Wednesday, 18 June 2008


And people say ‘Andy, over some forty years of
gig-going, which is the greatest gig you’ve ever been to?’
And there’s a hell of a lot, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Flamin’ Groovies,
Ramones, Rolling Stones, Who, Cabaret Voltaire, Kinks, Prodigy…
but there’s one name I keep returning to – the amazing Bo Diddley.
So the best gig I’ve ever attended? - it was in the music lounge of a pub
in Leeds, which has now been closed down because of its drug notoriety. 
I wrote about it twice, for two different magazines,
under two different aliases. Both of them are here.
Bo Diddley died on Monday, June 2nd 2008.

at ‘Fforde Green’, Leeds

In 1963 he toured with the Rolling Stones. In 1979 he toured with Clash. Tonight he does a fifties rap back to when ‘some of you wasn’t even born – BUT YOU WAS BEIN’ DISCUSSED!’ An allusion of names he’s worked with on boards and plastic over a slow growling bass figure, ‘Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, the magnificent Elvis Presley’. He jive-wires the tremelo on his custom-made angular oblong Kinman, adds some Doo-wop vocal effects in the style of his antique “I’m Sorry”, then cranks up to ‘Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, the Rolling Stones – I’VE SEEN ‘EM ALL. I’ve been on stage with ‘em all!’ He’s indisputable proof of his macho bragging, but he ain’t no mere aspic-preserved artefact, no walking repository of Rock’s vintage violence. Some things get meaner as they get older, and the Diddler’s the 1950’s last delinquent, his Diddleybeat developed so heavy it needs an HGV license, and it’s all lit up by a big avuncular grin like a fluorescent Wurlitzer jukebox cram-full of hits. ‘The line I shoot / will never miss’, a gaudy earthy earthquake, a stumbling, lurching, shuddering, juddering, reverberating, beatific beat that crawls up inside your skull and plays your eyelids like drums. It’s a synthesis, a copulatory coupling of the hypnotically ponderous naïve with the cunning, shell-shocked complexity in all directions and dimensions simultaneously, like a rhythmic Jackson Pollock chromatic explosion. He might not have actually invented the riff that bears his name – some claim to detect its spoor all the way back to African drum-choir slave-chants, but its chrome’s not even tarnished, and it’s good for some considerable mileage yet. He runs through “Mona” (which the Stone’s mis-track list as “I Need You Baby” on their premier album), “Roadrunner” with its slide quivering in glissando glide-paths up and down the pleasure-centres of your spine, and “Hey, Bo Diddley” which extends its booming shuffling primeval rhythm for ever, and is never one microsecond too long. And that’s his survival strategy these twenty-eight years, and still fresh, each number (from the first chord instantly recognisable) is spun out over the low burn of the Diddley Daddies’ extemporising into such incessant compulsions that the actual token verse ploughed in there arbitrarily along its vapour trail is just punctuation, a reference point to orientate by. The rest is immediate, no fade-off, no drop-out, just famous axe in place, famous feathered bejewelled hat on head. “I’m A Man” becomes an entire theatre of effects and humour, musical talking guitar conversation with Stuff Smith (Fender Stratocaster), and ball-bouncing pitch and toss on the bass-strings with Brother Ron (Fender Jazz Bass). This is his regular American band, all blacks-&-reds with headset radio-mics, their sound moulded tight as traps forcing Big Bad Bo to new highs of lethal natural electricity. No pick-up musicians they, there’s Terri McDaniel sensuously programming a Rhodes Opus 3 Moog, and Bo’s other daughter – Tammi, deliciously flagellating the Pearl drum-kit while feeding in soulful vocals. As Offspring they are a first-division force in their own right as their warm-up set proves, a Funk mutation of eighties R&B, street-hard on “Not Alone” and “Hard Times”, outstanding with “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” making connections that by-pass the fey Diana Ross version and plugging directly into the socket of Frankie Lymon’s bratty original. And with the Daddy Diddley they’re more than just background ornamentation, but a superb foil to his ageless Diddleyitus, his key jungle-rhythms, his Chicago-blues based energy, raw and throbbing as an open wound. From the intro to the outro it’s peak experience with the ‘Fforde Green’ Music Lounge sweat-dripping crush-full, the epicentre of aural storm, the whole room megaton-trembling and shaking in seismic stun-waves from floor to ceiling with every tribal denomination in attendance, Skins, Punks, Teds, Hippies, Angels and Rockabilly Rebels – and all attentions fixed on the paunchy gunslinger. That’s exactly how it should be, and no-one can do it like Bo Diddley do it. Mr Diddley is 53 years old. His biggest British hit – “Pretty Thing”, reached no.34 on the chart in October 1963.

