On Bob Dylan’s Jukebox : Billy Lee Riley – Red Hot

Primal 1950s Sun Records Rockabilly and Rock ‘n’ Roll could transform your life with the shocking power felt by Saul on the road to Damascus.

Reborn.

Changed utterly.

No going back now.

A record is made in Memphis Tennessee in 1957, ‘Red Hot’ by Billy Lee Riley from Pocohontas Arkansas.

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Then it is carried on the airwaves a thousand miles north to Hibbing Minnesota where 16 year old Robert Allen Zimmerman experiences an epiphany for which he would be forever grateful.

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‘[Billy Lee Riley} … was a true original. He did it all: He played, he sang, he wrote.

… Billy became what is known in the industry—a condescending term—as a one-hit wonder.

But sometimes, just sometimes, once in a while, a one-hit wonder can make a more powerful impact than a recording star who’s got 20 or 30 hits behind him.

And Billy’s hit song was called “Red Hot,” and it was red hot.

It could blast you out of your skull and make you feel happy about it. Change your life.’ (Bob Dylan)

Well, if that didn’t blast you out of your skull you need a skull transplant!

150 seconds of Bliss.

Pure Bliss.

Billy and his band, the brilliantly named ‘Little Green Men’ explode into your consciousness with the overwhelming impact of a comet crashing to Earth.

Roland Janes and Billy on the searing guitars.

Jimmy Van Eaton on the we will not be denied drums.

Marvin Pepper on the go as fast as you like boys I’ll keep us on the road bass.

Jimmy Wilson on the hold fast here comes the rapids piano.

And Billy’s vocal?

Red Hot. Red Hot. Red Hot. Red Hot. Red Hot.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen here we have the very essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Now, in any well ordered Universe ‘Red Hot’ would have been a No 1 Hit.

But, as we know, things often don’t work out the way they should.

So, Sam Phillips, the Caesar of Sun Records, decided that he didn’t have the resources to properly promote both ‘Red Hot’ and Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls of Fire’ – well which would you have chosen?

Nevertheless, to achieve some sort of cosmic balance, ‘Red Hot’ is now installed as A80 on The Immortal Jukebox!

Billy’s had one minor hit with the fantastic, ‘Flyin’ Saucers Rock and Roll’ (sure to feature here later) and he made important contributions as a sideman in Memphis with Sun and in Los Angeles.

His career got a welcome boost in the late 1970s when Robert Gordon and the mighty Link Wray recorded dynamite covers of Red Hot and Flyin’ Saucers.

Billy played irregularly but every time he hit the stage he carried with him and delivered the elemental white-fiery spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Here from 2008, just a year before he died, a performance that is a wonderful testament to a true Rock ‘n Roller.

God Bless you Billy Lee!

Notes :

Below, a joyous shot of an obviously delighted Bob Dylan revelling in the rapturous applause Billy Lee received when he joined Bob on stage in 1992.

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My go to CD for Billy Lee is ‘Billy Lee Rocks’ on the estimable Bear Family Label.

Red Hot was written and first recorded by Billy ‘The Kid Emerson’ in 1955.

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Billy also wrote ‘When It Rains, It Really Pours’ covered by Elvis himself and ‘Every Woman I Know (Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile) which was recorded by Ry Cooder.

As far as I know Billy is still alive at the age of 93!

Thanks for the songs Billy!

SET YOUR CALENDARS!

The 2019 Immortal Jukebox ‘Christmas Alphabet’ will begin on Thursday December 5th and continue on the 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 21st.

Don’t miss out and spread the word!

Little Richard : Tutti Frutti (‘Awop Bop Aloo Bop Alop Bam Boom!’)

I see with no little surprise that after 5 years of The Jukebox the number of Views is fast approaching 500,000.

Half a Million!

Reflecting on this I thought it would be appropriate for the next few weeks to feature some Posts from the early years that many of you who have become followers more recently may never have seen.

The choice of which Posts to feature follows no scientific principle.

I have simply chosen those for which I have a particular fondness.

So, here’s a post from 2014 celebrating one of the greatest figures in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll – Little Richard!

