Friday, June 27, 2008

Nelson at 90

It's Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday and I've been watching the concert in Hyde Park. The adulation that Mandela receives is almost sickening at times, but I have to say that he deserves all the praise that is heaped on him. He is certainly one of my heroes - along with Sam Cooke and Martin Luther King - and (unlike them) he has lived long enough to see his life's work come to fruition . A true living legend and an inspiration. I visited his prison cell on Robbin Island near Cape Town last year and it was a moving experience. And I will always remember seeing him at the Royal Albert Hall a few years ago, He was in a box with Prince Charles and got up and danced to the music with a natural rhythm. Charles had no option but to join him and looked stiff and uneasy. But at least he tried.
Like many others, my main interest in watching the concert was in seeing how Amy Winehouse looked and sounded. I was relieved that she looked well, and sounded good as well. The media is willing her to sink lower and lower and she doesn't seem able to help herself most of the time. But she is really is a fantastic talent and I hope she gets through her problems and proves herself a survivor. As for the other acts, they weren't bad, but the true star was undoubtedly the great man himself. Long live Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Snake

Another soul singer whose death I have failed to mention is Al Wilson, who died in April aged 68. Al, who came to fame via Johnny Rivers' Soul City label, is probably best known for Show and Tell. But I always liked the lyrics of The Snake, which was a minor UK hit in the mid 70s, several years after its original 1969 release.

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman saw a poor half frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
"Oh Well," she cried, "I'll take you in and I'll take care of you
"Take me in oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman, ssssighed the snake
She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk
And then laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taken in had been revived
Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman, sssssighed the snake
She clutched him to her bosom,
"You're so beautiful," she cried
But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight
But Instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite (Owww!)
Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman, sssssighed the snake
"I saved you," cried the womanAnd you've bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die
"Oh shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you brought me in
"Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in, tender woman, sssssighed the snake sssssighed the snake
Take me in, tender woman come on in you pretty snake.

A lesson for us all, I would suggest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barrance Whitfield at the Ponderosa Stomp

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ones that got away

After a gap of six months or so I've started advertising records on eBay again - mostly ones I already have, or which don't fit neatly into my collection. I've picked them up at boot sales for a pound or so and most of them have sold, although not for big prices. But I'm still kicking myself over the ones that got away: a bunch of ska singles that I somehow missed when I was looking through some records in a suitcase at a car boot a few weeks ago. The guy who bought them - only minutes later - quickly advertised them on eBay and they fetched some excellent prices. From Russia with Love by Roland Alphonso, on the Doctor Bird label, for example, sold for nearly £200. I'm gutted but I keep on hunting. Among the records I advertised were some Latin LPs by Celia Cruz (pictured) and a couple of less well known Brazilian artists. I thought they would be snapped up but I haven't had a sniff of interest.
I've been away in Quebec on business for a few days looking at aluminium smelters (exciting eh?) so haven't caught any gigs, although I'm seeing Solomon Burke at the Barbican in a couple of weeks, and there's Porretta two weeks later. Quebec was pretty and there was only one drawback - it was full of French Canadians. Not an immigrant in sight - not even an English speaking Canadian.
One recent death that I haven't mentioned (because I was in the US at the time) was that of Humphrey Lyttelton, who passed away aged 86. Humph's life is currently being celebrated on BBR Radio 4 with repeats of episodes of the classic I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, which he chaired for many years. A very funny show and a talented man. I'm no jazz fan, but I must admit I loved Humph's Bad Penny Blues from the late 50s.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddley dies

The great Bo Diddley has died aged 79. The sad news doesn't really come as a surprise as he suffered a stroke a year ago and hasn't performed in public since, apart from a brief song at the unveiling of a plaque in his home town of McComb, Mississippi. A true great of rock and roll, R and B and blues, Bo Diddley has influenced literally thousands of performers over the years.
My memories of Bo go back to the early sixties when he toured the UK with the Everly Brothers, supported by The Duchess and Jerome, and later with Chuck Berry. Since then I have seen him many times, in venues such as the Jazz Cafe, the Rhythmic and the House of Blues in New Orleans. Unlike some of his contemporaries he always gave 100 per cent, even when he moved rather unsuccessfully into the occasional rap number, as he did at the Jazz Cafe a while back.
From his earliest recordings in the early 1950s Bo always represented a harder, more dangerous form of rock and roll much closer to the blues than the other greats of the era. His infectious hambone beat was picked up by so many artists that he would have made a huge fortune if he had been able to trademark it. Sadly, though, he was ripped off by managers and booking agents and suffered the usual fate of black performers of not being paid the royalties he was due on his Chess record sales.
Through all of the sixties beat boom, when British bands fell over each other to cover Bo Diddley numbers, Bo survived, even surviving a misguided attempt to modernise his style. If ever a musical style didn't need updating it was Bo's, because it always sounded fresh, no matter what the tastes of the day. He continued to tour throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, never leaving his R and B roots behind. There's an excellent biography of Bo called Bo Diddley, Living Legend, by George R White which is well worth a read. Sadly he's not a living legend any more.
Now that Bo has followed James Brown into rock and roll heaven there are but four of the fifties greats left: Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino. Long may they survive. Farewell Bo Diddley - we will miss you.
The Times has published Bo's obituary online
And from the Indy
And The Guardian,,2283476,00.html
And the Daily Telegraph
This a great clip of Bo from 1966 with the Duchess and the Bo-Ettes