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From its origins as an upstart, breakaway fragment of the British rockin’ scene, psychobilly has proved harder to kill than the zombies and ghouls that populate the lyrics and album covers of its horror-loving artists. Two of the original upstarts, The Sharks’ Alan Wilson and Jeroen Haamers from Batmobile, recall the birth of rockabilly’s most unruly progeny, when a new generation refused to be bound by the rules of their forebears

In the Britain of the early 1980s, the rockabilly revival was in full swing. The Stray Cats were flying the flag for neo-rockabilly, but on the fringes of the rockin’ scene, a new sound was waiting for the lightning bolt to strike that would give it life. This musical Frankenstein’s monster was assembled with body parts and organs taken from rockabilly, garage rock, 1950’s B-movies, and the DIY-spirit of punk, and it took its name from a throwaway line in the Johnny Cash track One Piece At A Time. It was loud, lewd, and ferocious, and it answered to the name of psychobilly.

Nowadays Alan Wilson is the proprietor of the Western Star Recording Company and Western Star Records, but once upon a time he was frontman of The Sharks, one of the first wave of psychobilly bands. And before that, like most of the people who formed the nascent psychobilly scene, he was a rockabilly. “I don’t remember the first time I heard the name, but I definitely remember the first time I actually experienced psychobilly,” says Wilson. “I was doing a gig in Southampton Guild Hall, a rock’n’roll all-dayer. Sometime during the evening, the DJ played a track I’d never heard before, and the dancefloor just absolutely emptied of all the rockabillies. It cleared the floor except for about five guys who looked like rockabillies, but they weren’t dancing in a rockabilly fashion. I thought it was a fight. I was onstage getting ready to play, I thought, ‘Oh, no, there’s trouble.’ The record that they were dancing to, or wrecking to, whatever it became known as, was a Meteors single.”

The Sharks’ first album Phantom Rockers was recorded in 1982
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About Vintage Rock

In this issue of Vintage Rock we reveal our definitive Top 100 Rockabilly Tracks from classics of the genre through to lesser-known gems in the catalogue. With Halloween upon us, this issue we brush aside the cobwebs to step inside the spooky world of ghoul-rock pioneer Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and David West navigates his way through the zombie-loving ranks of Psychobilly with the help of The Sharks' frontman Alan Wilson and Dutch psychobilly giants Batmobile. 60 years on from it's release, Randy Fox investigates this month's classic album, Bo Diddley's big-selling second offering Go Bo Diddley, we hear from 21st century roots rockers The Delta Bombers who discuss their new material, and David Burke looks into the fascinating story of Hank Ballard, the rhythm and blues mastermind behind The Twist. Much more inside too, including the Jive Aces' Summertime Swing live, news – including an upcoming Netflix animation with Elvis cast as a spy, and all of the latest music reviewed! Enjoy the issue!