Link Wray “Bullshot”

Link Wray, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important rock & roll guitarists of all-time, is a pretty familiar name with rock fans all over the world.  The man practically invented distorted, fuzzy, and wild rock guitar sounds.  He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to use the almighty power-chord.  Pete Townshend has famously cited Link’s importance, claiming that “he is the king;  if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.”  By the way, “Rumble” has since been added by the Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry.  Important stuff.  Link recorded tons of material throughout his long career, with most of it being great.  There’s just something about “Bullshot,” this dusty little fiery gem from 1979, that really stands out.

Recorded in NYC with Richard Gottehrer on production (need we say more?), this album is an atomic-bomb of a record, combining Link’s nasty rockabilly/psycho/mean/whatever-you-want-to-call-it guitar licks backed with some of the very best rhythm players I have ever heard.  Anton Fig, drummer extraordinaire, plays with such intensity and power.  The same can be said for Rob Stoner, who has played with countless people.  The bass playing on this album is a real ear-opener and jaw-dropper.  When deciding which categories I was going to put this album under, I had no hesitation to add “punk” to the list.  Sure, this may not be a straight-up punk rock album by definition, but the playing is so dirty and intense that it really does sound like a punk album!

Right from the beginning, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.  “Good Good Lovin'” starts off the album, and kicks everything into gear preparing you for the rockin’ ride the album sends you on.  “Fever” is one of the best versions of the song out there, giving it almost a strut or swagger about it, and a whole new vibe.  “Switchblade” is one hell of an instrumental, combining Link’s wild ehco-laden and distorted-to-the-max guitar and a rhythm backing not too far removed from the tune of “Peter Gunn”.  Side two is where the real magic is; Link’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” kicks off, and is something that needs to be heard to be believed.  Link executed this cover perfectly: adding his own twist to it, yet retaining the credibility and beauty of the original.  It was almost as if Link may have had the power-pop urgency of  “Baby Blue” by Badfinger in mind.  The guitar work in this song is positively amazing; he is just making every string scream and strain with so much power it leaves you speechless.  Link even gave us an extra treat of doing a new punked-up cover of his classic “Rawhide,” which again, is phenomenal and improves upon the original…somehow.  The other bright and shining moment on the record is the very last tune, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”  At your first listen, you may not “get it” right away.  Give it a chance, and you will see the absolute brilliance Link gave this old ’50’ hit.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work at the very end of the song.  It sounds as if the song just decides to break down, explode, and go off to another planet.  Unbelievable.

Buying the album may be a bit tricky, especially if you need to go the digital route.  Your best bet, if at all possible, is to try and hunt down an original vinyl copy on eBay or scour the thrifts.  The album was reissued on CD as an import in the ’90s, but it has become quite pricey.  Trying to track down a copy of this album is worth the effort, though.  This record has become a definite main-stay in my collection, and I often find myself going back to it time and time again.  It is rewarding and a joy to listen to each and every time I put it on my turntable.  I will say, that since owning this album, Link Wray has become one of my favorite guitarists of all-time, and it may just do the same thing for you.

mp3: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
mp3: Don’t

:) Original | 1979 | Visa/Charisma | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 1995 | Line | buy ]

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  • Len Liechti

    Oh, that’s fine stuff, Katie – great review and a great subject. Nice contrast with the rootsy stuff on the early seventies Link Wray eponymous album reviewed elsewhere on TRS. Looks like the man went back to his original influences which were pretty punky in the first place. That’s the best cover of “Baby Blue” I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a few.

  • Annie

    ONCE again just a GREAT and informative review…GREAT job!!

  • Art Wray

    Thanks for reviewing Link Wray’s ” Bullshot ” lp ! After 20 + years as a rock & roll pioneer Link reinvents himself a third time and reminds everyone ” Who’s yer daddy ?! ” I got to hang out with Link around 1977 & ’78 while working with Jack Van Horn and Ed Cynar ( ex Raymen ) promoting their band The Pack . Link was of course teamed up with Robert Gordon at the time , living in northern Virginia and rehearsing drummers at Van Horn’s house for the first solo gigs he’d played in the Washington D. C. area since 1972 . Link and his wife Sharon were great folks and after the sound check for a Gordon / Wray show at the Cellar Door in D.C. they asked me and my girlfriend Susan Kirchner if we wanted to ride back to their house so he could clean up and change . Link drove a big ass Thunderbird at the time . Powder blue , Landau roof and white tuck & roll like upholstery . As he whipped the car left off of M street onto the Key Bridge Susan and I went slidin ‘ to the right as Link yelled back to me ” Hey Art would you like to write the liner notes for my new album ? ” Man ! My eyeballs popped and so did my girlfriends ! Link went on to say he had a solo deal with Private Stock and he had read a piece I’d written on The Pack in Goldmine magazine and he thought I should do the notes . Well the show that night was broadcast on WHFS 102.3 FM ( released a year or so back on cd ) was great and I of course was ecstatic about the task ahead ! I put together a first draft and gave them to Link that he liked but he wanted me to incorporate more of a ” back in the day ” story line similar to the Pack article . I didn’t really consider myself a writer I just got lucky getting into print but I got back to revising the notes . In the mean time there must have been “trouble in paradise” because Link just up and disappeared ! No one seemed to no where he went . Not even his family ! Time went by . Robert and Link parted ways .The ” Bullshot “lp was released and what could’ve been my liner notes went by the wayside but I got to hang out with a living legend ! I didn’t see Link again until 1983 & ’84 at the Wax Museum show ( a photo I took that night is the cover of Mark Opsasnick’s book “Capitol Rock”)and a 9:30 club gig . Oh well …” RUMBLE ! 1958 ! Link Wray & the Raymen ! Everything we love that’s loud begins here !!! Art Wray

  • Rog

    I loved the review and both of those songs. ( what a great sound!!! )
    One of my earliest experiences hearing a live rock & roll band was at a school dance and they played “Ace Of Spades” and played it really loud!!!
    Thanks for the great review.

  • SDL

    I have to ask…is that Roberet Gordon handling the vocals on “Fever”?

  • Seth Burgin

    I am pretty sure Fred “Link” Wray was still living in Tucson in 79. Bullshot got huge promotion in Arizona Tower Records stores at the time, but 99% of the people had no clue who the hell Link Wray was. The response was more of a “Why is the album prominently displayed at the end of every rock aisle?” The album was on Visa Records at the time. I still have it on vinyl. I was wondering is they had recoded in L.A. or where. NY seems plausible enough too. It is not like Arizona had many recording studios. It is also not like Link Wray needed a great facility to make him sound great either. This album is a nicely polished resurrection of his early master pieces, and some new fun stuff. With the 55MPH speed limit Link lived a bit over 2 hours drive from our house. At least he got some good local promo at the time.

  • lonnie flemmer

    The guitar solo at the end of “Don’t” is so good I get pissed off because I wish it was longer. I lost my 8track of of “bullshot” and i wish I had a cd or vinyl copy of this great record

  • Rich

    I bought Bullshot from a remainder bin at a local record shop in the eighties and I still listen to it often in 2015. It is unbelievably powerful, raw yet very “polished” I guess I’d say. “Wild Party” is sublime. It has been and continues to be dopaliciously inspirational. Cheers Link and all admirers!!!

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