Sha Na Na, ‘Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay’ (12/13/69)

Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay, Sha Na Na (Kama Sutra 2010)

Buddah Records has also released a new press kit, entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival,” presumably in tribute to their latest acquisition, Columbia University’s ex-glee club gang of rock and roll “clas­sicists,” Sha Na Na. The kit doesn’t make it. Too obvious. A black comb, tennie laces, candy-on-paper, fake pay­ola, and a rubber. Also, strangely, a 78 rpm disc including two of Sha Na Na’s performances–strange, since 78s were dead a good while before any of the group’s material was written. But I guess that’s Buddah’s charm.

There’s also this album, which must be part of the press kit, ’cause I can’t see any other justification for it, except that if you buy it you’ll find the complete lyrics of a lot of great old songs, some of which may come as a surprise, since the dazzling originals pretty much forced the listener to fill in the gaps him­self. But not Sha Na Na. They do rote copies of the old hits–“Book of Love,” “Come Go With Me,” etc.–sounding like nothing so much as the cover records groups like the Crewcuts made off masterpieces by black artists. There’s not a touch of invention, humor, or excitement. The group doesn’t even sound like they had a good time in the studio. Mostly they’re so boring you don’t even hear it; sometimes, as on “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Long Tall Sally,” they’re offensive.

1969 has been a banner year for re-recording old hits, and virtually all who have tried it–Johnny Winter, NRBQ, Cat Mother, the Flamin’ Groovies–have been surprisingly successful. They brought at least some individual invention and personal spirit to the task–but Sha Na Na is astonishingly sterile, given the fact that they’ve been such a great success on stage on the East Coast. You could hear the way it should have been on Cat Mother’s hit, “That Good Old Rock and Roll”–“Wow, what a gas to get a chance to do all our favorite songs!” But Sha Na Na on record sounds “Fun.”

Rolling Stone, December 13, 1969

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