Last nite I met up with Kristof Fabry at the Luminaire, Kilburn to see Wanda Jackson, one of the first female rock’n’roll singers, possibly THE first. The Luminaire was an excellent venue I’d not visited before, but I’d definitely go there again if they had someone of interest on there. Apparently Wanda’s appearance there is planned to be an annual event.
After two quite good support bands, a mixture of Country, Zydeco and Rockabilly, Wanda’s husband of 46 years introduced the Queen of Rockabilly herself. The place was packed as Wanda stormed thru well over an hour of mainly rock’n’roll/rockabilly, but with some nice ballads thrown in. During an Elvis Presley medley, somewhat a misnomer since they were all full versions of the songs, Wanda did the lovely ballad ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’. Wanda talked between numbers, including of how she dated Elvis for several years and wore his ring around her neck.
Wanda was in excellent form for her 69 years, and rocked thru numbers associated with her such as ‘Mean Mean Man’ (which she wrote herself, as nobody was writing rock’n’roll songs for girl singers), ‘Let’s HaveÂ A Party’, ‘Fujiama Mama’, etc.. She did the Elvis medley as mentioned, which also included numbers such as ‘Good Rockin’ Tonite’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Baby Let’s Play House’. ‘Riot in Cell Block 9’ was another show-stopper, and another beautiful ballad was ‘Right or Wrong’. Wanda said she’d written this for the only singer she could look down on, literally the short-of-stature Brenda Lee. But then Wanda thought ‘she’s had plenty of hits, I’ll keep this one for myself.’ Wanda’s rendition of this ballad tonite was superb.
‘Fujiama Mama’ was a #1 hit, Wanda’s first, she explained. But it was #1 in Japan of all places. Not surprising you may say, since it mentions Japanese cities. But when it talks about a wild woman wreaking non-stop destruction such as vented by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also mentioned by name in the song several times, you wonder, as Wanda said, whether the Japanese really understood the words to this rather distasteful song. The song certainly rocks, it isÂ just a pity the references to the two atomic bombed cities could not have been removed, as they came across to me as extremely offensive, especially when you think that people are still suffering the after-effects of the radiation today, even generations not born when the bombs were dropped.
JudgingÂ from Wanda’s background, the way she looked with a bouffant hair-do/wig, the fact that she recorded a song totally unrepentant about the heinous war-crimes the Americans committed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fact that Wanda always insists on telling people how she ‘found Jesus’ in 1971 and including a gospel number, and the fact that she got a bit political and said she preferred the Japanese people to the French, one gets the distinct impression that she’s slightly to the Right of Attilla the Hun politically. However she did say she liked France more than the French people, and it is where at a Cartier party she had the honor of singing ‘Tutti Frutti’ along with Tina Turner and Little Richard. At one point Wanda said ‘Jerry Lee’ to which I shouted out ‘he must have changed color’, then she corrected her mistake!
I still don’t quite see why she prefers the Japanese to the French. Presumably because Pearl Harbor is long forgotten, and the French refusal to support the illegal American/British invasion of Iraq was fresher in her mind. Also, of course, the Japanese had given her a #1 hit with ‘Fujiama Mama’ back in 1959. Wanda finished this number in a little Japanese gesture, folding her arms at chest level, bowing and saying a few words in Japanese.Â (Her husband had explained she has sung in four languages.) I couldn’t help thinking in my bitchy camp way that Wanda looked a bit Oriental herself at a certain angle probably due to cosmetic surgery around the eyes!
During the Elvis medley Wanda picked up a guitar and played it whilst singing, but at one stage dropped the pick. I picked up the pick for Wanda, and she squeezed my hand and smiled as I handed it back to her. A girl on my left was handing Wanda bottled water to drink, and Wanda thanked ‘the water girl’. Wanda certainly came across as a warm and very witty personality. I’d seen her before, but this show was as good if not better than any I’d seen her do in the past. Witty remarks such as, when someone dropped a glass bottle, instantly she made the comment: ‘What happened, did you drop your ring?’ Or, when shaking hands with some of us in the front row, she reached a tall, hunky-looking young man and refused to let go of his hand for several seconds. ‘Oh sorry!’ she said, as she finally let go.
The religious song was Hank Williams’ ‘I Saw The Light’ which is a good rockin’ gospel number and had people clapping and singing along.
Wanda, and her husband, also made a plea for people to log on to her website, www.wandajackson.com, where they’ll find details of how to write to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame which have, so far, refused to induct Wanda into their hallowed halls. Wanda, her husband, and everyone present felt this was a disgrace and an insult, and we want the First Lady of Rock’n’Roll inducted next year, whilst she’s still alive and able to tour, as the lady herself said.
It is rather ironic that Wanda is in the Country Hall of Fame, but not in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, whilst Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the first inductees into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, but is still not in the Country Hall of Fame despite all his huge hits in the Country field. These included the unprecedented two double-sided #1s in succession with ‘Me & Bobby McGhee’/’Would You Take Another Chance On Me?’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’/’Think About It Darlin” in the ealry 1970s. No other Country or Pop artist has achieved this feat, to my knowledge. In fact Jerry was rarely out of the Country charts in the 5 years from 1968, and continued to have big Country hits right into the 1980s, and hit #4 with his 2006 album ‘Last Man Standing’.
But back to Wanda Jackson, who closed her show with a medley of Jerry Lee’s ‘Whole Lotta Shakin”, during which she mentioned ‘my friend Jerry Lee’ and did his ‘wiggle it around’ bit complete with wagging finger, ‘Rip It Up’ and a reprise of ‘Let’s Have A Party’.
A great show from a great performer who fully deserves to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.