Monday, February 23, 2015

LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

...with 2 piano-smashing Music Players!

Little Richard, by Tim O'Brien

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music each week.

History Checklist

Today, the sanctified Little Richard, the full-throttle throat of Rock!
Hear 2 massive music players, one of Richard and one of all his disciples from the 1950s to today!

Music Player quick-links:
Little Richard
Little Richard's disciples: 1950s-2010s

Part 1: Rip it Up!

Buddy Holly and Little Richard

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"and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America's naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio"

-Allen Ginsberg, HOWL (1956)

All of his life one exultant declaration.

Born bonepoor Georgia, starved skinny and 'little', wanting bigger. A Deacon father -alias bootlegger -also nightclub owner. One leg shorter but always two steps ahead of his surroundings. Running with the girls and mischief and make-up, shunned by men and beaten and scorned.

Deep soul forged in smolder, singed but singing, a blues heart a gospel throat. Like a minister you must love administer, sort out the sinister, writhe out pain adorn all in light. Hear inner word, give outer voice.

Calling up the crowds via alto saxophone transmission brawk squawk bleat squee, upjump crowds, fervor nerves, pound floorboards, sweat fire, amass joy.

Opening for Sister Rosetta Tharpe at fourteen 1947 gospel chorus boy, swaying secular with swingjive tours, drag king in vaudeville and circus. Show biz early '50s, pancaked and floodlit, pizazz pulpit, the volt dynamo.

Absorbing boogie piano from Esquerita 1951, burning through record labels and blues tours and mentors. In punk spirit bands together The Upsetters blazing rhythm rock 1953.

Specialty Records 1955, New Orleans club improv "Tutti Frutti", too profane! sanitize the insane but revolution remains, a wax attack in guerilla grooves, flaming young hearts all around the world. Standing at or on piano, footloose and finally free stomping keys kicking out all divisions, integrating dancing ears hearts souls in tune A WOP BOP A LOO BOP A LOP BAM BOOM!

Little Richard and The Upsetters

He wrought in Rock the androgyny the wild the theatrical the cinematic the uninhibited the omnisexual. The go-getter the upsetter the upender the offender the end of pretenders the blender. Bane to klan and The Man and the ban and the banal, bane to the youth and the uncouth and tall-taling upscaling of the truth.

Feral firebrand become consumptive fireball "Good Golly, Miss Molly/ You sure like to ball!" coming apart in a carnality carnivale. Best-dressed on the excess express deranged duressed unrest need blest. 18 hits three years on a ripping tear unabashed, a canon fired from circus cannons, a fastblast era moving too fast to control all a blearing smear a coming crash.

He saw the fireball in the sky above (1957 Sputnick), he saw the ministry as a grounding. Felt he'd lost God for gold, threw away his rings and his royalties in sacral loyalty, the man who fell to earth to reach out to heaven.

All of his life one exultant declaration.

Part 2: All Around The World! The Disciples of Little Richard

Little Richard meets The Beatles, Hamburg, 1962

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All songs in order from the 1950s to today.

"It was if, in a single instant, the world changed from monochrome to Technicolor."

-Keith Richards, on hearing "Tutti Frutti"

And the Rock faithful heard the word horde and saw the floodlights.

Little Richard, the bedrock of their bedlam, canon of their carols, artisan of their attitude, the verve of their voice.

Ray Charles and Little Richard seduced gospel stars to secular soul like Sam Cooke, the Womacks, Johnny Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Al Green (and like him they swayed back and forth).

He is the jump and grit of James Brown and Otis Redding. His shattering shout is the voice of Garage Rock and Punk and Metal.

His early '60s second coming galvanized The Beatles in Hamburg (who befriended his organist, Billy Preston). The Rolling Stones were his amen chorus opening for him in '63. Jimi Hendrix was his harpist in '64 ("I Don't Know What You Got"). His songs were the psalms of the British Invasion.

Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix

As Rock went roots and rough in the late '60s, his third coming graced the festival circuit with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, a revival that will summon Glam and Pub Rock and Punk and Psychobilly.

His paint-peeling howl possesses Etta James, James Brown, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Otis Redding, The Sonics, Wilson Pickett, Jim Morrison, The Outcast (Japan), Creedence Clearwater Revival, MC5, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, Motorhead, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, Barrence Whitfield, The Lime Spiders, Tom Waits, The A-Bones, Guitar Wolf, and Alexis Saski.

