One of the consequences of the “Music of The Beatles” course that I took last summer was an exploration of British rock ‘n’ roll and pop music prior to the release of “Love Me Do”. Adam Faith was one of those artists, but his forte was pop music. Billy Fury was a different story.
Not that Fury recorded nothing but ace rock ‘n’ roll – far from it, he recorded his fair share of often slushy and unrocking pop ballads. But somehow, astonishingly, in the midst of all this Fury managed to record what is easily the best British rock ‘n’ roll album before The Beatles.
Indeed, The Sound Of Fury, is a trailblazer in all sorts of ways. One of the more enduring Beatles’ myths is that before that band broke, rock ‘n’ roll artists seldom recorded their own compositions and certainly did not put out albums of new self-composed material.
It certainly true that most albums consisted of a handful of hit singles and hastily arranged filler, but any examination of the 1950s LP output of major artists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly, reveals holes in the argument.
The Sound Of Fury is entirely self-composed by Fury. It’s also performed by an astonishingly tight and accomplished British band including Joe Brown on electric guitar and Alan White on drums. The music is essentially Sun Records-derived rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll with a touch of Buddy Holly’s Texan style thrown in for good measure. Nothing strikingly original, to be sure, but it is executed with such self-confident swagger that it easily stands up to the American classics.
All of the songs are gems, but my particular favorite is the opener, That’s Love. A mid-tempo rocker with Jordanaires-style vocal harmonies, it is a excellent showcase for Billy Fury’s extraordinarily expressive and wide-ranging vocals. Influenced by Elvis, yes, but Elvis has never sung better than Fury does on this session. He’s also beautifully recorded, as can be heard to great effect on the latest CD incarnation of this classic record The Sound of Fury: 40th Anniversary Decca Records 8449902.
The Sound Of Fury is superior to the weaker Beatles albums; indeed it’s superior to much of the output of the more well-known 1960s British beat-boom. If it has any fault, it is simply too short. But for Fury to persuade his record label to record even only a 10″ LP’s worth of original material in 1960 was a miracle in its own right.