Dean Carter—
Jailhouse Rock/Rebel Woman

Released 1967 on Milky Way
The Seth Man, January 2006ce
Out of his time and clean out of his mind, Dean Carter was a true original. Born Arlie Neaville, he was a blonde Rock’n’Roller who bore more than a passing resemblance to Heinz, Heino and a far younger Spike Jones all at once while possessing a unique songwriting flair that cut across a ridiculous gamut encompassing rockabilly, garage punk, soul, gospel to country-based Rock’n’Roll and back again. Carter’s treatment of remodeling styles into customised flame jobs jacked up into a hairy array of sounds that were all shook up, had nowhere to go and was impressive in its unflinching gaze on the eight ball that never swerved. Carter accomplished this all decked out in a variety of guises: from a grimacing, pick axe-wielding miner (in promotion of his cover version of “Sixteen Tons”) but for most of the time as a tiger-skinned Daddy-o armed with that most unlikely of Rock’n’Roll axes: a 12-string dobro.

Plowing his own furrow for several tiny labels from the late fifties throughout the sixties until some fateful day in the seventies when he decided to head back to church and start recording exclusively gospel numbers and hymns most reverential, it was when irreverence was the meat and drink of Carter’s musical banquet that he hit all the bases and hit ‘em all square between the eyes.

It was all accomplished on a shoestring budget from Carter’s base of operations in and around Danville, Illinois where alongside producer Arlie Miller they set up their own studio in a semi-detached house, recorded sessions and formed their own label, Milky Way in order to release the fruits of their homegrown labours. For the eleventh Milky Way 45 came a savage blast from rockabilly past fused with homemade, can-do studio know-how that was truly a carve-up in every way and exceeded the genres it blasted out from on both sides. As Alec Palao notes inside the exhaustive 28-track “Call Of The Wild!” anthology: ‘Joe Meek could not have devised a more unusual crew.’ And the single is as jarring as all of Meek’s most insane high water marks (his work on “You’re Holding Me Down” by The Buzz immediately springs to mind, although where would we all be without “Telstar,” I ask you?) But even on that classic slab, there was no evidence of the neighbour’s 12 year old daughter on clarinet tooling away Morse Code Red over the density of a monophonic holler comprised of: Jack Johnson: fuzz guitar, Tom Harrigan: electric piano, Dennis Elliot: drums, Arlie’s brother Ray: ukulele; his other brother Rick on accordion and his father, Roy on bass. Binding together this all-access personnel was Dean Carter on vocals and electric 12-string dobro.

And what they produced was 2 minutes worth of Ill-o-noise to die for.

“Jailhouse Rock” had first been recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957 and one long decade later its grease was mishandled on this version of that particular big house breakout as Carter and gang went gonzoid gaga and cut loose like nobody’s business all over it. Erupting with a furious drum roll introduction into a pounding “Hawaii Five-O” big surf beat penetrated with Morse Code tootling away like interplanetary interference over high tension wire rhythm fuzz guitar, one can only immediately wonder how this mess is ever going to become “Jailhouse Rock,” if at all. Then Dean The C starts barking and rasping out the familiar primary line about the warden throwing a party in the county jail, and then it all becomes clear. Dean is not gonna pomade-by-numbers, he’s gonna pay tribute to The King in the most reverential way possible, and that’s by not being reverential in the least and just run the song over like rock’n’roll roadkill in his Midwestern Weird-O jalopy at full speed. It’s an assault and a terror and a hoot and a holler -- especially when the background keyboards slip into the unlikely realm of Dave “Baby” Cortez ivory-hunting on “California Sun” with The Rivieras.

After two verses of this, Carter steps out with a 12-string dobro solo. Actually, calling this sound of a metal tube pumped up and down electrified strings at top speed a solo is like calling the sound of overactive workers at the sheet metal factory doing double overtime by press forming and cutting four sheets at once a ‘solo.’ It’s sick and the only other thing this metallic shearing zigzagging is reminiscent of is the explosive slide guitar that rung down The Syndicats’ “Crawdaddy Simone” coda’s curtain so fiercely.

