like its breaking at times, like he is playing more with a tack hammer than flesh and blood” and deems it “one of the grittiest, most spectacular pieces of recorded music ever made.”
- Side one
- “Mean Woman Blues” (Claude Demetrius) 4:01
- “High School Confidential” (Hargrave, Lewis) 2:25
- “Money (That’s What I Want)” (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy) 4:35
- “Matchbox” (Carl Perkins) 2:46
- “What’d I Say, Part 1″ (Ray Charles) 2:18
- “What’d I Say, Part 2” 3:08
- Side two
- “Great Balls of Fire” (Otis Blackwell, Jack Hammer) 1:48
- “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (Bumps Blackwell, John Marascalco) 2:19
- “Lewis’ Boogie” (Lewis) 1:55
- “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (Hank Williams) 3:03
- “Hound Dog” (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) 2:28
- “Long Tall Sally” (Enotris Johnson, Little Richard) 1:52
- “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Sunny David, Dave Williams) 4:24