So you survived the first two days of Rush Week and you're back for more? Good for you; you've made the right choice. (Probably.) Today we're looking at the premier vinyl series in all of - pardon my second semester Latin here - fraticus rockicus. It's Rhino's FRAT ROCK! All! Four! Volumes!
If there ever was a desert island frat rock album, FRAT ROCK! is it. Compiled by Rhino co-founder Richard Foos and Gary Stewart, a man who literally oversaw just about every Rhino release from 1986-2006, the album has twelve tasty tracks, all but one of them a classic beloved toga-tested original party essential. Rhino stalwart Bill Inglot and his trusty assistant Ken Perry handled all the mastering so you know this album sounds as best as it possibly can. (Fact: Inglot and Perry mastered all four of today's albums.) Though the official title is FRAT ROCK!, the true inspiration for the album lies in the subtitle: "The Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Party Tunes Of All Time". I'll go even further and state that the first five tracks on this 1986 release are THE essential frat rock tracks of all-time, the standard by which all other compilations of this ilk should be judged. Side Two, track 6 is the lone cover, a brand spanking new in 1986 take on "Shout!", that other Isley Brothers party classic most famously known from Animal House, this time by The Dynatones. The song was apparently recorded expressly for FRAT ROCK! and released in 1987 as a twelve inch single with a 7:50 Special Dance Mix of the song as well as the LP version contained on FRAT ROCK! (The clip below is a single edit I could find no other information about.)
Foos and Rhino were obviously pleased with the reception FRAT ROCK! received and they doubled down with FRAT ROCK! Volumes 2 and 3 in 1987. Both contained six songs a side, twelve songs an album just like the original and while neither had a modern cover of a classic song like the first FRAT ROCK! there were cover songs on both the second or third volumes in the series. The fourth track on Volume 2 was a cover of The Tams hit "What Kind Of Fool (Do You Think I Am)" a number 9 hit in 1964. Five years later, Bill Deal & the Rhondells added a horn section in place of the flute and pushed the tempo up a bit scoring a number 23 hit in the process. I would like to amend my earlier statement regarding THE essential frat rock tunes if I may as Volume Two adds a few songs to the canon, namely "Gimme Some Lovin'", "Tequila", "Little Bit O' Soul" and "I Fought The Law". The rest of the songs are not true and pure frat rock but close enough that they make the cut.
Volume 3 offers up three covers beginning with Del Shannon's 1964 take on Bobby Freeman's "Do You Want To Dance" from 1958. The Beach Boys would take a whack at "Do You Wanna Dance" (sic) in 1965 but here on FRAT ROCK! Volume 3 they instead offer up their 1965 number 2 live-in-the-studio-party cover of The Regents 1961 number 13 hit "Barbara-Ann", with Brian Wilson sharing vocals with an uncredited Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean fame. The third cover is a grimy cover of Chris Kenner's 1963 number 77 song "Land Of 1000 Dances" by the delightfully named Cannibal & the Headhunters who took it all the way to number 30 in 1965. (The following year, Wicked Wilson Pickett took "Land Of 1000 Dances" all the way to number 6.) Like the preceding volume, about half the songs are not that gritty frat rock though they come enough in their party vibe to fit right in among certified classics like "Surfin' Bird", "What'd I Say" as well as the aforementioned "Land Of 1000 Dances".
James Austin teamed with Richard Foos to compile and release the fourth and final vinyl volume in the FRAT ROCK! series in September 1988, this time rolling out eleven instead of twelve of "The Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Party Tunes Of All Time". Mitch Ryder's lead-off song is a medley of two covers, one of a Shorty Long song and another by Little Richard. With his crack backing band the Detroit Wheels, Mitch souped-up both songs to deliver another one of the undeniable pillars of a frat rock playlist. With the exception of the album closer, the original and complete two-part "Shout" from The Isley Brothers, the rest of the album is that pseudo-frat rock I've been referring to which to be fair was part of the series creed since Day One.
Which raises a question I don't think we have answered yet: "What is the definition of frat rock?" Disregarding the term's current disparaging definition (courtesy of the always on fleek Urban Dictionary), AllMusic says frat rock was
"was garage rock before there was garage rock -- big, dumb party music that was raw, ragged, and fun... singles that were so catchy and so simple, any band could cover them and sound good. These songs were favorites of covers bands in the early '60s, when local bands frequently played parties at fraternity houses."
while Robert Fontenot, about.com's oldies music expert says:
"Frat-rock is sort of folk-rock's evil twin, having developed into a much different style for much the same reason: the first generation of rock and roll fans leaving high school and heading for America's universities. In this case, however, they weren't forming electric bands to interpret folk, but to stomp out their favorite R&B tunes. The typical frat-rock song featured an organ and owed a strong debt to hard rhythm and blues... with a big stomping beat, salacious lyrics, and a drunken delivery."
You just know this stuff is going to be an the final exam so you might as well start memorizing it now. But you still have four more days of RUSH WEEK!