Rock This Town Tonight – Stray Cats

The Stray Cats are a rockabilly band formed in 1979 by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer with school friends Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom in the Long Island town of Massapequa, New York.

The group, whose style was based upon the sounds of Sun Records artists and other artists from the 1950s and were heavily influenced by Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley & His Comets. The Stray Cats quickly developed a large following in the New York music scene playing at CBGB’S and Max’s Kansas City as well as venues on Long Island. When the Cats heard a rumor that there was a revival of the 1950s Teddy Boy youth subculture in England, the band moved to the UK. They then spearheaded the nascent rockabilly revival, by blending the 1950’s sun studio sound with modern punk musical elements. In terms of visual style the Stray Cats also blended elements of 1950 rockabilly clothes such as wearing drape jackets, brothel creepers and western shirts with punk clothes such as tight black zipper trousers and modern versions of 1950’s hair styles.

In the summer of 1980 the Cats found themselves being courted by the elite of the music world including Virgin Records, Stiff Records and Arista records. Word quickly spread and soon members of the Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin were at their shows. After a gig in London, Stray Cats met producer Dave Edmunds, well known as a roots rock enthusiast for his work with Rockpile and as a solo artist. Edmunds offered to work with the group, and they entered the studio to record their self-titled debut album, Stray Cats, released in England in 1981, and later released in 1982 as Built for Speed in the US.

Musical and personal conflicts began to emerge in the ways that the individual members handled their new-found success; Phantom married actress Britt Ekland, while Setzer made guest appearances with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks and became the concert guitarist for Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers side project. In late 1984, the band parted ways. Rocker and Phantom formed a trio called Phantom Rocker & Slick (the “Slick” being former David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick) which contained the single “Men Without Shame“, guest musicians on this record included both Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Nicky Hopkins on the piano. Setzer went on to a solo career, exchanging his rockabilly focus for a more wide-ranging roots rock/Americana sound on albums such as 1986’s The Knife Feels Like Justice. In 1986, the Stray Cats reunited in Los Angeles, and recorded the covers-heavy Rock Therapy. In 1989, they reunited once again for the album Blast Off!, which was accompanied by a tour with US blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The Stray Cats have reunited periodically for live performances. Setzer is still part of his 1990s swing-revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Rocker continued recording and touring throughout the 90’s and on to today. His albums include “Black Cat Bone” and “Racin’ the Devil” on the acclaimed Alligator records label as well as “Bulletproof” which has been picked as one of the best records of the decade by the Orange County Register newspaper. In addition to the Stray Cats, Rocker has recorded or performed with Carl Perkins, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Scotty Moore (Elvis’ original Guitar man), Keith Richards and numerous others. Slim Jim Phantom plays the drums in another rockabilly band, 13 Cats, as well as the Rock and Roll band The Head Cat with Lemmy (Motörhead) and Danny B. Harvey (13 Cats, RocKats).

Rock This Town Tonight

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Well, baby and me went out late Saturday night
I had my hair piled high, my baby looked so right
Well, pick you up at ten, gotta have you home at two
Your mama don’t know what I got in store for you
But that’s all right ’cause we’re looking as cool as can be

Well, we found a little place that didn’t look half bad
I had a whisky on the rocks, and changed half a dollar for the jukebox
Well, put a quarter right into that can
But all that played was some disco, man!
Come on, baby, baby, let’s get out of here right away

We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna rock this town
Make ‘em scream and shout
Let’s rock, rock, rock, man, rock
We’re gonna rock till we pop
We’re gonna roll till we drop
We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out

Well, we’re having a ball just ‘a bopping on the big dance floor
Well, there’s a real square cat, he looks “1974”
Well, he looked at me once, he looked at me twice
Look at me again and there’s gonna be fight
We’re gonna rock this town
We’re gonna rip this place apart

We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna rock this town
Make ‘em scream and shout
Let’s rock, rock, rock, man, rock
We’re gonna rock till we pop
We’re gonna roll till we drop
We’re gonna rock this town
Rock this place apart

We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna rock this town
Make ‘em scream and shout
Let’s rock, rock, rock, man, rock
We’re gonna rock till we pop
We’re gonna roll till we drop
We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out

We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna Rock This Town
We’er gonna Tear it up
Rip it down
Rock This Town
Rock it inside ooooooooooooout

  • Audio from the 1981 album, Stray Cats / Built for Speed:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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