cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection

 

  These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

 

"Bo Diddley was truly a one-off who played an often-underestimated role in the history of rock 'n' roll" - [Brian Parks: Liner notes] .. .. .. "I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob." - [Bo Diddley] .. .. .. "He invented his name, his guitar and a beat that changed music forever." - [RollingStone: June 2008]

This is album review number 208 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.

The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection 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.

Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

Two Afro-Americans and their music grabbed me by the musical balls in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. One was Chuck Berry, the other was Bo Diddley.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Vinyl label – [CLICK to enlarge]
This is a review of the vinyl LP – Bo Diddley – The Singles Collection

 

Originally released on vinyl and Cd in 2013, this is a gatefold re-release on 108gm vinyl on the NotNew label. It has the code NOT2LP180.

 

The set is on 2 LP’s with 15 tracks per LP and are his singles released from 1955 to 1962.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Inner LH Cover – [Click to enlarge]
cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Inner RH Cover – [Click to enlarge]

Background to Bo [Taken from my CD review – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party] and supplemented with some additional information.

The story of Bo Diddley is the stuff a full-on book is made of. Born Ellas Otha 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.

How he became known as Bo Diddley is another issue that is disputed. According to the liner notes from the album The Singles Collection, “He claimed that others started calling him by that name, possibly as an insult, linked to the slang Diddley Squat meaning nothing at all.

A ‘diddley bow’ is a homemade one stringed instrument and considering that Bo Diddley always played his distinctive rectangular guitar, this could be a contributing fact.”

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection

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. The 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.

Live in later years he was often supported by Jerome Green and the Duchess – Norma-Jean Wofford, who played with him from 1962 – 1966.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Bo, The Duchess & Jerome – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

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 album contains his singles recorded between 1955 and 1962 – thirty in total. In some ways it is a shame the the tracks were not laid out in chronological order – that would have made for an interesting ability to hear his music develop as the years went on.

They didn’t!

TRACK LISTING 

A1. Bo Diddley 2:45
A2. Down Home Train 3:09
A3. Oh Yea 3:09
A4. Say Man 3:13
A5. I’m Looking For A Woman 2:34
A6. Mona 2:22
A7. Cops And Robbers 3:27

B1. I’m Bad 3:16
B2. The Great Grandfather 2:30
B3. Hush Your Mouth 2:56
B4. The Clock Strikes Twelve 3:00
B5. I’m Sorry 2:27
B6. Hey! Bo Diddley 2:11
B7. Walkin’ And Talkin’ 2:43
B8. Diddy Wah Diddy 2:27

C1. I’m A Man 2:46
C2. You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover 3:14
C3. Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself) 3:05
C4. Say Man, Back Again 2:56
C5. Road Runner 2:50
C6. Bring It To Jerome 2:20
C7. I Can Tell 4:33

D1. Who Do You Love? 2:28
D2. She’s Alright 4:03
D3. Crackin’ Up 2:07
D4. Craw-Dad 2:27
D5. Gun Slinger 1:57
D6. Say! Boss Man 2:33
D7. Diddley Daddy 2:28
D8. Pretty Thing 2:46

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Rear Cover: Including Track Listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

So I will try, without having to post too many tracks, provide an example from each of the years

So LP 1 and Side 1.

Track 1 is Bo Diddley and was recorded in 1955, so it makes a great track to commence with.

Not only was this track added to the Library of Congress in 1966 – a huge honour, it IS all about the man. Yet it is much more. The track is loose, funky and loud. As a song, it was (as Smithsonian writer Ned Sublette put it in 2008) “a rhythm and a rhyme.”

The rhythm was traditionally known as either “hambone,” “patting juba” or “shave and a haircut, two bits.” Long exercised in African American folklore, this rhythm was well known enough in many cultures to be invoked or imitated.

Yet it took Bo to take it from a background rhythm and throw it right out the front!

[Verse 1]

Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring
If that diamond ring don’t shine
He going to take it to a private eye
If that private eye can’t see
He’d better not take the ring from me

[Verse 2]

Bo Diddley caught a nanny goat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday coat
Bo Diddley caught a bearcat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday hat

[Verse 3]

Mojo come to my house, you black cat bone
Take my baby away from home
Ugly ole mojo, where you been
Up your house, and gone again
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley have you heard?
My pretty baby said she wasn’t for it

Bo Diddley

Track 2 is Down Home Train (1956)

Just as we start to establish the Bo was well down for that “Diddley Beat” in 1956, he branches out using a shuffle rhythm into blues theme with Down Home Train.

The track (music not rail) all takes place on a train and Bo, along with the great Willie Dixon on bass and Jerome Green on Maracas, set the scene of a speeding train, along with train whistle sound effects adding further to the railroad vibe.

