cream of the crate: album review #101 – bo diddley: bo diddley’s beach party
cream of the crate: album review #101 – bo diddley: bo diddley’s beach party
Album cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"Bo Diddley's Beach Party is shockingly impolite" - (Express) ". . . we get to the closing Roadrunner, which might be the most unhinged live performance from rock’s first decade." - (Recordcollector)

This is number one hundred and one in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represent an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page.

From review 101 onward I will mix vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

Now Bo Diddley has been around the music scene since he broke into it with his first release in 1955, although as discussed later on, he was involved with music before then. With fifty albums to his name, there is something very Special about the album being reviewed.

It was his first, and possibly best, live album! It has been out of print for over five decades and to my knowledge has only recently been released as a digital album, but in remastered stereo whereas the original was recorded in Mono!

Bo Diddley’s Beach Party was released on the Pie International label in December 1963 and its code is NPL 28032.

cream of the crate: album review #101 – bo diddley: bo diddley’s beach party
Album label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It has ten tracks and was only released in monaural. It was a Chess Recording but distributed Internationally by Pie. The original Chess label version is around, but is no older or better than the PYE pressing.

The story of Bo Diddley is the stuff a full-on book is made of. Born Ellas Bates and not Otha Ellas Bates as some works claim, he was born on December 30, 1928, in McComb, Mississippi. He was also known as Ellas McDaniel when it came to song writing credits.

What isn’t in dispute is the fact that he was unique! he developed one of the most unique and recognisable rhythms ever produced by an individual, a beat which became known as the “Diddley Beat“.

According to his bio on the Rock and Roll Hall of fame – “Diddley was raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he legally adopted. The family moved to Chicago when Diddley was seven. His earliest exposure to music came via the church. T

he first instrument he learned to play was the violin, though hearing John Lee Hooker’s 1949 R&B hit, “Boogie Chillen” inspired him to pick up the guitar. Diddley claimed that playing the violin influenced his muted-string, choke-neck style of rhythm guitar – an early forerunner of funk that can be heard on songs like “Pretty Thing.” “

It’s mixed up with spiritual, sanctified rhythms,” he explained, “and the feeling I have of making people [want to] shout.”

Diddley formed a band called the Hipsters (later the Langley Avenue Jive Cats) while in high school and landed a regular spot at the 708 Club on Chicago’s South Side in 1951.

He signed with the Checker label, a Chess Records subsidiary, in 1955. Diddley’s earliest records were contemporaneous with those of labelmate Chuck Berry.”

Young Bo with Jerome

 

It was 1955 that he had his first release with a track he started working on in 1954. It was then that he had teamed up with harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, drummer Clifton James, and bass player Roosevelt Jackson, and recorded demos of “I’m A Man” and “Bo Diddley“.

These were in fact tracks that were re-recorded at Chess Studios with a backing ensemble comprising Otis Spann (piano), Lester Davenport (harmonica), Frank Kirkland (drums), and Jerome Green (maracas). The record was released in March 1955, and the A-side, “Bo Diddley“, became a number one R&B hit.

This led to an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and like many “rock” artists that were to come, he completely upset Sullivan when the track Sullivan requested he sing – Sixteen Tons, was ignored by Bo, who promptly bought the house down playing Bo Diddley.

He was promptly banned and the story goes that Sullivan declared “he was the first coloured boy to double cross him, and he wouldn’t last six months!”

Bad call Ed!

This is a great lead into this album, which is in fact the 11th album in an impressive list of thirty three albums (not including compilations) – he released 17 albums in his first ten years (again, not including compilations), and lets not forget the squillion singles (OK, that’s an exaggeration!)

Why is it a lead in? Well one of the fantastic stories that has grown up about this live album is, that Bo played before over 2,000 mainly teenagers at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on July 5th and 6th 1963.

It was during the recording of the session on the 6th, that the story goes that Jerome Green jumped into the crowd, maracas and all, and started dancing with the girls.

That was too much for the local police, who weren’t happy about Bo Diddley playing anyway, but to have a black man dancing with white girls was enough to bring the whole thing to a halt.

So between his first TV appearance with Sullivan, and his first live album in South Carolina, Bo was reminded constantly that he was black, and that bought with it sever restrictions and if he was to be successful he would have to persevere and choose his battles wisely.

He did!

He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and, Rockabilly Halls of Fame (1987), he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guitar Player magazine, and, the same from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation (1990 & 1998).

He was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2010 and along with a multitude of other awards, his 1955 hit Bo Diddley, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance.

