Friday, June 6, 2008

Go Bo Diddley

I have just one Bo Diddley album, a mid-80s budget best of called His Greatest Sides. I have the LP hanging on my wall, and when I look at the cover photo (above), I notice how cool and excited Bo looks versus how uncomfortable his pompadoured drummer and bassist look in the same photo. They seem to be thinking how those plaid suits and bow ties are going to affect their R&B cred, while Bo just exudes perpetual coolness, no matter what he's wearing. For he is Bo Diddley!

Bo Diddley shuffled off to his final great gig in the sky last weekend (a tremendous loss to both rock AND roll), but that beat will live as long as people are Ready to Rock. With a h/t to 2fs, here are a dozen examples of the Diddley beat in the form of a Friday muxtape. The songs are in vaguely chronological order.

Go Bo Diddley

1. "Bo Diddley" - The Shadows
The best way to start a Bo Diddley mix is with the song "Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley himself, but I only have it on vinyl that isn't playable. Here's a 1961 version by Cliff Richard and the Shadows, shakin' it in their own WASPy way.

2. "Who Do You Love" - The Yardbirds
This is from the 1963 live set when the Yardbirds were touring with Sonny Boy Williamson. Asked for his opinion of the Yardbirds, Mr. Williamson reportedly said "these young British boys want o play the blues so BAD.. and they do!"

3. "Not Fade Away" - The Rolling Stones
These British boys could play the blues fairly good early on. This is a Buddy Holly song, but it sounds more Diddleyish than Holly's original version. Sometime in the last month, the Stones early catalog dropped off emusic, which kind of sucks.

4. "Magic Bus" - The Who
Unfortunately the eight minute Live At Leeds version doesn't fit in a 10mb muxtape window, so here's the shorter single version. That Keith Moon fellow was quite a talented drummer.

5. "Pills" - The New York Dolls
R.E.M. used to cover this song back in the day, and I had no idea it was a Bo Diddley song until I checked the writing credits on the NY Dolls album.

6. "Crackin' Up" - The Rolling Stones
Another Stones song. This is from their 1977 double-live LP Love You Live, which had three sides of forgettable performances from their 1975 World Tour, and one side of smokin' hot R&B covers from the El Mocambo in Toronto, including this reggaefied Bo Diddley number.

7. "She's The One" - Bruce Springsteen
A smoking live version of this Springsteen from the Born To Run tour (London's Hammersmith Odeon in November 1975 -- which means it comes before the Stones in chronological order).

8. "Bo Diddley's A Gunslinger" - Warren Zevon
Another live one, from Stand In The Fire. After I heard this song (which ended the original album), I started using "Bo Diddley's a gunslinger" as a catch phrase whenever I had seven spare syllables. It's still one of my favorite things to say!

9. "Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole" - The Soft Boys
One of the first songs Robyn Hitchcock ever wrote, at least the first that he managed to release. When he played the song solo in the early 90s, he apologized for the "sexism" , but the Beefheartian blues cliches are so silly that they're almost endearing (eg. rhyming "love" and "stove").

10. "Cuban Slide" - The Pretenders
This was a b-side to an early single. I'd never heard it until I downloaded it from here a few days ago, but the Bo Diddley beat is quite pronounced.

11. "I Want Candy" - Bow Wow Wow
Not as pronounced as this Bo Diddley beat. I'm still not sure how one would go about setting the summer sun on fire, but whenever I hear this song, I still want Candy!

12. "How Soon Is Now" - The Smiths
In the comments to 2fs posts, they mentioned Johnny Marr organizing arrangements around the Diddley beat. This is the most pronounced example of that. Under all the wailing and tremolo, the foundation of the song is still the Bo Diddley beat. When I saw Modest Mouse opening for R.E.M. last weekend, I had no idea that the bored-looking guitarist who looked like Johnny Marr actually was Johnny Marr. It's nice that JM has a steady job, but how the mighty have fallen!

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