The opening dialog is between Bo and Jerome, with Bo the passenger, buying a ticket from Jerome to get to Macon Mississippi on the Down Home Special.

Like all good blues tracks, and he declares – “I’m goin’ home to see my baby”

The track is rarely mentioned when Bo Diddley is discussed yet for me, it may just be the very best track he ever recorded that never charted.

Down Home Train

LP 2 and Side 1

Track 6 gives us a track from 1957 – Hey Bo Diddley.

One thing that is apparent about Bo is, he had an ego. Yet, even that magnificent ego was somehow part of his style of music. Track 1 on side 1 – Bo Diddley was about Bo, this track is also about Bo and, some of his most enduring music is about Bo!

Bo sure knew how to “push” Bo.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

This is another track with that classical “Diddley Beat”. The drums really push the shuffle, but it is his guitar work that really features.

He was quite unique – His guitar was often tuned to open E (E, B, E, G#, B, E, low to high), and capoed to change key. He didn’t play a traditional “lead guitar” style, but more like a very advanced rhythm guitar, and more often than not, used a “call and response’ style – as in this track.

Hey Bo Diddley

Track 8, the final track on this side, is one of a number of tracks on this side recorded in 1958, and all are worthy of playing and discussing.

The track is Diddy Wah Diddy!

OK! this track was, like many of his tracks, was covered so many, many times. Our own Running Jumping Standing Still, did a very good cover.

For one thing, it moves away from the traditional “diddly beat”, in fact it is very much blues based, with Bo’s own slant. The recording featured The Moonglows on backing vocals, Willie Dixon on bass, Jody Williams along with Bo Diddley on guitar, Clifton James on drums, Jerome Green playing the maracas, and Little Willie Smith on harmonica. That is some line-up!

According to Wikipedia – “It was not unusual in the early part of the 20th century for African Americans in the southern states (particularly in Florida) to speak of various mythical cities and countries such as Beluthahatchie, Ginny Gall, Diddy Wah Diddy and West Hell as if they were real.

Of all the imaginary locations that were in common usage at the time, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Benjamin A. Botkin has noted that Diddy Wah Diddy was “the largest and best known of the Negro mythical places.” It was commonly believed that in Diddy Wah Diddy food could be found in abundance, the townsfolk did not have to work, and people and animals had no concerns.

Diddy Wah Diddy

Moving back to the first LP and Side 1, there is one track from 1959 – Say Man. Now rightly the notes say it was recorded in 1958, but it wasn’t released until 1959 as a single.

Now Bo took his music seriously but, he also had a very strong sense of humour and in this track, that humour just bursts forth.

This track was never put together as a conscious composition. It finds Bo Diddley exchanging insults with his friend and long-time maracas player Jerome Green. It came together when they were mucking about in the studio. 

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
Jerome Green – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The funky piano playing is by Otis Spann, possibly the top blues pianist in Chicago.

It really does sound like these two were just having a ball, but on a serious side, it was claimed in later years that the track was the fore-runner of Rap.

However, speaking with Bo Diddley in a May 2005 interview with Uncut magazine the comment was made that this was in a round about way, one of the first rap records. He responded: “Uhuh. But it wasn’t called rap, it was called signifyin.

Hey, since you told me about my girl I’m gonna tell you about yours
I was walking down the street with your girl
Yeah?
I took her home, for a drink, you know
Took her home?
Yeah, just for a drink
Oh

But that chick looked so ugly she had to sneak up on a glass to get a drink of water
Hah-hah-hah-hah, well, you’ve got the nerve to call somebody ugly
Why you’re so ugly the stork that brought you into the world ought to be arrested
That’s alright
My mama didn’t have to put a sheet over my head so sleep could slip up on me

Hey, looky here
What’s that?
You should be ashamed of yourself
Why?
Calling people ugly
I didn’t calling you ugly
What’d you say?
I said you was ruined that’s all
Oh, man, you know somethin’?
What?
You look like you been whupped with an ugly stick

Say Man

There is no track from on this side from 1960, so I move to 1961 and what a track!

Track 5 – Roadrunner is one of Bo’s best, and that’s saying something. On one hand its just a 12 bar blues . . . but that’s kind of like saying that an Aston Martin One-77 is just a car.

The song reached #20 on Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Sides chart, and #75 on the Hot 100. It may just be the most covered of all Bo’s songs with the Stones, Animals and Pretty Things being among a long list of groups over many decades.

 

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection

The recording took place late September 1959 in Chicago, Illinois and backing Diddley (vocals, guitar) were Jerome Green (maracas, backing vocals), Clifton James (drums), guest pianist Otis Spann, Peggy Jones (guitar, backing vocals), and Bobby Baskerville (backing vocals).

Roadrunner

There are two tracks from 1960 on side 2. Track’s 4 and 5Craw-Dad and Gun Slinger.

