Single Story: The Chevelles

16 August 2012 | 2:30 am | Staff Writer

Releasing their latest single Bettie Page this weekend, The Chevelles frontman Duane Smith gives us the story of the track and his recent songwriter collaboration with Little Steven Van Zandt.

The single was written as an inspirational “girl crush” ode to the notorious showgirl Bettie Page. I have large prints and paintings of the retro bombshell all over my house, as well as a collection of her cult clips and images. Apart from the obvious alluring sexual imagery associated with her life, her story is also a fascinating one for me, about the counterculture rise, fall and rise again of an icon that continues to shape fashion and rock'n'roll culture six decades later. You only have to walk into Devilles on a Saturday night to see what I mean. The song is essentially about her magnetic sexuality, obsessive fanbase, her legacy and also the consequent “demonizing” she experienced in the hands of the religious right wing in America.

The song and story was wrapped up into a garage rock number, which eventually resulted in a co-writing collaboration with Little Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Sopranos, Lilyhammer & The Underground Garage). Steven is also the label head of our New York-based record label – Wicked Cool Records. Working with Steven was great. I would send over mp3s of the track as it progressed and he would send back this “lounge room” tape-recorded conversation with him jamming the track on his acoustic guitar with ideas for the bridge and melody. Together we fine-tuned it and then the band hit the studio to record at Poons Head, Fremantle with Robbie Grant. During the process we used most of Robbie's old school analogue equipment – some of the actual compressors, limiters, tape reverbs and valve mastering machines actually used by the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix among others in cool studios all over the world in the '60s. Robbie is an old school recording guru so the fit was great. We also enlisted the '60s girl group vocals of good friends Jenny Dee & The Delinquents from Boston to add to the gang vocal chorus. A few months later we set up a studio in my garage and dropped some white sheets and filmed a video clip for the single with good mate Peter Ellery.

Bettie Page is the first of a number of video singles we will release worldwide through over the next nine months before we head over on tour again kicking off with SXSW 2013 in Austin. From there we will do 10 cities in the US and then another 10 cities in Spain. The garage dragstrip rock'n'roll journey beckons again in our 22nd year as a band!