His world ministry amens in Los Teen Tops' "La Plaga" and Los Gibson Boys' "Lucila" (Mexico) and The Black Dynamites' "Send Me Some Lovin'" (Netherlands) and Masaaki Hirao's "Lucille" (Japan) and Moustique's "Good Golly, Miss Molly" (France) and Adriano Celentano's performance of "Ready Teddy" in Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA (1960).

David Bowie; Freddy Mercury; Boy George

His pagentry, Pancake 31, and punch is the creator of Glam Rock and New Romantic, his theatre a launching stage for Bowie and Freddie and Suzi and Siouxsie and Lou and Jayne.

His erotic ambiguity and androgyne edge sired Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Boy George, Prince, Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae.

Little Richard; Grace Jones; Prince; Janelle Monae

His "Ooh! My Soul" begat Ritchie Havens' "Ooh! My Head" which begat Led Zeppelin's "Boogie With Stu". His spin on "Keep A-Knockin'" begat Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" and the intro drums of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll". His canon begat Deep Purple's "Speed King".

His spirit catalyzed The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There", "I'm Down", and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window"; and CCR's "Travelin' Band"; and The Rolling Stone's "Rip This Joint"; and Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"; and Bob Seger's anthem "Old Time Rock and Roll". Listen anew.

His "The Rill Thing" begat the drum samples on 60 hiphop songs alone.

His fourth comeback after a bestselling bio in the '80s led him to new music, talk shows, and Fishbone and Living Colour.

His "Tutti Frutti" was voted #1 in Mojo's "The Top 100 Records That Changed The World".

Yes, verily, to all and whom,


The Minister of Rock'n'Roll

© Tym Stevens
(except Ginsberg's "Howl")

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

-BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

-BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street

Monday, February 16, 2015

BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

...with 2 whopping Music Players!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music each week.

History Checklist

Today, the brainstormin' Buddy Holly, man of vision!
Hear 2 massive music players, one of Buddy and one of all his disciples from the 1950's to today!

Music Player quick-links:
Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly's disciples: 1950s-2010s

Part 1: Rave On

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The everyman who changed everything.

Elvis was the sexy crooner, Little Richard the fierce belter, Chuck Berry the guitar god. But Buddy Holly was the crowd itself, crashing the stage. Lanky, button-down, and big spex, the antidote to matinee idols and avatar to mere mortals.

Buddy was the triumph of normal life breaking through the spectacle, a clarifying moment and palette cleanser desperately and repeatedly needed in all culture.

His appearance and chords and band seemed the essence of simple. But Buddy was complex, fluid, and on fire. In a greasefire 18-month span, he redefined Rock and opened all the doors that the rest would get to explore.

The Crickets: Buddy Holly (lg), Joe B. Mauldin (b), Jerry Allison (d), Niki Sullivan (rg), 1957.

Refine, redefine.

Buddy wrote his own songs while others still interpreted. Buddy stripped out the horns and piano, creating the lead/rhythm/bass/drums template for Rock bands. He double-tracked his voice, brought in orchestral strings, and produced sessions. He popularized the Fender Stratocaster. His chords and changes became more tricky and mercurial.

Buddy Holly and The Crickets toured with an all-black revue and won over the Apollo Theatre. He married a Puerto Rican woman, brought Tejano influence in with "Heartbeat" [followed by Freddy Fender covering "Esa Sera El Dia (That'll Be The Day)"], and supported label mates like Carolyn Hester and Sherry Davis. He planned to make an album with his idols Ray Charles and Mahalia Jackson.

He signed on two labels simultaneously, as himself and the band, to outwit industry thievery. (Cue Parliament-Funkadelic, and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.) He moved toward owning his own publishing and label. (Cue The Buzzcocks and indie rock.) And he was first to be out and proud about needing glasses. (Cue geek chic.)

Ed Sullivan and Buddy Holly, 1957

And, most sadly, he was the first major rocker to die, and to be exploited by the record industry (stripmined and over-overdubbed).

But the loss of Buddy Holly isn't really "the day the music died". Buddy's acts and wax opened up the future for singer/songwriters, quartet combos, studio wizards, Strato-blasters, indie upstarts, and geek empowerment for decades to come.

Buddy Holly was honest passion, and he gave us a love that will not fade away.

Part 2: Not Fade Away: The Disciples of Buddy Holly

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All songs in order from the 1950s to today.

