Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bo Diddley

Just as jump blues was becoming R & B, Bo Diddley stripped out the B, made it all about the rhythm. You don’t get the full impact unless you turn up the volume aways, watch him perform live, even with the crappy sound available on YouTube videos. He is said to have had a massive impact on the development of rock and roll, and I suppose he did, though I leave the detailed analysis to others.

Chess Records, or whoever owned Chess Records in the 80s, licensed 10 tracks to Quality Records in Canada, and the latter released a Greatest Hits collection that was part of the same series as The Chordettes, Chuck Berry, et al. But I got my hands on The Chess Box, and I was happy to see that all 10 tracks were there, but, and this is weird, the version of Bring It To Jerome was different. There were no annotations suggesting anything untoward about this track, so I can only conclude that it was a part 1 part 2 affair, so I have them both. I think this was from the West Kildonan Library.

Bo Diddley:

Bo Diddley – Buddy Holly did The Holly Hop, and Jerry Lee Lewis did The Lewis Boogie, but nobody had the audacity to name his first record after himself. If he hadn’t changed his name, this song would be called Elias McDaniel. And I guess the rhythm would have had to have been quite different. Imagine. I like the guitar figure that Buddy Holly used when he covered this, but Bo’s rhythm pounds harder. Still, for all its fame and glory this song did not even place in the Billboard top 100, though it did make it to Cashbox in the winter of 1956. There are cover versions galore, starting with Ronnie Hawkins…
I’m A Man – A landmark. Doesn’t exactly conform to the beat, but it’s classic Bo nonetheless. The Yardbirds did this rather famously, and Peggy Lee turned it into I’m A Woman, and Muddy Waters rewrote it as Mannish Boy. Not the Spencer Davis Group / Chicago song.
You Don’t Love Me – Not exactly the song on Supersessions by Al Kooper and company.
Diddley Daddy – Using “Diddley” as a surname, then using it as the basis of numerous song titles, well that just lends itself to all kinds of kinkiness..
Pretty Thing – Recorded, predictably, by The Pretty Things. Not the Gary Lewis & The Playboys song.
Bring It To Jerome – Jerome was Jerome Green, who played maracas in Bo’s band. He seems to sing lead on this too. Manfred Mann covered this.
Bring It To Jerome – The same song, different take, probably part 2, though neither is labelled anything other than “Bring It To Jerome.”
Diddy Wah Diddy – There was probably nobody like Bo who excelled in the use of nonsense syllables to mean very specific but indefinable things. Captain Beefheart covered this, and so did Leon Redbone.
I’m Looking For A Woman – Shouldn’t be too hard to find; sheesh, there’s a bunch in this house alone…
Who Do You Love – Who indeed. I’m not sure what this has to do with love. It’s all about voodoo and skulls and rattlesnake whips and flying ice wagons. Hits home with the force of a power drill, and has the same effect on your brain. This song acquired a life of its own, seeing versions by Ronnie Hawkins, The Quicksilver Messenger Service, Smith, The Doors, Jesus And Mary Chain, and on and on. Listen to Hawkins do it with The Band on The Last Waltz. The first version I ever heard was by Tom Rush; it was a radio hit in the early 70s, but it’s the one that I don’t have, and can’t find. Jeepers.
Down Home Special – Closely related to Chuck Berry’s Downbound Train, Down Home Special is nothing more than Bo telling us how he’s going home to his baby, but the music is something else. If it’s not a minor key it should be, because there is definitely something sinister going on underneath…
Hey Bo Diddley – The legend continues. In a way this is no more than Bo Diddley with refrains of “hey! Bo Diddley” thrown in liberally throughout, and the two songs are titled interchangeably in the repertoire, but listen to the rhythm. The classic doop da doop doop, doop doop, is replaced by a simple but effective boom cha boom cha boom cha. Nothing simple about this guy…
Mona – I had a French teacher whose first name was Mona. We called her “The Armoured Truck.” I did know another Mona. I sat behind her in grade six. My friend David S said I had a crush on her, but I didn’t. Then one day he was caught but the teacher mixed up our names: dj stop teasing Mona! She said. Hey it’s not me. see? I said to him. You’re the one with the crush. No it’s you he said, that’s why she used your name. The Stones covered this, and so did Quicksilver Messenger Service…
Say Boss Man – Not to be confused with Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man. Bo has 19 kids. Somehow his boss is supposed to be sympathetic.
Before You Accuse Me – What’s good for the goose… CCR did a cover of this on Cosmo’s Factory.
Say Man – Bo and Jerome signifyin’. Jerome plays the straight man, Bo sounds like a half-crazed banshee. This was Bo’s only top 40 hit, reaching number 20 in the fall of 1959.
Hush Your Mouth – Another rewrite of Bo Diddley.
The Clock Strikes Twice – An instrumental
Dearest Darling
Crackin’ Up – It’s only fitting I suppose that Bo write his paean to insanity, typically disguised as romantic woes. The Stones covered this on Love You Live. From the summer of 1959.
Don’t Let Go – Not the Roy Hamilton song. This is yet another song of Bo Diddley singing about Bo Diddley.
I’m Sorry – Not the Brenda Lee song, nor The Platters song. A kind of ballad, and a kind of straight one.
Mumblin’ Guitar – Bo has some fun with his guitar – well, more so than usual.
The Story Of Bo Diddley – The Animals did The Story Of Bo Diddley, but they told it differently.
Bo’s Bounce – I don’t know that “bounce” really describes the nature of the rhythm here…
She’s Alright – This is as generic as Bo got.
Say Man Back Again – Say Man part 2, but this one didn’t make the charts. And the insults are getting a bit stale.
Road Runner – This one digs into a deep groove. The Pretty Things covered this, but first prize goes to The Gants for their 1965 cover. Beep beep. Not to be confused with (I’m A) Road Runner by Junior Walker & The All Stars. From the winter of 1960.
Spend My Life With You – vocals by Jerome Green. A 12 bar blues.
Cadillac – Tribute to a car. The Kinks did this on their first album
Signifying Blues – Say Man, part 3. The insults were stale on Say Man Back Again, here they are dead. Except the one the job. Oh, and the one about the tears. Oh, and the one about…
Deed And Deed I Do
You Know I Love You
Look At My Baby – Bo is entering the modern world.
Ride On Josephine – Ride on, sounds like “right on.” The song sounds a lot like Maybelline.
Aztec – Is this faintly Latin American? Title suggests it.
Back Home
Pills – A rollicking rock and roll song about being sick.
Untitled Instrumental – the irony of the title needs no comment…
I Can Tell – The Searchers covered this.
You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover – Sounds like Jerome Green vocals. From the fall of 1962. Covered by Manfred Mann.
Who May Your Lover Be
The Greatest Lover In The World – From the man who gave us I’m A Man. No boast was too big for Mr. Diddley.
500% More Man – Speaking of which…
Ooh Baby – Sounds like a Smokey Robinson song, but it isn’t. Though it’s kind of mellow for Bo, a hit of sorts in the winter of 1967.
Bo Diddley, 1969 – Wrapping it up, a reprise of his theme song, updated with chorus.

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