No novelist would dare to invent a character like Richard ; suffice to say there never was anyone like him before  and there will never be anyone like him again.

Turn all your dials into the Red Zone now and prepare for unbridled joy!

‘My heart nearly burst with excitement – I had heard God’. (David Bowie on first hearing Tutti Frutti)

‘Ambition: To Join Little Richard!’ (Entry in Bob Dylan’s High School Yearbook’)

‘It was as if, in a single instant, the world changed from monochrome to technicolour’ (Keith Richards)

Before any truly catyclismic event in world history there are usually foreshadowings and auguries: precursor events that indicate something immense is on its way.

I have identified one such sequence in history and set it out below:

In the summer of 1883 in the Sunday Strait between Java and Sumatra the Island of Krakatoa was the location for a volcanic eruption of staggering power.

The explosion which destroyed the island was heard in Perth, Australia some 2000 miles away.

It was probably the loudest sound ever heard by humankind as the sky grew dark with rock, ash and pumice.

Tsunamis were generated as the shock wave reverberated seven times around the planet.

Weather patterns and temperatures were disrupted for years on a global scale. The explosion was the equivalent of 200 megatonnes of TNT. In comparison the Atom Bomb explosion over Hiroshima was a mere firecracker.

If you were looking for the epicentre of the world’s scientific ferment in 1904 it is unlikely anyone would have settled on the Patent Office in sleepy Bern, Switzerland.

Yet it was there that the 25 year old Albert Einstein had an intellectual epiphany.

He realised that mass and energy were not two separate realms but expressions of each other.

He expressed this relationship in a beautiful world changing equation (you know, E = MC squared).

This was an epochal, paradigm shifting breakthrough that has resounded through science and culture ever since.

Asteroids are rare visitors to this earth but when they do pay us a home visit the effects can be profound.

As June ended in 1908 in Tunguska in remote Siberia it seemed that the sky was split in two and covered with fire as an asteroid travelling at more than 33,000 miles per hour exploded trigerring a shock wave that devestated 800 square miles of forest.

Eighty million trees lay on their sides levelled like so much matchwood.

For days afterward the skies above Asia and Europe were eerily aglow.

In the 1940s as the Second World War proceeded the significance of Einstein’s work for military purposes was sharply appreciated in Washington, Berlin, London and Moscow as teams of dragooned scientists raced to produce a war winning weapon.

The race was won in the deserts of the American South West by an international team ironically including many refugees from Hitler’s Reich. Mankind now had the capacity to destroy itself and the Atomic Age was born.

Energy, Energy, Energy.

Energy contained and the power of energy released is the linking factor in all these events.

There is something awesome in the contemplation of the overwhelming impact such displays of energy can have upon us.

Immense outpourings of energy expressed in music, film and literature can lead to revolutions in human consciousness that can profoundly alter the landscape of our thoughts and our very dreams.

Following such events the cultural climate is forever changed and aftershocks continue to ripple on through the succeeding ages.

One such moment took place at Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio at Rampart Street New Orleans on September 14th 1955 when Little Richard exploded into a version of an outrageously sexy, raucous and filthy song that had long been a staple of his live performances.

The savvy producer of the session, Bumps Blackwell, had heard the song during a time out break the musicians had taken in a local bar, the Dew Drop Inn, and instantly realised that, furnished with cleaned up lyrics suitable for listening to on the radio, this was an unstoppable hit with a drive, attack and energy that was something new under the sun and moon in the Crescent City and for all he knew the whole world.

Richard played the frenzied piano himself with the masterful drummer Earl Palmer for once taken aback and struggling to keep up. Lee Allen plays a scintillating sax solo after being given his cue by the vocalist’s trademark screams and hollers.

Little Richard, the Little Richard who occupies a permanent treasured chair at the top table of Rock n Roll pioneers and innovators was born as an artist at the very moment he began to play Tutti Frutti.

His vocals are a delirious fusion of the gospel pulpit, the back alley dive and the tent show after hours party.

