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The Stray Cats’ debut US album, ‘Built for Speed,’ was released 40 years ago today

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Capitol Records/UMe

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Stray Cats‘ debut U.S. album, Built for Speed.

The 12-track collection, which remains the rockabilly trio’s most successful album to date, actually is a compilation featuring highlights from the Long Island, New York, group’s first two U.K. studio efforts — 1981’s Stray Cats and Gonna Ball — along with one previously unreleased tune, “Built for Speed.”

The Built for Speed album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and was kept out of the top spot by Michael Jackon‘s Thriller. The record yielded two of the Stray Cats’ signature tunes, “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town,” which reached #3 and #9, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Stray Cats — singer/guitarist Brian Setzer, double bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom — formed in Massapequa, New York, in 1979. After the band relocated to the U.K. in 1980, their authentic retro-rockabilly sound and style quickly gained them a following there.

Rocker tells ABC Audio that The Rolling Stones were “really integral” to getting his band media attention “before we even had a record deal.”

As Lee recalls, “They were showing up at these little gigs we were doing in London, and, as you can imagine …right behind them was a cadre of photographers and press people. So they helped shine a light.”

The Stones even invited The Stray Cats to open for them during their 1981 tour. The trio soon headed back to the U.S. and, after Built for Speed‘s release, the band’s popularity soared, thanks in part to MTV putting videos for “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town” into heavy rotation.

Built for Speed went on to sell over 1 million copies in the U.S. Here’s the album’s full track list:

“Rock This Town”
“Built for Speed”
“Rev It Up & Go”
“Stray Cat Strut”
“Little Miss Prissy”
“Rumble in Brighton”
“Runaway Boys”    
“Lonely Summer Nights”
“Double Talkin’ Baby”
“You Don’t Believe Me”
“Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie”
“Baby Blue Eyes”

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