Diddley became known for his pounding signature beat (bom ba-bom bom, bom bom; later an essential component of rock music) and for his guitar effects, jive talk, and strutting stage style.

Now to get back to this album!

Now a word about the overall recording quality. This album was in fact one of the earliest examples of remote recording.

Now while those engineering this difficult feat (as it was then) did an amazing job of capturing the true spirit of the live sessions (remember it was recorded over two evenings), sometimes they did allow the recoding to go into distortion.

This may have been a limitation of the tape quality as unlike digital recording, the analog tape recoding levels can be pushed over 0 Db.

Ok, getting a bit technical, but to my ear there are times when the sound starts to break up, which more often than not, happens these days when digital recordings are pushed past the limit of zero decibels.

This is the highest reference level a digital recording can be taken without distortion, but here I am still talking about recording processes.  

Look, suffice to say when you listen to the tracks I have provided, it is not my recording of them that gives them a “harsh” sound (particularly in the higher frequencies), but it is how the needle has interpreted the grooves in the record.

Yet, it is a fantastic example of mono recording.

Now although I have not listened to the remastered digital recording of this album, which has sadly been re-mastered in a pseudo stereo, there is a satisfaction many of us get from hearing the sound in its original monaural form.

Here is the track listing.

Side One
1. “Memphis” (Chuck Berry) – 2:09
2. “Gunslinger” – 2:29
3. “Hey! Bo Diddley” – 2:43
4. “Old Smokey” – 3:05
5. “Bo Diddley’s Dog” – 3:38

Side Two
1. “I’m Alright” – 3:45
2. “Mr. Custer” – 2:56
3. “Bo’s Waltz” – 3:09
4. “What’s Buggin’ You (Crackin’ Up)” – 2:38
5. “Road Runner” – 3:42

 

cream of the crate: album review #101 – bo diddley: bo diddley’s beach party
Rear cover of the album: Track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Appearing on this album are:

  • Bo Diddley – lead vocals, lead guitar
  • Jerome Green – drums, maracas, backing vocals
  • Norma-Jean Wofford (The Duchess) – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Clifton James – drums

cream of the crate: album review #101 – bo diddley: bo diddley’s beach party
Jerome Green (Maracas), the Duchess, Roosevelt Jackson (Bass), Clifton James (Drums),and, Bo Diddley – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

The first track on this album, Memphis, is not credited on the album to Chuck Berry, but it is elsewhere.

This somewhat confounds me because the only track called Memphis by Berry, is actually and correctly titled “Memphis Tennessee“, and was recorded by Chuck in 1959. Now from a dating point of view, that fits nicely with the possibility of his good friend Bo Diddley doing a cover a few years later.

However my research suggests that the first instrumental version of this track was by Johnny Rivers in 1963 and that version does not sound like this version, and in fact, this version by Diddley doesn’t really sound like Memphis Tennessee.

I dug deeper and only found one reference that supports my contention. In an All Music review of this album, reviewer Bruce Elder states when talking about this track, (it is) “erroneously credited as Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” (which it ain’t).”

Mind you his review claims a recording date of July 5th and 6th 1983, which of course is nonsense.

However, I have to admit that I couldn’t come up with a better description of this track when Elder says,”…. a killer instrumental that’s a showcase for Diddley’s attack on his instrument and a crunching assault by the rest of the band (all in that shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits beat), cymbals on top of an overloaded bass, and what sounds like every rhythm guitar in the world grinding away.”

Well said sir!

Memphis

 

The “Duchess”

 

Track No. 2 Gunslinger, has appeared on other albums subsequent to this one and is a long time favourite of many Bo Diddley fans and to hear it in its original and live form, is indeed a treat.

Following that track is Hey Bo Diddley.

A fantastic track that epitomises Bo’s playing, his trademark beat and his ability to utterly engage with a crowd.

From the moment he kicks this track in to gear and there is no slow moving through the lower gears, it’s a case of let’s get straight into “overdrive” and boy does the crowd respond.

The polite applause at the commencement rapidly mutates into unbridled enthusiasm.

Now Bo is the feature, Bo is what the track is all about, and man, did the engineer and producer make sure his guitar was dominant!

That is NOT a criticism, simply an observation. I think the audience were probably doing a great response to has “call”, but we will never know!

Bo diddley done had a farm,
On that farm he had some women,
Women here, women there,
Women, women, women everywhere.

But one little girl lived on a hill,
She rustled and tustled like buffalo bill,
One day she decided she’d go for a ride,
With a pistol and a sword by her side.

