Ever since it began rock ‘n’ roll has been a magnet for musicians with more enthusiasm than talent. There’s plenty of talented artists who’d argue this point, but the fact remains there are no stringent auditions you need to pass to become a verifiable rock act with a record deal.

Far from being a detriment this gung-ho spirit has resulted in some of the most stimulating records and exhilarating live performances music has seen over the past seventy-five years.

Rarely is this go-for-broke attitude what set the trends or creates the hits, but more often than not it always seems to define the music’s image to its fans and detractors alike.


Hanging On The Corner
Our tour through the criminal factions that ran the independent record industry of the 1950’s returns today to one of our favorite characters… John Dolphin, visionary owner of the record store Dolphin’s Of Hollywood who operated the associated label, Recorded In Hollywood, despite neither of these enterprises being located in Hollywood at all.

But while he didn’t even bother to conceal his deceptive tactics, what he did offer that few others in the city did was instant exposure via the radio show broadcast nightly from his store window with the hottest disc jockeys in town.

Even for those with better options than The Great Gates, that proved a pretty enticing lure for a whole host of local acts over the years in search of a big break.

Though nothing much came of this single in terms of sales or airplay outside that little bubble, at least it passed every truth in advertising statute in the books by giving it the title Central Rocks, a reference to the hot spot of musical mayhem that existed at the store on the corner of Vernon and Central in Los Angeles.

Since we can’t hop in a time machine and head back there to check out the scene for ourselves it’s up to a handful of records to try and convey what it must’ve been like to walk along the sidewalk and be swept up by a torrent of rock music flowing out into the street each and every night.

This one, sloppy and crude and not even featuring Gates at all, might just have knocked you off your feet as it seemed shot out of the front door like cannon fire.



Play It Louder… I Said LOUDER!
Whoever first said of rock ‘n’ roll – “It’s nothing but noise” – probably did so in reaction to this single.

It IS nothing but noise. Slightly melodic noise, unabashedly rhythmic noise, but noise just the same.

GOOD noise.

But who are these guys? We know it’s not The Great Gates because he’s a singer, not a musician and there’s no singing to be found within a mile of this record.

Well, chances are it’s the same band of young hotshots he was recording with off and on for awhile, including Marvin Phillips and Emory Perry on saxes and Richard Lewis on piano. Phillips had been doing time with Big Jay McNeely as part of the vocal group Three Dots And A Dash but while he’d get most of his attention for singing, he could definitely blow up a storm.

A storm is pretty accurate description of Central Rocks as it starts off with some jittery drumming by Earl Brown while Lewis and bassist Victor Malone establish the rhythm before the sax takes over, gradually getting up to speed like a car engine that’s been sitting in the cold for awhile.

Brown is kicking him in the ass throughout this and when Phillips starts to really give his lungs some exercise with prolonged squealing followed by some fast paced stuttering lines you’ve lost all sense of direction, you don’t know whether you’re right side up or upside down, but you really don’t care either way.

This isn’t a song per say in a traditional sense, instead it’s the sound of quiet sobriety meeting a boozy violent end… of a block party running roughshod over a church service… of juvenile delinquents setting off cherry bombs in a junior high school bathroom on the last day of school.

It’s the sound of narcotic rock ‘n’ roll. Not the kind that was cleaned up for radio. Not the kind that made for hit singles. Not even the kind that successful bands who cherished their outlaw image would stoop to play on stage to get the crowd stirred up.

This was beneath that. It was 99% adrenaline mixed with 1% fervent hope that it’d be enough to make those listening feel the same way those playing it did… simultaneously out of control and on top of the world for as long as it lasted.


Reverberating Through Time
Though we’re not going to attempt to convince you this is a high quality record, it is smartly arranged and well played for what it’s trying to do, all things considered.

Granted there’s not much structure to it, no memorable hooks to be found, little restraint in the performance and no identifying features beyond the cacophony at its core, but when that’s all it ever intended to be, how can you complain?

Atmosphere counts for a lot in rock ‘n’ roll, whether the late night laments or fist pumping anthems, haunting mood pieces lurking in the shadows or shameless declarations of love laid bare in the light of day.

Songs like Central Rocks are something else entirely… it’s the sound of a party in full swing, one that’s been going on for – oh, let’s see now – four and a half years by early 1952 and one that is still going strong as we just made the leap into 2023.

It’s the reason why kids pick up instruments in the first place, to draw attention to themselves by making a lot of joyful noise that’ll draw a crowd and it hasn’t failed to do so yet, so why stop now?

Yes, it’s uncouth, definitely uncivilized and proudly unapologetic. Or to put it another way, it’s the very essence of rock ‘n’ roll.


(Visit the Artist page of The Great Gates for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)