Buddy Holly discovered Waylon Jennings and opened the door for more Texas rockers like ZZ Top, Joe Ely, the Vaughan brothers, and Mars Volta. He may have done as much to popularize the Bo Diddley beat as even Bo Diddley!

The Crickets' 45rpm; The Bobby Fuller Four; The Clash; Dead Kennedys

The punk standard "I Fought The Law" exists because of him. Sonny Curtis, a rotating member of The Crickets, was a crack songwriter; when the band continued after Buddy's death, they recorded Curtis' "I Fought The Law" in Buddy's style in 1960. (Curtis also wrote "Walk Right Back", "More Than I Can Say", and the Mary Tyler Moore theme, "Love Is All Around".) The song hit huge when covered by Buddy acolytes The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965, becoming a Garage standard. In the late '70s, The Clash and Dead Kennedys turned it into a punk broadside for the ages.

Buddy toured Australia and the United Kingdom. His sound and fashion had seismic influence on the youth who became the coming British Invasion; The Beatles, The Hollies, The Searchers, Gerry and The Pacemakers. The Rolling Stones first broke big covering "Not Fade Away". Sonic sorcerer Joe Meek evidenced his obsession with Buddy Holly in his productions, such as Mike Berry and The Outlaws' "Tribute To Buddy Holly".

Hank Marvin with The Shadows; Paul McCartney and John Lennon; Peter and Gordon; The Zombies

The Beatles connection is especially acute; their name, working-class approachability, originals like "I'll Be On My Way" and their cover of "Words Of Love", using the studio as an instrument, and going orchestral. McCartney even owns Buddy's song publishing.

Buddy's death inspired clear tributes but also some more abstract. Don McLean's allegorical opus "American Pie" (1971) mythologizes the first era of Rock from Presley through Altamont, opining that the plane crash of Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper was "the day the music died", when the music lost its innocence and perhaps its way.

Don McLean; Gary Busy in 'The Buddy Holly Story'; the 'Buddy' musical; the Buddy Holly USA stamp (1993)

Interest in Buddy skyrocketed after the release of the film THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY (1978), and again with the first 'jukebox musical' "Buddy" (1989), still touring worldwide.

Buddy also renovated Rock vocals. Elvis had turned hiccups into a swagger, a ricochet of verbiage and reverb. Between Rockabilly and Doo Wop, the era was already elastic in elocution. But Buddy seemed to further deconstruct syllables into a melismatic morse code, a reconstruction by interpolation which chopped and distorted words into feels (e.g., "Peggy Sue").

This was paralleled in period rockers like Bettie McQuade's "Tongue Tied" and Kathy Zee's "Buzzin". It is also prescient of radical vocalists to come like Yoko Ono, Damo Suzuki, Annette Peacock, and Diamanda Galas who turned tonsils into tonescapes.

Besides his pop canniness and normal=rebel style, Buddy's livewire yelp was conducted by New Wave singers with angular affected vocals like Devo, The Cars, The B-52's, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich, Talking Heads, XTC, Elvis Costello (Presley's name in Buddy Holly's body!), and Missing Persons. What they did doesn't sound like him, but how they did it does.

Devo; David Byrne of Talking Heads; XTC; Elvis Costello

Buddy ironically inverted spectacle by wearing spectacles. Glasses meant normal, smart, contrary, honest. They were the opposite of theatre (until someone postures those traits which returns it to theatre). Buddy the everyman gave the many anypersons the repeal to keep it real. His sartorial throughline links from John Lennon roundrims, to the Talking Heads' "average" aesthetic, to Geek Chic, to Nerdcore.

1) Freddie and The Dreamers; David Ruffin; Chad and Jeremy; Isaac Hayes
2) Elton John; Curtis Mayfield; Cheap Trick; Linton Kwesi Johnson
3) Donnie Iris; Marshall Crenshaw; RUN-DMC; Morrissey
4) Bjork; Jarvis Cocker; JD Sampson; Asa

Stay true to yourself, follow your vision. Any person can change anything.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

-BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

-LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street

Monday, February 9, 2015

BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

...with 2 gigantic Music Players!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music each week.

History Checklist

Today, the romp-bompin' Bo Diddley, the baron of the beat!
Hear 2 massive music players, one of Bo and one of all his disciples from the 1950's to today!

Music Player quick-links:
Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley's disciples: 1950s-2010s

Part 1: The Rhythm King of Rock'n'Roll

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It's that rhythm.