They lift the song beyond jump blues, beyond rhythm and blues into a new territory that incredulous contemporary listeners and musicians and the generations who followed them would light out for in their millions whooping all the way!

But very few of them would be able to combine, like Little Richard could, the rapturous, glossolalial soar and swoop with the low down and dirty guttural rasp.

For that you maybe needed to be the twelfth child of a family that included both preachers and bootleggers and grow up listening to testifying choirs in the morning and gut bucket blues men late at night.

It would also help if you had lived by the train tracks and woken up repeatedly to the sound of the whistle screaming through your town.

Primary among those attempting to reproduce the Little Richard scream was the teenage Paul McCartney who used it extensively when covering Richard’s songs (his vocal party piece was Long Tall Sally, which was one of the two songs he played atop a desk on his last day at school in Liverpool) and he also incorporated it into his own rockers to give them a wildness that would drive the girls crazy.

I’m sure you know that I’m no physicist or mathematician but according to my calculations the energy released in the first thirty seconds of Tutti Frutti as Little Richard leaves Earth’s orbit for the celestial beyond is exactly equal to and more lasting in impact and influence than the Krakatoa explosion!

Perhaps the incantation, ‘Awop Bop Aloo Bop Alop Bam Boom!’ was the unlocking alchemical phrase the Universe had been waiting to hear for many millennia.

Who would have thought that such mystic power would have emerged from an omnisexual, mascara wearing son of Macon Georgia!

You can christen Little Richard the Meteor, the Comet, the Quasar or the Architect of Rock n Roll – he deserves all those accolades and all the honours heaped upon him in his mature years.

But it is the dionysiac outpouring of energy in Tutti Frutti that will prove his lasting legacy.

The universe shook the day he recorded it and it’s still shaking now.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Richard Thompson &The Move (never forgetting Cowboy Jack Clement) : It’ll Be Me!

In the mid 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll smashed apart the ice bound cultural climate of America and Britain.

A new generation born in the 1940s had epiphanies in the 50s listening to the icebreakers in chief : Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In Minnesota, Bob Dylan.

In Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

And, their ecstatic immersion into a new world was repeated in hamlets and villages and towns and cities all over the world.

Later, when those Baby Boomers became artists and legends in their own right they always carried within treasured memories of the sparks that had lit their own flames.

That’s why, time after time, when it comes to encores you’ll find the titans of the 60s and 70s returning to the original source to pay homage and rock out for all they are worth!

Now, if you want a mentor, an exemplar, for barn burning, earth shattering, Rock ‘n’ Roll you can’t possibly beat The Killer – Ferriday Louisiana’s very own Jerry Lee Lewis!

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If there was ever a man/myth you might chance upon a-peeping from a crawdad hole or grinnin’ down on you from the top of a telephone pole it would have to be Jerry Lee!

In February 1957 Jerry was in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios for his second session as a recording artist with Cowboy Jack Clement at the desk.

Everyone with a pulse from Mercury to Pluto knows the second track they recorded that day, ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ as it became one of the defining records of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era (which is of course still extant).

But, today The Jukebox is celebrating the B Side of that epochal 45, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a masterpiece in its own right and, as we shall see, an inspiration for decades to come.

Well, you can climb to the top of Everest or descend in a diving bell to the deepest darkest depths of the oceans but you still wouldn’t be able to find a truer Rock ‘n’ Roller than Jerry Lee.

I love the leer that’s always in his voice tempered by a sly wink to the audience :

Come on you’ve got to admit it you just can’t get enough of Jerry Lee can you’.

And, there’s always that slippin’ and a slidin’ perpetually pumpin’ Piano to keep your heart rate up and out a broad smile on your face.

‘It’ll Be Me’ was written by a popular music renaissance man – Cowboy Jack Clement.

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Among the roles Jack assumed were : songwriter, singer, producer, studio owner, talent spotter and world class raconteur!

Of course, as The Jukebox never tires of saying you only have to make one great record to be sure of immortality and with, ‘It’ll Be Me’ Jack most assuredly did that.

Janis Martin was a contemporary of Jerry Lee’s and a rip roaring rocker.

