Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Shirley Ellis - The Name Game b/w Whisper To Me Wind

Shirley Ellis
The Name Game b/w Whisper To Me Wind


Released 1964 on Congress
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 11/10/2008ce


Many people debate on what was the first punk record in music history, that whole thing is kinda pointless, but it is a lot of fun. Sort of like comparing baseball players from other eras with the players of today. The terms punk and psychedelic always meant the same thing to me, it was all about shooting for the stars but also having fun. To me the whole guitar worship era of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck etc. killed a lot of the fun in rock and roll and pop music. Not that I didn't like good guitar playing but the whole thing became a cul de sac by the awful mid 70's. Punk saved music by returning FUN to the whole game. But the punk musicians of the 70's didn't invent punk, to my ears it goes back much further, but where did it start? For today I'll say 1964, when a musical genius from the Bronx named Shirley Ellis unleashed her sixth 45 on the world called "The Name Game."

Shirley was born Shirley Elliston in 1941, and her first recording was credited to her given name. Shirley scored big with her first 45 under her shortened name Shirley Ellis, "The Nitty Gritty" was a powerful punk/soul groover that certainly hinted at the greatness that was yet to come. "The Name Game" which was issued in 1964 is nothing short of a musical masterpiece that every true rock and roll fan should know (if you don't know it, then please leave the country, or better yet view the incredible video for it on youtube, it will bring tears to your eyes.)

The beat on "The Name Game" is sort of Spector-ish with a touch of Tamla-Motown, but the words and performance by Shirley are something else altogether, she kind of brings this off like a female Sun Ra. The lyrics are just flat out of sight and can reduce your mind to mush if you follow too close! But it is Shirley alone who hits the home run with her out of body performance! Hearing this record makes a person feel happy to be alive! Even Iggy Pop must have been a Shirley fan as he pinched a bit of Shirley's later hit "The Clapping Song" for his "Loco Mosquito" 45 in 1979 or so.

Our local minor league baseball team in Norwich, Ct. had a player named Nick Leach a few years back and every time he got up to bat, they played the "Nick" section from "The Name Game" and I just loved it to death. But is "The Name Game" the first ever punk record? of course not, but it is certainly one of the best!


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