It had been around before in variations. "Shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits." His band says it came from a song called "The Hambone" (based on a rhythm and dance descended from the Juba dance of Haiti). Bo Diddley says it actually came out of his love of the insistent cadence of Country & Western star Gene Autry's "I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle" (1942). Anything comes from anywhere, it's all in how you use it.

Chess Records in 1955 Chicago was the home of the electric blues gods; Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, their writer and bassist Willie Dixon, harpist Little Walter. Mature men from hard lives in the sharecropper South. When that gave out they migrated among millions to the Rust Belt states around the Great Lakes for factory jobs and record deals. Muddy's was the first all-electric Blues band, plugging Rock'n'Roll in in 1948. Wolf was the leer of the forbidden, crackling through the night airwaves. With the edgy John Lee Hooker, they stoked the souls of rambunctious young listeners, squirming to bust out.

You can hear it on those first singles by the new upstarts at Chess; when Chuck Berry and Bo crashed the party, it was like someone had flung writhing livewires onto the dance floor crowd. There is a jolting rush and breakneck intensity to those songs that had never been there before. Suddenly the Blues seemed plodding by comparison. It is alive, rude, both mean and joyful. So fast and so fuzzed out it made everything else trip over itself tepidly. What the hell was this? That hard stomping snarl of "Maybelline", that thundrous gallop and phasing tremolo of "Bo Diddley".

BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. Dag!

Little Walter, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry (1986)

Bo's sound was the past and the future. The crossroads.

It was tribal drumming under an eerie richochet of distorted guitar. In your midnight bedroom, preening your ear covertly to the alien voices sparking out of the radio static, it transported you to some beyonder badlands where mad hooves cascaded like hailstones. BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. Above this thunderground shimmered an aurora of electronic reverb. Through this nether void Bo would ride hard on sheer pride. He was ego ("I walked 47 miles of barbed wire/ Wear a cobra snake for a necktie"), identity ("I'm a man/ I spell M-A-N"), insane ("You shoulda heard just what I seen"), and hilarious ("I came into this world playing a gold guitar!").

Surging sidesaddle was maraca man Jerome Green, comedic foil and timekeeper. And whiplashing with him lick for lick was Peggy "Little Bo" Jones, her guitar striding beside on "Roadrunner", "Pills", and "Hush Your Mouth". After her came Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford to kick more ruckus. And Bo, a cracked inventer and inverter of sound with his square-box guitar he cobbled from stray junk. These incomparable compadres carried him through more classics than you can shake a drumstick at.

L: Peggy "Lady Bo" Jones;
R: Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford

To reiterate, the M-A-N was adult enough to respect the women. Female guitarists of the era often got spotlight specifically as the singing front, but weren't routine band members. While Bo Diddley could have hogged the light, he instead had a woman in his band as his equal sparring partner, not once but twice. Bo knew that well-rounded inclusion was the right way to go.

That persona. That rhythm. That attack. That fusion of the earthy and the eerie. That booming voice on "I Can Tell", that delirious giggle on "The Story of Bo Diddley", that gutteral sneer on "Oh Yea", those mournful highs on "Mona". What kid wouldn't fall in love with that? And around the world many did and would for years and years. The story of Bo Diddley would amplify every time a new movement plugged in a guitar.

When someone recently mentioned him in relation to the Blues, Bo calmly but clearly set them straight. "I'm not a blues artist. I'm a rock'n'roller."

You're the Man. M-A-N.

Part 2: Diddley Daddy:
The Disiples of Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley and The Clash

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The riff that will not fade away.

Bo's 1950s friends were the first to jibe handily with the hand jive. Buddy Holly, like Bo from South America ("south Texas"), was among the first to give Bo the thumbs up weaving his rhythm into "Not Fade Away". Johnny Otis, famed Jump Jive bandleader, bumps it lively with his "Willie & the Hand Jive", Elvis Presley with "His Latest Flame", and Mac Rebbenack (a.k.a., Dr. John) with "Storm Warning".

Gene Autry, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters, Etta James

Bo had transmuted Gene Autry and now others were transfiguring him. This is that fluid moment in creativity when a unique riff or beat transcends to a consensual pattern -like the shuffle, the rhumba, the bossa nova, and the waltz- which pollinates laterally. Lawyers, accountants, and separatists aside, this is inevitable and natural. A creator does deserve credit for their efforts or innovations. But then every good idea takes on new lives in the responses of others.