She took a long spell away from the music business yet when lured back by the estimable Rosie Flores for the album, ‘The Blanco Sessions’ in 1995 she showed that she could still set those sparks flying upward.

The Move were one of the least classifiable outfits in the firmament of British Beat Groups of the 1960s.

They were Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were Pop, they were Psychedelic, they were progressive and Retro all at the same time.

In Roy Wood they had a songwriter/performer who overflowed with talent turbo charging the efforts of Bev Bevan (Drums), Carl Wayne (Vocals & Guitar), Trevor Burton (Guitar & Vocals) and Ace Kefford (Bass & Vocals).

Live, they brewed up quite a storm.

Here they are giving, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a no holds barred, eyeballs out, performance for the good old BBC.

Now we turn to a regular on The Jukebox, Richard Thompson, here performing live with his then wife Linda.

Richard Thompson, in contrast to almost all the stellar guitarists of his time, was not a devotee of B. B King, Elmore James or Chuck Berry.

Rather he had a unique set of influences which included traditional Pipers and Fiddle Players alongside Guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Les Paul.

Which is why he sounds only ever like himself.

And, he can play in almost any emotional register.

He can play with the still tenderness of a mother singing a lullaby to her sick child in the dead of night.

He can play with the ferocity of William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as they slashed and burned their was from Atlanta to Savannah.

You want someone who can make the line :

‘If you see a rocket ship on its way to Mars’ come alive well look no further than Richard Thompson when he’s in the mood!

Better fasten your seat belt real tight! – you’ll be pulling some serious Gs!

Remember what I said about Encores?

Well, here’s a short, sharp and satisfying one from a Group, Lindisfarne, whom I often saw in their 70s heyday.

Lindisfarne, as their name suggests, were from England’s North East.

Their take on ‘It’ll Be Me’ suggests they may have been tuned in to Chuck Berry rather more closely than they were to Bede!

Pretty sure Bede never played the Harmonica like that!

Look who’s knocking on our door now!

None other than Tom Jones, happily never recovered from his first ecstatic exposure to Jerry Lee.

Sometimes you want music to be pure Fun and that’s exactly what Tom serves up here aided and ably abetted by Jools Holland.

What’s that line about funny faces and comic books?

Let’s conclude with Cowboy Jack himself bringing it all back home.

Well, if you see a new face on your totem pole or if you find a new lump in your sugar bowl, Baby, I have to tell you It’ll Be Me …….

 

On John Lennon’s Jukebox – Bruce Channel : Hey Baby!

Featuring memories of the Summer of 1975 & an all you can eat ‘Hey Baby’ Buffet with :

Bruce Channel, Delbert McClinton,  Arthur Alexander, NRBQ, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Holmes Brothers, Juice Newton and Jimmy Vaughan. 

(As always if corporate czars block any of the clips appearing here you will be able to find them by a trawl of YouTube).

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Last week I had to visit our local civic centre to fill out some official forms.

This involved, as encounters with officialdom almost always do, a lot of waiting about in uncomfortable chairs while my details were checked and double checked before eventually my application was approved.

Normally, I would plug in my earphones and pass the time listening to a fine selection of expertly curated Immortal Jukebox tunes.

However, it turned out that I had left home without either my phone or iPad so I became a captive of the building’s playlist.

But, wouldn’t you just know it – the very first song played was, ‘Hey Baby!’ by Bruce Channel, a favourite of mine for many a decade.

Indeed, as soon as the distinctive harmonica riff (played by Delbert McClinton) announced itself I was transported back to a summer job in 1975.

My Dad was a long term employee of a civil engineering firm so he was able to secure me a job on a site not too far from home.

Through his good offices I also got a lift each morning at 6.30 from Dave, a trainee Quantity Surveyor, in his ‘Deux Chevaux’ Citroën 2CV, a car which made up for in charm what it lacked in speed and power.

Its been more than 4 decades since I travelled with Dave so I must confess that i have forgotten his surname.

But, I remember the important things.

To whit – he had ginger hair and proudly sported a, ‘Zapata’ moustache.

He was witty when commenting on world events and kind when commenting on people he knew directly.

