The first recording ever of Bob Dylan’s “Fur Slippers” — done in a traditional blues style by B.B. King — is one of 21 tracks recorded specifically for CBS’ four-hour miniseries about the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, “Shake, Rattle & Roll.”
King’s performance will be included in a companion soundtrack album that MCA will release on Oct. 19, several weeks before CBS airs the two-parter on Nov. 7 and 10. Covering classics such as “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Shake, Rattle & Roll” and “Tears on My Pillow” are Terence Trent D’Arby, K-Ci & JoJo and Blink 182.
“We see this as the souvenir” of the miniseries, said MCA Records president Jay Boberg.
To promote “Shake,” MCA will take several of the songs and give them contemporary updates. (Soundtrack producer Spencer Proffer recorded all the cuts in the styles of the times). “By working with CBS’ vertical integration (of TV and radio), we can take some of the remixed songs to radio,” Boberg said.
No tracks have been chosen yet, but Boberg sees potential in a new version of the Little Anthony classic “Tears on My Pillow” by contempo R&B stars K-Ci & JoJo, Jesse Powell and Rahsaan Patterson. Proffer has hopes for the song, performed by the cast, that closes the series, “Side by Side,” which he co-wrote with Motown legend Lamont Dozier.
“Our hope is to broaden the musical demographic,” Proffer said, by introducing new audiences to vintage rock ‘n’ roll through contemporary artists.
Other major music specials, such as “The ’60s” and “The Temptations” on NBC last season, emphasized previously issued recordings. The closest parallel to this undertaking would be the 1994 theatrical pic “Backbeat,” which featured contemporary rock musicians playing the early music of the Beatles.
The soundtrack is a combination of the well-known (“Summertime Blues,” “Dead Man’s Curve”) and lesser-known works by stellar talents such as Leiber and Stoller (“One Bad Stud,” “A Touch of Heaven”). Proffer, music supervisor on the pic “Gods and Monsters,” co-wrote several new numbers for the mini with Graham Nash.
“We want to convey the idea that this music is as vibrant today as it was then,” said CBS VP of movies and miniseries Michael Wright, who was initially struck by the multigenerational appeal of 1950s rock while seeing “Buddy” last year onstage in London.
Plot of the pic, produced by CBS with Phoenix Pictures, concerns a fictional band in the 1950s whose path crosses those of several rising stars: Jackie Wilson (D’Arby), Bill Haley (Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones), Little Richard (Billy Porter) and Eddie Cochran (Gary Allan). Proffer, the guitarist in the fictional band the HartAches, chose musicians who worked with artists of the 1950s and early ’60s to lend an air of authenticity.
“Time will tell if people will buy this,” said Boberg, “but if it works, I’m sure we’ll see this process mimicked.”