Creativity is intrinsically cyclical and progressive, a crossroads relay of past and future. Muddy Waters's "Hoochie Coochie Man" (1954) had inspired Bo's "I'm A Man". Muddy then answered Bo's song with his "Mannish Boy" (1955), and later they did "I'm A Man" together with Little Walter (1967). And Etta James set them all straight with "W-O-M-A-N".

As the original big bang of rock surged into early 60's Surf, Bo's sense of rhythmic propulsion undergirded the rumbling attack of Surf and Hot Rod instrumentals. Dick Dale's "Surfin' Drums", The Imps "That'll Get It", and Lonnie Mack's "Memphis". Our man even did a 1963 album responding back called "Surfin' With Bo Diddley". (Ax murderer Link Wray foreshadowed Punk in 1962, churning through a hyperspeed "Bo Diddley" like his sleeves were burning.) In covers, homages, or in sonic spirit, Bo's influence was now encoded in Pop's DNA.

Lonnie Mack, Marvin Gaye, Olivia Molina, The Pretty Things

It hipshakes through Soul in hits like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' "Mickey's Monkey", Marvin Gaye's "Baby, Don't You Do It", The Shangri-La's' "Simon Speaks", and Shirley Ellis' "The Clapping Song" (and Olivia Molina's cover "Juego De Palabras"). BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp...

England always values our culture better than we do. From their perspective the Blues masters and the rocker rogues were gods raining from Olympus in sheaths of steam. The resultant mid-'60s British Invasion was the second ring of the big bang, and Bo's beats pulsared through it as much as Chuck's comet flares. The Liverbirds' sent a father's day card covering "Diddley Daddy". The Pretty Things, tougher older brothers of The Rolling Stones, took their name from Bo's song and his rhythm for their classic "Rosalyn". (Then later, Bowie borrowed their name for three songs and covered "Rosalyn"!) The Animals made up a fake tale of meeting him in their "The Story of Bo Diddley" in homage to his mythos. The Stones made their big breakthrough covering "Not Fade Away" with extra emphasis on Bo's beat.

As the bluesy vamps of The Stones, Yardbirds, Animals, Kinks, and Pretties snarled their way into the emerging Garage Rock, Bo's legacy blew cheap speakers in rehearsals worldwide. English bands like Stovepipe No. 4 ("Pretty Thing"), Rey Anton & the Peppermint Men ("You Can't Judge a Book"), and The Who (Jerome's maracas live in their "Magic Bus"). Bo's strut further disordered borders with artists like Jacques Dutronic (France), Els Xocs (Spain), Dawn Penn (Jamaica), and Jeannie C. Riley (Texas).

American bastards like The Juveniles ("Bo Diddley"), the garage gods The Sonics ("Diddy Wah Diddy"), and The Preachers (who throw some immortal 'twist-and-shreik!' into their "Who Do You Love" cover) all bomped the bomp. Most famously/infamously, The Strangeloves stomped the streets with their beat repeat "I Want Candy". Besides covers and clones, the beat was now splicing into interpolated cousins. The Byrds married The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" to Bo's beat with their "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe". Bob Dylan brought it all back home to Jerome with "Maggie's Farm".

Bob Dylan, The Strangeloves, The Who, The Stooges

As the music got rougher in the ascending '60s, in came Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band screaming Howlin' Wolf in Bo's clothing with their corrosive "Who Do You Love". Soon enough The Doors expanded that song into a panting rant in panavision. Hard on their heels were the bristling Stooges with their homages "Little Doll" and "1969", stripping the excesses of psychedelia down to a primal, throbbing buzz that would invent Punk. (Recently Iggy wrote a loving essay about Bo for Rolling Stone: "Bo's hands are about a foot long from the wrist to the tip of the finger. He really controls his guitar." It's all about concentrated chaos.)

As early 70's Glam vamped on '50s Rock, David Bowie expressed that pulse as "Panic In Detroit", The New York Dolls spilled their ills with his "Pills" in 1973, and Bo footed the platform for songs by Fancy, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and The Sweet. His pattern also pulsed unexpected parts like Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and Jethro Tull's "Aqualung".

David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Slits, Bow Wow Wow

When late '70s Punk brought it all back to basics, they were aflame with the direct fury of '50s rock. Chuck and Bo's riffs ricocheted through reverb in squalid alkie-holes planetwide all over again. On The Clash's first tour of America, they insisted that Bo Diddley be their opening act. "Every time I look at him, my jaw just drops," said Joe Strummer. It was a middle-finger salute to their coked-and-clueless record label and a laurel leaf to their Dionysus. Their songs "Hateful" and "Rudie Can't Fail" pound with the maestro's pulse. The impulse of PostPunk bands to marry primal polyrhythms with sharp abrasive textures, such as The Slits, Talking Heads, Pulsallama, Bush Tetras,and LiliPUT, is Bo's crossroads recrossed again.