And, most importantly for our friendship he was a self proclaimed music fanatic with particular interests in Motown and American Pop Hits of the early 1960s before the British Invasion.

Dave had made a series of cassettes showcasing his enthusiasms and we enthusiastically sang along to these on our half hour journey to work.

To establish my bona tides as a true lover of music rather than a passive listener Dave casually asked what was the common thread linking the last three songs we had harmonised to :  ‘Jimmy Mack’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ and, ‘My Guy’ ?

He was quick to say I would get no points for saying they all featured the same crew of musicians; the legendary Funk Brothers.

Fair enough I said and won his approval by saying the other link was the backing vocalists:  those barely known and critically unsung heroines of Hitsville USA, ‘The Andantes’ (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps).

Next as he cued up the tape labelled, ‘Hits 1962’ he asked as the once heard never forgotten harmonica intro to, ‘Hey Baby’ blasted out into the West London fume filled streets – Who’s playing that harmonica?

Not only did I know that it was Delbert McClinton I said I had just bought his new Album, ‘Victim of Life’s Circumstances’ and would lend it to him to tape.

From that day on as I got into the 2CV it was always, ‘Hey Baby’ at maximum volume that greeted me.

Thus was our friendship cemented.

At the end of that Summer he moved to Scotland and I never saw him again.

But I will never forget those 2CV/Motown/Hey Baby days so wherever you are Dave this one’s for you.

I hope you still thrill to the sound of Young America and sing with all your might whenever you hear Bruce Channel’s vocal and Delbert’s harmonica light up the airwaves :

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Now, as Major Bill Smith, who recorded, ‘Hey Baby’ was heard to remark :

’Cotton Picker, that’s sure one Cotton Pickin’ Hit!’

And he was perfectly cotton pickin’ right.

Sales of more than a million with 3 weeks atop the Billboard Chart and Number 2 in the UK.

And, permanently lodged in the memories of several generations of musicians across many genres.

Hey Baby is endlessly adaptable (as we shall see and hear) whether you are approaching it  as Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Country, Cajun/Zydeco or pure Pop!

The original benefits from Bruce’s relaxed vocal set to an addictive shuffle beat provided by Jim Rogers and Ray Torres on Drums and Bass.

Bob Jones and Billy Sanders Guitars fill out the sound.

But, the undoubted signature sound of the song is provided by Delbert McClinton’s Harmonica.

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Musicians recognised this as one catchy lick!

One of those was none other than John Lennon who met Delbert in person when The Beatles supported Bruce Channel at The Tower Ballroom New Brighton on the 21st of June 1962.

John certainly remembered that lick when The Fab Four got into Abbey Road to record, ‘Love Me Do’.

And, he never forgot, ‘Hey Baby!’ as is clear from its presence on his own Jukebox.

That Jukebox also contained work by our next artist – Arthur Alexander.

John recognised that Arthur was a great singer who could add a shadowy blue tone to any song.

Sing it Arthur!

Next up an utterly charming version by the NRBQ from their dazzlingly diverse 1969 debut LP.

The NRBQ, then Terry Adams (keyboards), Steve Ferguson (guitar), Joey Spampinato (bass), Frank Gadler (vocals) and Tom Staley (drums), obviously had a riotously good time recording, ‘Hey Baby’ and that shows in every groove.

Set yourself down on your porch swing and uncork something smooth and sweet!

Mercy!

OK, time to paddle our pirogue down to Louisiana.

So, we will replace the harmonica with the accordion and make sure our boots are on properly because we are about to really fly around the floor dancing to this version from Buckwheat Zydeco!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Listing the genres Hey Baby! could be adapted to I unforgivably omitted Gospel.

It is clear that The Holmes Brothers bring something of the backwoods Country Church to  our party here.

Sherman and Wendell sure get an Amen from me!

Testify! Testify!

Righteous!

Now we turn to a much overlooked talent – Judy ‘Juice’ Newton who always brings the warmth of a summer breeze to her performances.

When you are bringing out that home made lemonade for your Summer BBQ I strongly recommend you look out some of her records.

