Thursday, 15 May 2008

Not Yer Rock & Roll 4 - De Blooze

I discovered the blues as a teenager. It was all the fault of a guy called Mike Raven(left). Way back in the beginning of time, he had a soul and blues radio programme called – um – The Mike Raven Show. The first half was soul but the second half was blues. What the hell is this stuff? I asked my teenage self. Low down, ancient scrubbsy stuff from the Mississippi Delta mostly, plus some electric Chicago stuff was the answer. I was hooked. I started to besiege the local library for books on the blues. Who are these guys? These guys are good – to borrow a phrase.

Mike Raven himself was an interesting guy. He had been an army officer and later a pirate radio DJ, an actor in horror films, a sculptor of some note and a sheep farmer. He died in 1997. But the effect lingers on…

Three songs – the first is Cream’s version of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads – again from the beginning of time. I make no apology for this – after the Delta and Chicago, Britain is the third (adoptive) home of the blues.

The second is John Lee Hooker performing Boom Boom at the Montreux Jazz Festival (don’t expect me ever to blog on jazz – leaves me cold). If this were performed by some gangsta rapper as opposed to the elderly gent, then the complaints as to violent lyrics would come flooding in. But they don’t.

As a bonus, here is a third song. Again John Lee Hooker with Bad Like Jesse James. Violent lyrics again, but I defy you not to find at least one foot tapping.

Amazing stuff…

Robert Johnson


Verdant Earl said...

An interesting (maybe) tidbit on Robert Johnson. The whole "selling his soul to the devil" bit was more likely associated with a contemporary of his named Tommy relation. Tommy Johnson made the story up to enhance his fame by making his character sinister.

Robert Johnson may have written the song about Tommy, and over the years the legend has been erroneously associated with Robert...probably due to his early death. And the song, of course.

That Hank said...

The Coen Brothers picked up on Tommy Johnson for "O Brother Where Art Thou". Tommy was known for being so much of a drunk that he would drink sterno if he couldn't get hootch.

"after the Delta and Chicago, Britain is the third (adoptive) home of the blues"

Blues has never been confined to the Mississippi Delta. All of the US south is the home of the blues, and any place those blues musicians moved to get away from what was causing the blues in the first place.

I always associate the song Boom Boom with the Blues Brothers movie, because that's where I've heard it most.

On Sunday mornings 10 am - 1pm, US eastern standard time, (V89) run a great blues show. You should give it a listen if that's a time when you'd be near a computer.

Verdant Earl said...

I first found out about Tommy Johnson from "O Brother"...forgot to mention that, Downtown Guy. :)

Bruce Johnson said...

I concur on all accounts. There is something about Robert Johnson's music that re-arranges the DNA of young men that hear it. Can't recall how many times I have listened to Crossroads by Cream.

In case you don't know the story(and you probably do), Johnson wrote crossroads, supposedly, to account for the time he had a meeting with the devil, at the crossroads and sold his soul to him in order to become a great guitar player. Hence the meaning of the lyrics.

There is a funny take on this whole story in the film, "Brother Where for art Thou?" A very good film.

And what it is about English folks that they have such an affinity for the Blues? Led Zepplin, The Who, Beatles, Stones...would have never existed without the blues.

Frank Partisan said...

I saw Muddy Waters free at a small state fair stage.

I saw Albert Collins several times.

Argentine tango dance meshes with dancing to the blues.

Daisy said...

An interesting (maybe) tidbit on Robert Johnson. The whole "selling his soul to the devil" bit

The "devil" was very likely not the Christian devil, but the Hoodoo trickster devil.

[Johnson] makes references to hoodoo in his songs, such as "hot foot powder"(Hellhound on My Trail), a woman's "nation sack"(Come on in My Kitchen) and a "mojo bag"(Little Queen of Spades). Hoodoo was a religious practice of African Americans in the Deep South. Its rituals could be used to acquire skills or knowledge from Legba or other African deities believed to visit the crossroads, but they do not require one to deal one's soul to a god. It is suspected that he may have been a practitioner of hoodoo, using the rituals to acquire his musical skills. The Devil is often falsely equated with Legba in literature, but the Euro-American Devil seems to embody not just the traits of the trickster-god Legba, but also the sum of traits of other African deities. He could have tried to perform a ritual to any of these deities, including, but not limited to Legba. Acquiring his skills from any of the hoodoo gods could have easily been construed as striking a deal with Satan himself.

From here.

For more, here is the BEST Hoodoo site ever!

Nice post! :)

white rabbit said...

Earl/Downtown Guy - two great films you mention there! Oh and Hank, sure - the country blues was far from being confined to the Mississippi Delta - it's just that the Delta guys were hardcore.

Renegade - tango dancing to the blues? :-O

Lotus - the British and the blues - it's a strange thing. My theory - and it's on;y a theory is that the seeds were sown in WWII when a lot of black US servicemen were based in the UK. They were generally very popular, more so than their white counterparts and they would go to smoky clubs on their leave days where they made their own imprint on what was happening. What is undoubtedly true is, before even my time, enthusiasts such as Alexis Korner and John Mayall started playing as well as enthusing. It just growed and in the 60s there was an explosion of white kids setting up blues bands. The Stones were originally a R & B band and - for example - 'Little Red Rooster' is pure blues. Plus aged blues musicians discovered that there was money and acclaim out of touring the UK as opposed to being ignored in the US.

Daisy - didn't know that!Robert Johnson something like the Van Gogh of popular music. Ignored and impoverished in his lifetime and venerated after it. He would have been amazed, I guess..