Bow Wow Wow made it big on a cover version of a swipe, with "I Want Candy". '80s kids didn't know to judge a beat by its cover because it was too busy moving their backsides. And did so again with George Michael's "Faith". It strobes through Lyndsey Buckingham's swirling "Loving Cup" and The Smiths' amazing "How Soon Is Now". That ferocious edge cycles again in Minutemen's "Case Closed", Husker Du's "Hare Krsna", and songs by X, The Milkshakes, Throwing Muses, and Jane's Addiction. In 1987 the Jesus & Mary Chain declared in wax that "Bo Diddley Is Jesus".

Public Enemy's radical cocktail of hardbumping rhythms with sheets of flanging noise is the very spirit of Bo. (Chuck D is a deep fan of the pychedelic Chess albums of Wolf and Waters, and Bo in his SM fetish belts on 1970s "Black Gladiator" cover freaked him out). Deconstructing the past reconstructs the future. U2's heart bumpathumped with "Desire". Chris Isaak may have been Elvis Orbison, but he still brought it to Jerome with his take on "Diddley Daddy" in '89. Guns'n'Roses free-bass'ed it as "Mr. Brownstone".

Public Enemy, The White Stripes, Janelle Monae, The Love Me Nots

As a pattern beat or polyrhythmic approach, Bo's hooves steadily galloped through the '90s and '00s. The beat was a pathway, of knowing where you came from to know where to go next. And to spite any currently popular trails you didn't want to go near. Whether Dick Dale, The Gories, Shonen Knife, The White Stripes, Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim, tUnE-yArDs, Ty Segall, Janelle Monae, Bleached, or The Love Me Nots, the original primal beat of Rock'n'Roll strode on and on...

It's that rhythm. The riff that will not fade away. BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. This is the continuing story of Bo Diddley...

"Bo Diddley", by Peter Blake (1963)

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

-BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

-LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street

Monday, February 2, 2015

CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

...with 2 roaring Music Players!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music each week.

History Checklist

Today, the road-rippin' Chuck Berry, emperor of electric guitar!
Hear 2 massive music players, one of Chuck and one of all his disciples from the 1950's to today!

Music Player quick-links:
Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry's disciples: 1950s-2010s

Part 1: LET IT ROCK:
The Music of Chuck Berry

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It was all new.

Sleek aerodynamic autos clacking down all that fresh freeway tarmac, silver bullets soaring you from city to city, idyllic neighborhoods where families could breathe in space and television, and the mystery world of airwaves whispering melodies in the night. The Depression was a sepia memory, the War a receding ache.

Everything was wide open in 1955.

Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, circa 1970

Bo Diddley was the beat, but Chuck Berry was the rest.

He was the rhythm and the roll, the voice, the theater, the instrument, the speed. "If you're going to give Rock'n'Roll another name," John Lennon opined, "you might try Chuck Berry." The hard-charging riff into a stomping 4/4 beat, that comes from this man. The terse clang of a guitar (rock) with the rollicking laughter of piano (roll), that's Chuck.

The attitude, whether flush with adrenalin, joyful in youth, scornful of entanglement, celebratory of lust, outrunning the Man, or spinning cinematic fantasies, that's our hero. Though older, Chuck was careful to articulate the triumphs and tensions of the new post-War youth. Better yet, his rapier wordplay staccato-ing at a breakneck tear was rich, vibrant, eagle-eyed, and silver-tongued. He was haughty, hilarious, and horny. He was the brown-eyed handsome man and he was perfect.

His show and persona were absolute style: sharp suits, hair to die for, duck walks, wild kicks, and cocky ease. No rocker would exist without his granduer and theater. And the guitar, well, come on: the Riff, the rhythmic hum, the bristling leads, the fretboard as an arm a lover a battering ram a communal tuning fork a divining rod of the soul. And that clackclackclack roar straining the speedometer. Every king and queen in the 50's rock pantheon gave us great gifts, but Chuck had it all in one gleaming caddy.

Jerry Lee Lewis; Little Richard; James Brown

He wanted it fast and free.