Youll find you’ll float across the lawn (even if you haven’t laced the lemonade with something a little stronger!).

Back to Texas for our concluding take.

I feel like putting my shades on as I groove to this slinky version by Jimmy Vaughan.

Let’s not pretend we went anywhere near Lemonade as that one prowled around our minds!

No, got to be something with a powerful kick and an after burn.

I don’t know what Jimmy, Mike Flanigin and Frosty Smith go for but I’m going for the Kentucky Straight!

Having done so I’m ready to dig out my harmonica and lead you all in:

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
Hey, hey baby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
When I saw you walking down the street
I said that’s a kind of girl I’d like to meet
She’s so pretty, Lord, she’s fine
I’m gonna make her mine, all mine
Hey, Hey Baby!

Celebrating Charlie Watts : Certainty in an uncertain world – Get off my Cloud!

All around it seems like anything can happen including so many things we thought could never happen.

Ice caps melting.

Tornadoes and typhoons out of nowhere.

Forest fire raging, raging, raging.

High water everywhere.

Is there nothing you can absolutely rely on?

Well, a glance at today’s calendar reminded me that the great Charlie Watts was born on June 2nd 1941 and is thus now 78 years old.

And, while, who knows, the Pyramids may tumble tomorrow there can be no doubt that when The Rolling Stones Hit the stage in Chicago in June they and everyone in the audience can be sure of one thing – the majesty of The Stones Sound will be founded on the utter reliability of Charlie Watt’s glorious drumming.

So, I am reblogging my tribute from the very earliest days of The Jukebox (with a birthday bonus track).

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Charlie Watts, gentleman, scholar and drummer at large was 73 this year. Here’s a short tribute.

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Famously, at the live show captured on Get Your Ya Yas Out Mick Jagger informs the patrons that,’Charlie’s good tonight ain’t he!’. Well yes Mick he certainly was and then some.

Charlie Watts has been the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for half a century and more providing calm craft in the midst of all the hoopla and madness.

While he has surely seen about everything a man can see he has remained steadfastly and stoically himself.

A wry, unimpressable observer who loves to listen to his beloved jazz and play the drums with the scratchy rhythm and blues band who somewhat to his amazement transformed themselves into the greatest rock and roll band the planet has ever produced.

Charlie’s role in the band is crucial to the DNA of the band’s unique sound.

Keith is released to sway and swagger to his heart’s content because Charlie is always there behind him urging him on and on while being ready to catch him if like an over ambitious trapeze flyer it looks like he might fall.

Whatever else has changed that partnership has endured and thrived through the years ensuring the distinctive leery vitality of the band remains in rude good health

One of the many glories of the Stones is the majestic way in which they build and hold tension in their rockers – say Tumbling Dice or Brown Sugar.

You’ll notice how groups covering the Stones almost always rush and ruin the songs because they can’t match the rhythmic control marshalled by Charlie.

While he is the engineer driving the awesome power of the Stones streamliner in full flight he is also the brakeman making sure they make it round the sharp turns safely and arrive on time at their destination.

The listening audience are taken up, held and thrilled as the band, anchored by Charlie, progress through their set taking care to pace themselves – allowing ballad breaks before the celebrated avalanche ending sends everybody home exhausted and elated.

Charlie Watts is the zen master of rock drumming.

His inherent restraint, informed by the jazz heritage he so treasures, allows him to play what needs to be played and nothing more.

He is at the service of the music, the sound and the dynamic shape of the individual song. No band has been better served by its drummer than the Rolling Stones.

So, as the Rolling Stones embark on one more last hurrah Charlie will endure the travelling, the media and the endless waiting for the wonderful pleasures of those few hours on stage when he can just play the music along with his faithful companions of so many years.

Charlie was fabulous in the 1960s, fantastic in the 1970s,  fervour filled in the 1980s and 1990s and  unflashily fluent in the new milenium.

Things will be no different in 2019.

So, if you’re in the audience make sure that you really put your hands together for the drummer!

Ian Dury & The Blockheads : Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3)

For most of last week as I took my early morning walk up the Ridge Top I all but vanished into an all encompassing Fog.