She rolled right up to my front door,
Knocked an’ knocked ’til her fist got sore,
When she turned and walked away,
All I could hear my baby say:

Hey bo diddley, oh bo diddley,
Hey bo diddley, oh bo diddley.

Saw my baby run across the field,
Slippin’ and slidin’ like an automobile,
Hollerin’, my baby got towed away,
Slipped on from me like a cadillac-8.

Hey bo diddley, oh bo diddley,
Hey bo diddley, oh bo diddley.

Hey Bo Diddley

 

Tracks four and five consist of two quite distinctively different tracks.

Old Smokey, IS indeed that old standard (On top of) Old Smokey!

Why??

Well you need to remember they did dance  in those days, and they danced to everything. This is Bo’s effort to provide a lay-back, more down-tempo track and, he succeeds. Yer there are a few “bum” notes, but what the hell!

The final track on Side A Bo Diddleys Dog.

It’s a classic piece of Diddley, self affronting, self focused and brilliant!

What is an interesting little aside, is that is is one of the few Bo Diddley tracks not up on Youtube!

I don’t know why, because it is a great track, another frantic Diddley piece that is irresistible.

So we turn the record over (Yes Virginia, we are talking vinyl LP here), and are faced with the track, I’m Alright.

Now that might ring a bell to Diddley fans, but does it to others?

This is a really great track that was indicative of Bo’s ability to write excellent R&B material. It was so excellent that it appeared on the 1965 Rolling Stones album, Got Live If You Want It, right in their heyday of R&B covers.

Bo’s original version may not have the polish the Stones put onto it, but my god it speaks volumes for him as a singer, player and a composer.

Another aside, it wasn’t exactly a sign of respect when Jagger claimed the composition was by the Stones simply by using the phrase “It’s alright“, whereas Bo declares “I’m Alright”! – but that’s another story.

What Bo’s version has is something akin to a “revival” performance, even to Bo declaring “Have Mercy” as the track commences.

As all the great “preachers” do, he takes it up, then get’s a little bit softer, a little bit softer, before the inevitable happens and we are all swaying and loudly declaring, “I’m Alright“.

I’m Alright

 

Mr Custer was a novelty tune recorded by Larry Verne in 1960, and why Bo decided to make it his, by recording it, is anybodies guess.

I suppose we need to remember that “comedy / music” tracks were big in the mid 1950’s through into the 1960’s, so you go where the public wants you to go, I guess.

What I will say is that Bo stamps his own mark on this track and we wouldn’t expect anything less.

Then we are presented with Bo’s Waltz and its a track which while still capturing the great feeling of the night, was in my mind a strange track to include but there will be Bo Diddley fans that will disagree and it sounds as though Bo was enjoying himself.

The penultimate track is What’s Buggin’ You is an interesting track.

It certainly is not uptempo, and with small elements of the Caribbean about it and certainly a tempo the Inkspots may have sung.

It might have been the sort of track you played live (in the day) toward the end of the dance, you know slow, cheek to cheek tempo but – the lyrics which are very simple, are very entertaining whilst not exactly what you would whisper into your girls ear.

Ooooh
You always holling about wherever I been
(Ooo-ooo-ooo)
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
You always screaming about the money I spend
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
What’s bugging you?
(Yeah, yeah, you’re cracking up)
I do your laundry and your cooking, too
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
What for a woman, can I man like me do?
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
You’re bugging me
(Yeah, yeah)
(Yeah, you’re cracking up)
I stalled you woman a long time a go
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
I used to cook your meals and bring to your door
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x2]
I’m all fed up
(Yeah, yeah)
(You bugging me)
(Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da)[x4]


That brings us to the final track, and what a “killer” of a track. Roadrunner!

A track that has been recorded by many groups, and played live by an infinitely larger number of groups and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

It was also recorded as a studio track by Bo and released as a single in 1960 – but this live version is the best, hands down, no argument – it IS the definitive version.

It is a rockin’ rolickin’ fun track and the whole group, lead by the “Master Roadrunner” himself, just going for it!

It actually kicks off with a bit of a discussion on roadrunners by Bo and the story of how the track came about.

Then in kicks the guitar as he slides the plectrum slowly up the neck and back down, followed by the “beep” “beep”, but does the music kick off?

Oh no! Mr Diddley is gonna build the story up until there is no holding anyone back in what is possibly one of the best live tracks ever recorded by Bo and the band.

I suspect this might have been the track where Jerome Green is reputed to have jumped into the crowd to dance with the “pretty young white gals”!