From a large St. Louis family, he dreamt big and wide. His early gigs fused bluesy boogie with hillbilly gallup and bluegrass flux. When he walked into Chess Studios with a homemade demo, his cover of Western Swing king Bob Will's "Ida Red" startled them. He retorqued it as "Maybelline" and hit the tar a star. Most bought a suit, car, and house. Chuck bought real estate and blueprinted a theme park. He opened a nightclub mixing the musics and the audience to the city's ire.

As his breakneck classics redefined Rock and empowered him, he was suddenly hit with a suspect charge that undid him; he'd once given a ride across state lines to a club greeter later busted for prostitution. That thin association was used to put him in prison for two years. Meanwhile Elvis was drafted by his neighbors, Buddy and Eddie died, Richard went God, and Jerry Lee redefined 'young love' badly. Rock'n'Roll got pulled over to the shoulder.

Chuck came back out in the early '60s embittered. But his influence was suddenly all around again in the British Invasion. He spun a new bluestreak that reflected the Beatles reflecting him. He rocked the hippies at the Fillmores, and rolled into the '70s on the '50s revival spurred by AMERICAN GRAFFITI and Glam and then Punk. He may never have matched that bracing blast-off, but migod what a fabulous ride he gave us!

The Disciples of Chuck Berry

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All songs in order from the 1950s to today.

Chuck Berry is the throughline of Rock'n'Roll.

The original power trio:
Ebby Hardy, Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson

Boogie was the secret spine of the Twentieth Century. It twined though Ragtime, Swing Jazz, Country Swing, acoustic and electric Blues, Honky Tonk and Hillbilly. It is the thread that sutured them all into Rock'n'Roll. That briskly walking bassline stairsteps through Bob Will's "Ida Red" until the guitar does that crucial lockstep kick that enflamed Chuck's heart. Then, the boogie woogie pound and ripple of his foil Johnny Johnson's piano routed his sound onto the road as they rode shotgun into the future.

Buddy Holly; Dick Dale; The Beatles; Bob Dylan

His '50s peers were immediately peeling rubber in pursuit. Buddy Holly is singing Chuck's praise as much as his song, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man". And Carl Perkins, Ernest Tubb, Margaret Lewis, and Los Teen Tops (Mexico) are churning asphalt into ash behind him.

Those are his treads blazing through the Beach Boys' and Dick Dale's early '60s surf whorls and drag strips. Surf and Hot Rod bands woodshopped their chops on Berry covers before cascading waves and scorching raceways. At this point the interaction becomes intwined; with "Surfin' U.S.A.", Brian Wilson brought a harmony dimension to Chuck's riffs that will ripple through the tides to come ("Back In the U.S.S.R.", "Ca Plane Pour Moi").

The Beatles and their British Invasion flank existed because of Chuck, and they test-drove dozens of his songs. The royalties and exposure even brought Chuck back into the race again. Chuck's blues-base was the starting gate for purist bluesers like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Pretty Things to expand the tracks. Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds paved his future path with his retread of "Guitar Boogie" as "Jeff's Boogie".

Dylan hotwired the cadence of "Too Much Monkey Business", which Chuck picked up from little girls skipping rope, to getaway from his folk box with the pumping "Subterranean Homesick Blues". This signature beat will ricochet through the future.

The combo of Berry fire, Beatles style, and Dylan snarl led to mid '60s Garage Rock, whose bands flushed the engines with fuzz. Blazing in late, the crazed and underrated Dean Carter kept '50s rock revved through his Garage stylings the entire 60's, such as covering "40 Days".

The Rolling Stones; The Yardbirds; Jimi Hendrix; MC5

Late '60s Psychedelia seemed like a different model, a plastic fantastic funnycar assembled by Coltrane and Kesey, but Chuck still fueled the silver machine. What was Jimi Hendrix but the cosmic jetcar sparked by Chuck's airmobile? Just buckle tight and soar with the roar of his live staple, "Johnny B. Goode".

In the hangover from Psyche, when the MC5 and The Stooges wanted a return to brute essence, it was Chuck who was the vehicle; the former's "Back In the USA" cover rolls like a stroll through better days. This blunt, stripped-down approach -along with tours of the counterculture ballrooms and festivals by 50's Rock mentors like Berry, Diddley, and Thornton- led from nostalgia to a spin-around renaissance.

T.Rex; Led Zeppelin; New York Dolls; The Runaways

Psychedelia was a hydra, with rough corrosive rock as one head and expansive dynamics as another.