Confident in the way I have trod so often and leaning on my staff I pressed on.

I love the wreathing silence of the Fog and the air’s damp embrace.

High above the hidden sun would surely appear and the Fog would withdraw as silently as it advanced.

Descending, I met one of the local Farmers who said as he looked askance at the Fog and me – ‘Reasons to be Cheerful – Eh?’.

He was not a little taken aback when instead of responding with a pat motto I launched into the opening of Ian Dury’s late 70s leery litany of Reasons to be Cheerful;

‘Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly, Good Golly Miss Molly and boats!’

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‘Working folly is right enough, right enough! says he.

From the early, early mornin’ to the early, early night says I.

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And, as I bad him farewell I vanished back into the Fog my voice ebbing away singing:

‘Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet, Jump back in the alley and nanny goats!’

Let’s cede to Ian Dury now in his persona of part pirate king, part fairground carney, part ‘ain’t he awful’ top of the bill music hall maestro and all around diamond geezer leading his magnificent troupe of musicians The Blockheads in a proper celebration of the oh so many reasons to be Cheerful.

One, Two, Three ….

 

OY, OY ! OY, OY!

Ian Dury truly was a diamond geezer.

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Diamond like in the brilliance of his mind and talent as a lyricist and performer but also diamond like in the hardness of his resolve and the sharpness with which he could slice apart the ego of anyone foolish enough to imagine they could out banter him.

He could, according to his mood and alcohol intake, be the most brilliant raconteur and most charming man you could ever hope to meet or a manipulative demon searching out weaknesses with laser like focus.

Surviving Polio from childhood and the mental, emotional and physical savagery of subsequent boarding school left an enduring mark on his soul.

He was saved through his innate toughness, his intelligence and sharp wit.

Exposure to the discipline of a Painter’s necessary painstaking observation at Art School and the riotous anarchy of 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll informed an aesthetic credo which also took in the craftsmanship of Cole Porter, the rumbustious energy of Charles Mingus, the end of the pier vulgarity of Max Miller and the surreal style of Max Wall.

All carried off with a uniquely English ribald humour and brio.

The songs were the product of rich talent and the long labours of a true craftsman always searching for the exact word, the proper rhythm.

Some have said that, ‘Reasons ..’ is merely a shopping list song – well as Ian Dury observed, ‘You try writing one then!’.

Cole Porter wrote one in, ‘You’re the Top’ and there’s no doubt in my mind that Ian Dury would fit right into that song’s list of exemplary excellence along with Napoleon Brandy, Mahatma Gandhi, the Mona Lisa and Mickey Mouse!

Of course his undoubted genius as a lyricist needed The Blockheads for the songs to take flight in the studio and on stage.

The most important figure here was Chaz Jankel whose melodic inventiveness and rhythmic assurance made for irresistible songs that permanently branded themselves into the imagination and heart of the listener.

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Norman Watt Roy, Charely Charles and Davey Payne had the magical ability to meld the sound of Memphis Soul, English Music Hall and Free Jazz into a seamless funky whole.

And, with Ian as the louche and lecherous ringmaster centre stage they were an enthralling  live band seemingly inexhaustibly inventive and endlessly committed to maintaining a groove that just wouldn’t quit.

One, Two, Three …

Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
Why don’t you get back into bed
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats
 
18-wheeler Scammels, Domenecker camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly, and porridge oats
 
A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome, we can spare it – yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 – no electric shocks
 
The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret – anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain’t spotty,
Sitting on the potty – curing smallpox
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Health service glasses
Gigolos and brasses
Round or skinny bottoms
 
Take your mum to Paris
Lighting up the chalice
Wee Willy Harris
Bantu Stephen Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo, Groucho, Chico
 
Cheddar cheese and pickle, the Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen, Dali, Dimitri and Pasquale
Balabalabala and Volare
Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
 
Saying okey-dokey, Sing Along With Smokey
Coming out of chokey
John Coltrane’s soprano, Adi Celentano
Bonar Colleano
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1 2 3
 
Yes yes
Dear dear
Perhaps next year
Or maybe even never
In which case
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
1:2,3
 
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be cheerful part 3
Reasons to be Cheerful – 1,2,3.

