On April 11th 1960 I went with my friend Dave Cooper to Finsbury Park Empire and our very first pop concert. It was a freezing cold rainy night and the Finsbury Park Empire was a dump. Within a month it would be closed forever but we didn’t care. We were only 14 and the star of the show that night was our hero, the guitar playing ‘twang meister’ Duane Eddy.
Duane had already enjoyed several instrumental hits in Britain including ‘Rebel Rouser’, ‘Cannon Ball’, ‘Peter Gunn’ and ‘Forty Miles of Bad Road’ and Dave and I were looking forward to an evening of some serious twanging and saxophone honking! Of course, in those days ‘pop packages’ still hadn’t been invented so first we had to wade through a programme of what was known as ‘light entertainment’ - Alan Randall ‘Modern Man of Music’, the Taylor Maids ‘Sophistication with a Difference’ and ‘Australia’s Personality Singer’ Frank Ifield, much to the despair of the audience of twang addicts and teddy boys. Fortunately, our M.C (Master of Chuckles!) was a seriously tanned Mr Des ‘Just fooling’ O’Connor who managed to keep the Teds at bay with a series of witty shrivellers like ‘Why don’t you go and play in the traffic?’ and that all-time crowd cooler, ‘How many times do I have to flush before you go away?’ As the audience became more and more fractious our Des became more and more combative. After a steam of non-stop heckling from one duck tailed yobbo Des pointed at him and said ‘Stop telling me how to do my job. Do I come to your work and tell you how to clean toilets?’ There were others… ‘Your bus leaves in 10 minutes… Be under it.’ And my favourite ‘Where’s your girlfriend? Outside grazing, I expect!’
But then came a point in the proceedings when even Des couldn’t hold back the rising tide of twang mania. From somewhere behind the curtain came one solid carpet lifting BOOIIINNG! then another and another again. Duane, supreme ambassador of twang, was on stage tuning up… and so was his audience.
That’s what we got that rainy night at the Finsbury Park Empire all those years ago - Duane on stage playing his twangy guitar, picking out those simple catchy licks that in a few hours most of the audience would be trying out for themselves at home, his band, The Rebels, bawling out ‘rebel yells’ that could be heard the other side of Finsbury Park and on top of it all his sax player, Jim Horn, howling and screaming like a demented banshee. It was wild and crazed and a million miles from the ‘You’re my baby and I don’t mean maybe’ teen pap that we had to put up with in those days. Duane was the King of Twang and that night he was on his storm-tossed throne, helped to his seat by Des O’Connor.
Duane Eddy plays ‘Because They’re Young’ as a tribute to Des O’Connor who always was…
– from Martyn Day