Reykjavík Needs Rockabilly!

...and I am here to help
11.6.2010
Words by Smutty Smiff
One thing that has always puzzled me about the music scene in Reykjavík
is the unfortunate lack of rockabilly. I know there are a handful of
crusaders carrying the rebel torch over here, but they alas only hold a
small candle to the other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe.
I believe this to be a great musical and cultural tragedy, especially
considering all the great things this music and fashion scene has to
offer the youth of today.

Rockabilly had humble beginnings in the south of the United States. Sam
Phillips—who owned and operated Sun Records—was solely responsible for
signing the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison to name a
few. However, the real music was fairly short lived before it was
commercialised into what became known as rock ‘n roll. The wild, raw,
crude and plain exciting rockabilly records that remain from that time
are no different from the early punk rock of the UK. It’s about feel and
attitude, not perfection and production values. So since those early
days of glory when Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran could be heard on the
radio, it’s never really gone away and is always resurfaced coming back
stronger in fashion and culture.

Ducks arses on Teddy Boys

The Teddy Boys, as they were sometimes called, really emerged in the
early1950s in a post-war Great Britain. Teenage gangs were formed and
could be seen hanging out on the streets and alleys of East London.

For the first time since WW2, the economy was revitalised, providing
opportunities to the youth of the nation. They were now able to purchase
clothes and records. Most of these youths were working class men, newly
discharged from their draft in the army. Many of them were considered
to be dropouts and troublemakers, not to be messed with.

Looking for and identity of their own, not wanting to be like their
parents, they adopted a style they could call their own. It was a cross
between Edwardian upper class gentlemen attire, circa 1901-1910, and
that of the early Western steamboat gamblers from America. Their jackets
were hand-tailored fit to measure four to six inches below fingertip
length. They had velvet collars and cuffs and the lining was normally a
bright red or other shocking colour. The trousers, often referred to as
drainpipes, were tight fitting on the bottoms, accompanied with day glow
socks. Other accessories included the slim Jim tie and bootlace tie, as
well as the Chantilly lace tie wore by early American Gamblers.

The term ‘Teddy Boy’ actually came from a newspaper article published in
The Daily Express on Sept 23rd 1953, where the word “Teddy” was used as
an acronym for Edward. The funny thing is what was once worn by upper
class gentlemen was now the uniform for razor-carrying, cosh- wielding
East End menaces to society! The early Teds also had a super greasy
hairstyle nicknamed ‘the Quiff’ or ‘duck’s ass.’ It was also known as
the ‘Tony Curtis’. A metal comb was always used for hair maintenance.

Plug plug plug my shop

So now I’ve filled you in on some of the historical background behind
the music and how it relates to style and fashion. It’s just a matter of
time until you’ll need this info, as these trends always go full circle
and reappear.

I’m not expecting drape-clad youths wearing blue suede shoes hanging out
in gangs on Laugarvegur though! Still, that would actually be kind
acool. I do, however, suspect some new styles showing up in the very
near future.

You can sample the music on Reykjavík’s one and only rockabilly show, on
X-97.7 on Sunday afternoons. This show is conveniently sponsored by my
shop, Wildcat, which aims to promote rock’n’ roll culture and fashion.
Wildcat also caters for men’s and women’s vintage hairstyles, just so
you know.

Lastly, with the huge success of the whole fifties pin-up style, ala
Dita Von Teese and Bernie Dexter promoting the whole Betty Page appeal
in the US, it’s only a matter of time before the trend reaches Icelandic
shores! So get you boppin' shoes on, slick back that hair and join the
rockabilly party. My motto has always been “No flairs! No Squares! No
Hippies!”

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