Published in:-
‘HOT PRESS Vol.6 No.12’ (Ireland – July 1982)

at ‘Fforde Green’, Leeds

Bo Diddley might have opened the door for Beatdom legions, but he was sho’ ‘nuff left holding the handle! In the 1940’s it was white Benny Goodman who was ‘King Of Swing’, not Duke Ellington or Count Basie. Just as Elvis Presley was ‘King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, not Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley. Just as the Rolling Stones became ‘Kings of R&B’ in the 1960’s, rather than Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed… or Bo Diddley. The process is identical. So now Mick Jagger sells out the Roundhay Park arena, while Bo Diddley crams out the Music Lounge of a downtown Leeds pub a little way down the road apiece. He ain’t ‘bout to complain, ‘I wanna thank you Ladies and Gennlemen’ he booms, ‘for my survival through the Rock ‘n’ Roll crisis’ – he might’ve been using that same line at least since 1971, but he sure as hell means it. ‘Indeed he-deed he-do.’ We’re talking Titans here, I’ve got to confess, from the first riffling shimmering chords of “Bo Diddley” all critical faculties get bludgeoned and we’re into a totally submissive situation, it’s like five-hundred bands I must have seen thus far into 1982, and this gig destroys them all effortlessly, obliterates ‘em with a grin, stomps ‘em into derisive mush. Bo’s the self-bragged ‘Original Originator’, the ‘Gunslinger’ with the .38 pistol on his hip and the rose on his chest, the Roadrunner, the Grand Diddley Daddy of ‘em all, the man who is five-hundred percent M-A-N! Flamboyant, unsubtle, a raucously dirty urban thunder that’s an undiluted amalgam of heavily accentuated backbeats so primitive, so instinctive, they’re practically antediluvian, in combination with a tremulous muzzy distorted sophistication and technical skill. A shaman rhythm pattern set to the pulse of his near-phonetic soubriquet. But setting stage we first got some ‘Chicken-Shack-Fleetwood-Mac-John-Mayall-Can’t-Fail’ Blues from Leeds five-piece One O’Clock Jump, a carefully observed blend of sweaty rhythm ‘n’ booze with all the right inputs. From Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry”, to “How Blue Can You Get?” stood out on Chris Davis’ honking sax, a band to see, but a taster this night. Ellas ‘Bo’ McDaniel’s prime-time Golden Decade stuff might’ve been cut at Chess (2120 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago) a quarter-century back, but there’s still sweet nuthin’ to touch it. After his autobiographical vinyl-debut – “Bo Diddley” from 1955, comes “Roadrunner” with resonating Exocet runs up and down the fret, a groove-talking jive-dancing golden crazy argot full of exuberant celebrations of his own self-mythology, the “I’m A Man” riff leading into a glorious ten-minute work-out of self-sabotaging humour, musical ingenuity, mock guitar conversations and sharp tricks. With all the natural pacing and energy theatrics that come with twenty-eight years of touring. A feast of incandescence channelled thru Turbo five-speed oblong guitar punched in over his paunch. His pink two-piece suit with glitter seams and deeper pink two-shade shirt with balloon sleeves rapidly getting sweat-stuck to his solid totem-like body. A guru of Rock ‘n’ Rhythm from feather-brimmed voodoo hat down to sensible black-tie shoes. ‘Are you serious – about Rock ‘n’ Roll?’ he demands of the audience, as his tight family band – the Offspring, quiz him back, ‘Are you serious – Bo?’ Daughters Terri (on keyboards, crescent tambourine, and bump ‘n’ grind Duchess dance) and Tammi (on drums and back-up vocals). ‘Brother’ Ron on bass and send-ups, and ‘Stuff’ Smith on second lead. A group fully-wired and miked-up, supporting, driving and revving Diddley in a way that, for e.g., Chuck Berry’s last-minute tour pick-up bands never can. They provoke comparisons with the vinyl originals - recorded with Jerome Green, Frank Kirkland, Billy Boy Arnold and half-sister the ‘Duchess’, and in every way such uneven parallels prove complimentary. This could be Bo’s best-ever live band, and his performance / rapport is inspired, fired on stoking internal combustion. Through “Hold On”, “Mona”, “Let Me See You Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Fifties Rap”, and “Hey, Bo Diddley” every one’s a stone killer, the seminal bantering riffs become long chugging launch pads to stratosphere-high R&B eternities. But the encore he plays exclusively for Mike and Maggie who just got wed. On stage he greets them, and advises – with a furtive glance at his band, ‘I don’t wanna put no bad luck on you – but, GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY!!!’ They ask for “Diddleyitus” which comes at full-tilt on guitar distortion, then Bo doubling with Tammi on drums in a percussive jungle that not only shows up Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” as derivative (and even THAT is second-hand Strangeloves!), but shows ‘em the door, handle and all, politely but firmly. Diddley’s the original, but the original is STILL THE GREATEST!

Published in:-
‘MUSICIANS WEEKLY 3rd July 1982’ (UK – July 1982)

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