Stray Cats – Built For Speed: #486 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is Stray Cats’ Built For Speed on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I recall hearing the Stray Cats for the first time when I was a little kid. It was likely via the music video for “Rock This Town,” but what I know for sure was that I had never heard anything quite like this band before.

When I listen to “Rock This Town” as I write these words, I’m struck by its classic yet timeless quality. It feels like it could have been released in 1962, 1982, or even 2022. The production is perfectly clean, allowing you to hear Brian Setzer’s every staccato guitar note, and the bopping, thumping bassline seems as supercharged as ever.

There’s a jumping, lovely energy to this song, and to Built For Speed as a whole, that calls back to the purity of rock ‘n roll’s earliest days – with a nice dollop of rockabilly and ever so slight dusting of a punk vibe to give it a little bit of an edge.

The look of the band plays a big part of their scene as well, and the music video has a fun time showing off how the cool rockabilly rocker dudes can convince even the squarest of early 1980s squares to get in on the rollicking good fun.

I’ve always been enamored of both the sound and the look (kind of thick and heavy looking) of the guitar that Setzer plays, and a little research reveals that it’s a Gretsch.

These days, “Stray Cat Strut” is far and away my favorite Stray Cats song. I absolutely love its crooning, chilled out, cool as hell vibe.

“Rumble in Brighton” doubles down on fast paced, bluesy rockabilly, the band’s very specific wheelhouse in other words.

Also see: The Brian Setzer Orchestra – The Dirty Boogie: #811 of best 1,000 albums ever

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Stray Cats’ Built For Speed

In doing a little research in writing this piece, I learned that the Stray Cats hail from Massapequa, New York, which is on Long Island, where I was born and raised as well.

Massapequa is on “the island’s” south shore, not far from the famous Jones Beach (which I usually got to a few times per summer back in the day). I grew up in East Northport, though walking distance from the town of Commack. East Northport is actually south of Northport (or Northport Northport if you like). Anyway, East Northport is a little bit inland by Long Island standards, but closer to the island’s north shore, where the Long Island Sound separates Long Island and New York from Connecticut.

Fun factoid that the actorly Baldwin clan – Alec, Billy, Stephen, and the like – also hails from Massapequa. Brother Billy went to my alma mater, Binghamton University, and as legend has it also played on the rugby team (which yours truly did as well).

Bonus fun factoid: the 1997 movie, In & Out, starring Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack, was filmed on location in Northport. Some scenes took place in a diner, which in real life is Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, which my family and I have been to many times.

Some stats & info about Stray Cats – Built For Speed

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, New York Bands, Rockabilly
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Built For Speed released? 1982
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #486 out of 1,000

Stray Cats’ Built For Speed on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Stray Cats’ Built For Speed that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

We’re gonna rock this town, rock it inside out.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.