I’m a road runner, honey
Beep, beep
Beep, beep
Ah, beep, beep

I’m a road runner honey
And you can’t keep up with me
I’m a road runner honey
And you can’t keep up with me
Come on, let’s race
Baby baby, you will see

Here I come
Beep, beep

Move over, honey, let me by
Move over, baby, let this man by
I’m gonna show you, baby
Look out your head
Gonna put some dirt in your eye

Here I go
Oh, yeah, how am I doin’?
Beep, beep

Take my hand, baby
I’m gonna prove to you
That I’m a road running man
I wanna show you something
That I’m the fastest in the land

Now, let me by
Beep, beep

Oh, yeah, you said you’s fast
But it don’t look like you gonna last
Goodbye, I’ve got to put you down
I’ll see you some day
Baby, somewhere hangin’ around

Roadrunner

So ends this album, and after Roadrunner I’m always breathless.

Of course Bo Diddley went on to huge things and always drew a crowd.

Beach Party turned out to be not only one of the best albums of his career, but also one of the most exciting and atmospheric live albums ever recorded.

Diddley crashes, smashes and lashes his way through an explosive thirty three minute set. It includes self-titled anthems to his mighty self, gunfighters, dogs, cowards, slothful women, insanity, red indians, waltzes, folk songs, General George Armstrong Custer and the greatest live automobile song ever recorded.

A few quotes about this album:

“If Bo Diddley’s Beach Party wasn’t the first garage-rock album, I’d like to know what was!” DJ Goldwax.
“A blistering live album, particularly in genuine mono and quite simply the finest live rock and roll album of its era.” All Music
“I was out to destroy the audience. I wanted to destroy ‘em, just make the toughest dude in the crowd pat his foot. I’d find a groove to get ‘em by watching feet, and once I got one guy moving, I’d start working on the dude sitting next to him.” Bo Diddley


Sadly Bo’s life came to an end in 2008, but his music didn’t.

Like his contemporary and friend Chuck Berry, his music will always remain cherished and listened to by generation after generation

“He was a wonderful, original musician who was an enormous force in music and was a big influence on The Rolling Stones. He was very generous to us in our early years and we learned a lot from him. We will never see his like again.” Mick Jagger pays tribute as Bo Diddley passes away on June 2nd 2008.

“His influence was so widespread that it is hard to imagine what rock and roll would have sounded like without him.” The Voice Of America Radio Service

There are so many good Bo Diddley albums, I wouldn’t be foolish enough to claim this is the best.

But, it IS his first live album, and it was among the very first live remote recordings anywhere, so they are two excellent reasons for having this album.

There is a third reason, it has some damn fine live music on it and it helps us to remember why Bo Diddley should always be remembered as one of the true greats of that broad genre of music we call, rock and roll.

The album is available in vinyl, but it takes some searching for. It is now available as a Cd, and while I haven’t had the opportunity of listening to the Cd which I believe is (shamefully) remastered in what purports to be stereo, it would still be a good item to have in your collection if you can’t find, or don’t collect vinyl.

You can expect to pay around Au$25.00 for the Cd, and at least Au$40 for vinyl in good to very good condition.


VIDEOS:

Once again a dip into Youtube reveals some gems of video’s featuring the man himself – Bo Diddley.

 

Roadrunner

 

Mona

 

Bo Diddley & Chuck Berry Jam

 

Rare Diddley Instrumental jam

 

 

 


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown

#28. Various Artists – Red Hot & Blue: Col Porter Tribute

#29. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Global a Go Go

#30 – Jeff St John’s Copper Wine – Joint Effort

#31 – John Lee Hooker – Boogie Man

#32. Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane

#33. Various Artists – The Ultimate Guitar Survival Guide

#34. Muddy Waters – The Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues

#35. Dave Hole – The Plumber

#36. Sly & The Family Stone – Stand

#37. The Pretty Things – Latest Writes [The Best of]

#38. Fats Waller – Aint Misbehavin’

#39. The Kinks – The Ultimate Collection

#40. Ross Wilson – Now Listen (The Best of)

#41. New Riders of the Purple Sage – The Best Of

#42. Spirit – 12 Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus

#43. Women of Blue Chicago – Various Artists

#44. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

#45. Skyhooks – The Skyhooks Tapes

#46. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – [Self Titled] Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

#47. Salif Keita – Amen

#48. Chuck Berry – One Dozen Berry’s

#49. Travelling Wilburys – The Travelling Wilburys Collecton

#50. Betty McQuade – Collection