In 1960 Bo released an album called Gun Slinger and this was the feature track, a was lifted and sent out as a single.

Once again Bo is the feature of this track, even putting himself at the O.K. Corral. Look Gun Slinger isn’t the best of all his tracks, but it’s still a strong track, in fact its damn infectious.

Gun Slinger

There are only one tracks from 1962, and we return to Side 1 on LP 2, and to track 2You Can’t Judge A Book (By It’s Cover) and, track 7I Can Tell.

I Can Tell was Co-written with English songwriter, Samuel Smith. It is a wonderful example of how Diddley’s work was equally as good in collaboration. In fact the track was re-recorded by no less than 36 other artists such as the Searchers, John Hammond, Dr. Feelgood, the Nighthawks and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

It is an infectious tune, quite lay-back and quite broody at times, proving that even though the times were a -changing, Bo Diddley was still on top of his game.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collectionHowever, one of my top 5 Bo Diddley tracks is that other 1962 release – You can’t Judge A Book.

 

It was one of his last hits as times and music styles overcame even his talent. But what a track to basically go out on! One of the many stand-out features is – it doesn’t rely on that “Diddley” beat – this is rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s simply a sixteen-bar blues structure that is totally infectious and full of metaphors that every listener can relate to in some way. It is one of those tracks that you just want to sing along with and it is a classic in my music world.

In 1962, the song reached number 21 on the Billboard magazine R&B chart and number 48 on the Billboard Hot 100.

You can’t judge an apple by looking at a tree
You can’t judge honey by looking at the bee
You can’t judge a daughter by looking at the mother
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Oh can’t you see
Oh you misjudge me
I look like a farmer
But I’m a lover
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Oh come on in closer baby
Hear what else I gotta say
You got your radio turned down too low
Turn it up

You can’t judge sugar by looking at the cane
You can’t judge a woman by looking at her man
You can’t judge a sister by looking at her brother
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Oh can’t you see
Oh you misjudge me
I look like a farmer
But I’m a Lover
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

You can’t judge a fish by lookin’ in the pond
You can’t judge right from looking at the wrong
You can’t judge one by looking at the other
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

Oh can’t you see
Oh you misjudge me
I look like a farmer
But I’m a lover
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

You can’t Judge A Book

So in summary. Although this is the “Singles” album, it doesn’t cover every single Bo ever recorded, as he continued releasing singles through until 1996.

It does cover all the singles from his halcyon years, albeit not exactly the period he made most of his money. They certainly truly represent the styles and quality of Bo Diddley’s music.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection

Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008, of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79. When Shakespeare wrote – “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” He may well have been talking about the great Bo Diddley.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection
[CLICK to enlarge]

The other great thing about this vinyl version is that it is 180gm?

So what? You might say.

Well there are genuine advantages over the lighter 100 – 120 gm std vinyl LPs.

  1. Increased durability is perhaps the most obvious benefit of heavyweight vinyl. By durability, I mean the improved resistance to breakage or warping over time; the grooves themselves are in no way more enduring.
  2. Some pressing plants believe the larger mass of thicker records can help reduce wow & flutter as they enable the platter to move at a more constant speed. However, the plant linked above are quick to add the following caveat: “…on low-end turntables, the added weight can cause extra pressure and friction on the platter.” – Answer – no pint buying 180gm Vinyl unless you have a quality turntable.
  3. Thicker records naturally improve isolation to protect your stylus from vibration interference; you could just purchase a cork slip mat, of course, but all the same, increased disc weight should help absorb some vibrations.
  4. Anyone who’s ever held a new 180g vinyl record will know what I mean about the imposing weight that gives a reassuring impression of quality.

It is hard to imagine anyone who loves classic R&B, could not enjoy Bo Diddley and, there are many wonderful albums and compilations available – it’s hard to go wrong. However, for a great all-round vinyl album of his work you can’t go past this album.

The album Bo Diddley – The Singles Collection is available on CD and vinyl and if you are an R&B fan, a 1950’s music fan or a Bo Diddley fan, then this album is a must.

cream of the crate review #208: bo diddley – the singles collection


VIDEOS:

There aren’t as many live Bo Diddley clips on Youtube as you might imagine. Here are some of the best.

Hey Bo Diddley

 

Bodiddleyitus in a very rare concert – (check out the chord work)

 

What a stage performance

 

Let Me Pass

 

From “Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll DVD


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 –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.

#201.  The Atlantics – The Great Surfing Sounds of The Atlantics

#202.  Otis Redding – Dictionary Of Soul

#203.  The Beatles – Live At The Star Club in Hamburg (1962)

#204.  Company Caine – Doctor Chop

#205.  John Mayall – A Hardcore Package

#206.  Tamam Shud – 2 on 1_Evolution & Goolutionites and The Real People

#207.  Various Artists – Starday: Dixie Rockabilly Volume 2