Scrape the crust of legend off this record and you might be surprised, like I was, at how goofy it is. What did I know about this song? I knew that Jerry Lee was a hellraiser and married his cousin. And I knew the chorus, mostly from a 70s Edam advert which went “Goodness Gracious, great balls of cheese!”. So what was I expecting? The chorus and a bit of snarling. And what do I get? A great ball of cheese ‘ and I mean that in the very best way.
Playing a song at the same time as laughing at it – and still having it come out great – is a terribly hard trick. But listen to “Great Balls” and tell me that Lewis is doing it with a straight face. Of course, this is before straight faces became compulsory (a rule that’s troubled the albums chart more than the singles one, thankfully) – even so, Lewis’ deliveries of “She broke my will / But what a thrill” are so gleefully arch I can’t help but grin along. Rocky Horror is born here. So is The Darkness, for that matter.
The music is as hellbent on entertainment as the singing ‘ the teasing intro phrases, the demented arpeggios, that awesome one-note solo thing. And the way Lewis rides his music can be electric ‘ his long possessed “oooooooooh” ties the whole song together before it rolls in triumph to the final chorus. There’s a word for Jerry Lee Lewis on this record, a fine old word that pop music should never stray too far from: showman.