Finally, Carter’s hoarse and hasty vocal swagger brings it all back home and reaches critical mass when barking out that most immortal line from the collective pen of Leiber/Stoller, “The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang!!!” his rush hour collision of a pronunciation makes seem more like the single word “Horiddumsexywuzzapuppergan!!!” And he’s in such a damn hurry, he tacks on the next line “...letsarock!” at the end, and proceeds to just go “Oh!” “Uh!” “Come on!” to usher all the aberrance out to fade.

The B-side’s an equal bit of bother. It’s garage punk. It’s yearning. It’s fucked up. But more to the point, it’s a slow, gnawing round of slowburn to the love log. Reprising his “Black Boots” composition from the previous year, Carter’s predilection for booted gals was reanimated on “Rebel Woman” along with the future ghost of Vince Taylor being subsumed into Ziggy’s “Moonage Daydream” descent five years before its time. There’s even an intonation in the chorus strongly reminiscent of Bowie’s breathless run-on “handful of ‘ludes” line in “Rebel Rebel” which I know sounds fanciful but dammit it’s too close to ignore and too weird not to mention. Wrapped up in a most tail-draggin’ tempo with the three-way combo of organ, descending fuzz guitar and sax blurts, “Rebel Woman” is a trudge-paced dirge like “Kicks” by The Raiders only minus its sing-a-long’n’stomp-along-at-home chorus and minus most pop additives. For a start, the opening lyrics weren’t ‘safe’ enough for the Top 40 in any degree because when your 1967 B-side opens with the line “There’s a strange black girl/That I long to meet/Wears tall black boots/Walks down black streets” you have just ungreased the palm of every programme director in radioland and good riddance. Not that it matters, but I don’t know zackly what Dean-O means here, either: Is his unattainable woman of revolt black? A biker chick? A black-hearted ess’n’em Ilsa She-Bitch of the SS blonde? A prostitute? Or just some abnormally free-spirited housewife? Or all of the above? It don’t matter who or what she is, because Dean wants to polish something more than just her boots or die wishing and he’s a-pantin’ up a storm and there’s a-stormin’ in his third pant leg as he supplicates: “Am a-gonna git choo, rebel woman!” before falling into his own version of that evergreen supporting beam of garage punk rejoinders that goes something like this:


And all the while, framed by slow descending garage punk sensibilities of fuzz guitar, organ with pleading, little boy vox of pleading misery and punctuated by sax blurts. Whoa.

Although this single is easily one of Carter’s most incendiary moments, it would miss the mark by a country mile to suggest that it is representative of his whole thing in any degree. But an easy dozen of his ’66-’69 tracks are all excellent yet many fall into no one easy category except they all brim over with enthusiasm, energy and ingenuity in a recent and successful excavation of the vaults by Big Beat’s with their exhaustive Carter anthology, “Call Of The Wild!” A rich exhibition of multi-faceted recordings, it holds such riches as the track “Call Of The Wild.” a contemplation of claustrophobic emptiness as creepazoid ‘Twilight Zone’ mise-en-scènes get drawled out into quiet corners (Best line: “Like the wind with no air/Like the sun with no heat/Like the earth with no dirt…/What’s it like?/ CALL OF THE WILD!!!”) Whereas the Tom Waits death barge sculling-ness of “Shadow of Evil” holds a full and realised arrangement of Waspman Jr. fuzz rhythm guitar plus accordion under near-Roy Orbison intonations while the lovelorn wail from behind the wall of Spector of “Cry Blue” is likewise Big O with handclap and female vocal backing and crooning up a load of sympathy. Also included is probably the best cover of “Fever” of all time because it’s unlike any other version I’ve heard due to its goofballed and up-tempo’d style. And finally, the soul sisters backing D.C. and company are impossible to miss on “I Got A Girl,” “You Tear Me Up,” “Run Rabbit Run” and “Would You Believe” because they don’t sing words as much as just pant up a rhythmic storm that is not only ingenious arrangement devices but breathlessly hot, bothered and unhinged all at once.