In the early '70s these heads morphed into Glam and Progressive Rock: Prog was all spectacle, sonic wizardry, ambition, a showboat; but Glam was an ironic glitz, tighter, all three-minute pop in a boogie chassy. Both are trails forged in Rock by Chuck.

T-Rex put a Glam kit on his "Little Queenie" and even quote it at the end of their breakthrough "Bang a Gong (Get It On)". Suzi Quatro jacked a rhinestone chevy with "Glycerine Queen", playing chicken with Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me". (The Runaways and Joan Jett are the collision.) The New York Dolls, whose butch tranny take on Chuck had inspired Glam, rip it up in their dragster "Personality Crisis".

Led Zeppelin grounded themselves in the basics with "Communication Breakdown" and "Rock'n'Roll". Movies like AMERICAN GRAFITTI and THAT'LL BE THE DAY (with Ringo), TV shows like "Happy Days", Broadway shows like "Grease", and boogie bands and cover songs stoked the flames. The terse, raw, careening riffs were a revelation and a transport for new youth, speaking to their lives and fantasies in a direct way that didn't "sound just like a symphony" like Prog.

Drop the coin right into the slot!

Mick Jagger; John Lennon; Debbie Harry.

Soon a stripped-down mover called Pub Rock hit mid-'70s England, simply '50s Rock and R'n'B on new cylinders.

Eddie & the Hot Rods injected youth frustration into this mix with "Teenage Depression", and then Punk flooded it magnificently. In early rehearsals, Johnny plunged the Sex Pistols off a cliff trying to be good, in their wipeout of "Johnny B. Goode". It mutates into songs like "No Future", The Damned's "New Rose", and The Clash's "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.". Under its ragged veneer, Punk was high-octane Rock'n'Roll grinding the guardrails and shredding the shiny off.

That "Too Much Monkey Business" staccato rattles back in again in Ultravox's "Satday Night In the City", jumps in the new Elvis, Costello's, "Pump It Up", and scats through The Police's "It's Alright For You".

Those retro reprobates, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, hotwired Chuck's torch; in solo songs like "Crawling From the Wreckage" and "Maureen", and with their band Rockpile's "Oh What a Thrill". Meanwhile, back in the USA Bruce Springsteen prowled the byroads of the interior with "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)".

By the late '70s, the spectre of Johnny B. Goode flies full-bore past the flagman in Punk, stadium rock, Power Pop, and New Wave; Cheap Trick cruising the night when the "Clock Strikes Ten", Ohio expatriate Chrissie Hynde chauffeuring the coupe to England with The Pretenders' "Watching the Clothes", Nikki and The Corvettes clamping the clutch with the "Criminal Element".

Rhythm'n'Blues and Rock'n'Roll have always been the same music, but given different names specifically to separate people. By 1980, FM radio had programmed this segregation into mass minds simply by formatting: you could be played on Rock stations for sounding like Chuck Berry, but not for looking like him, and R'n'B stations played neither. It takes two dummies to complete a shared delusion. The BusBoys parodied this blinkered idiocy of dividing music and humans by skin and sound barriers with the acerbic "Johnny Soul'd Out".

The Cramps; The BusBoys; The Stray Cats; Gary Clark, Jr.

The essence of "Johnny B. Goode" -furious riff, rapidfire rap, strutting singer, and guitar god- defined essential Rock'n'Roll for the ages. More so than any singer or song ever. Ever.

And on he careened, in every chunky riff, arrogant swagger, and rushing roar from Aerosmith to Guns'n'Roses, The Cramps to Demented Are Go, The BusBoys to The Bobbyteens, The Undertones to The Hives, George Jones to Heavy Trash, The Twangies (IndoRock) to Peter Tosh, Pussy Galore to The White Stripes, Joan Jett to The Kills, Robert Gordon to Guitar Wolf, Steve Miller to Gary Clark, Jr..

Flipping donuts brings you full circle.

Paul McCartney had convertabled "Back In the U.S.S.R." once, and told John to slow "Come Together" down so it wouldn't sound sooo much like Chuck (dig the "flattop grooving" lines copped from his "You Can't Catch Me"). In recent years he re-swung through the swamplands with the full-on Chuck amok of "Run Devil Run". And Swedish Nic Armstrong & the Thieves brought it all roundtrip with his cover of "I Want To Be Your Driver", a Beatles freak doing Chuck Berry doing The Beatles doing Chuck Berry!

Around and around, forever fast and free...

Johnny B. Goode

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

-BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

-LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street