 

 

And, as a homage from me to Ian, here’s some further Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 4) :

Shredded Wheat and Did those feet …. Jimmy Greaves and Bicycle Thieves …

All of Buddy Holly – two cones and a Lolly ….

Red Socks and grandfather clocks … The Ragman’s Daughter and a pint of Porter ..

Sons and Lovers and a Four through the covers …

Beckett Sam and Blueberry Jam .. Ginger Rogers and the Brooklyn Dodgers ..

Dave Mackay and The Sheltering Sky .. Winterreise and a bottle of Tizer ..

A Citroen DS and The Orient Express .. Gerard Manley and Holloway Stanley ..

Ulysses S Grant and seeing things aslant … Redwing Boots and Pressure Drop Toots ..

Montgomery Clift and the Berlin Airlift … Martin and Vincent … Redgrave and Pinsent.

Reasons to be Cheerful.

Reasons to be Cheerful.

Notes :

I decided not to provide an annotated listeners guide here for Ian’s references and my own.  See what Mr Google tells you and you’ll learn a lot!

Happy Birthday Don Everly! Singing beyond Singing.

Note : This Post is best read in conjunction with the previously published,’Phil Everly Remembered’ from January 2017.

Don Everly was born on February 1st 1937

Don is the elder of the two brothers – almost two years older than Phil.

When they started out on the radio singing before they went to elementary school they were billed as, ‘LIttle Donnie and Baby Boy Phil’.

Don had the deeper baritone tenor voice.

Phil had a pure strong tenor and generally harmonised one third above Don.

Together, singing in harmony for decades, they achieved an ambrosial sound that has never been matched in popular music.

When they started to record it was Don who played the punchy rhythm guitar licks that signalled that though deeply grounded in Country Music these young men were true Rock ‘n’ Rollers who had been listening to the thunderous groove of Bo Diddley.

That influence is unmistakeable from the intro to their breakthrough single ‘Bye, Bye Love’.

As no lesser an authority than Keith Richard put it :

’Don’s acoustic guitar, that rhythm guitar, was rocking man! I guess that rubbed off on me’.

Here’s Don and Phil at their epic, ‘Reunion Concert’ from 1983 showing that they had lost none of their instrumental and vocal potency.

Sadness never sweeter.

Bye, bye Love.

Bye, bye, Happiness

Hello Loneliness.

I think I’m gonna Cry.

Bye, bye Love.

It was generally Don who sang the solo parts in Everly Brothers songs.

There was a quality in his voice, a seeming deep acquaintance with the heartaches that assail us all, that never fails to move me deeply.

And, when he and Phil found a song like, ‘All I Have To Is Dream’ they graduated from being upcoming hit makers into an immortal presence in millions of hearts.

Gee whiz. Gee whiz.

Dream, dream, dream.

In 1960 Don wrote, ‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)’ allowing The Everly’s to demonstrate their unparalleled control of the slow harmony ballad.

Teddy Thompson (Richard & Linda’s son) said that he had spent thirty years seat hing for singers as good as The Everly Brothers before realising that it was an impossible pursuit.

Who could argue with the truth of that verdict?

Inevitably, two brothers who have been singing together since early childhood will have fallings out and Tne Everlys, deeply contrasting personalities, certainly did.

Working apart tney both made fine records.

I’ve chosen to showcase here a sublime duet recording of a Louvin Brothers song Don cut with Emmylou Harris.

I remember the first time I heard this thinking – Emmylou is a magnificent singer and a great harmoniser but Don Everly, Don Everly! has clearly been blessed with a gift that is  very rare indeed.

A gift that he shared in such generous measure with all of us.

Happy Birthday Don.

Thanks for all the songs and all the singing.

I’ll conclude with an Everly Brothers performance of, ‘Kentucky’.

This is singing that goes beyond singing.

Singing that is the heart in pilgrimage and the soul in paraphrase.

The dearest land outside of Heaven.

Heaven.