Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Last Thoughts on Bo Diddley...

I wrote this for Rich over at Turn It Down back in June and immediately forgot about it. Here it is in all its resplendent glory. Note: it seems like I may have predicted the future on this one.

If the Jesus and Mary Chain ever uttered a nugget of truth, it was "Bo Diddley is Jesus."

As I sit here a day after the Originator's death (digging on the Raconteurs throwing some "Hey Bo Diddley!" into their jam on Conan O'Brien a befitting tribute last night), I can't help but feel that there's now just an utter void on the Mantle of Rock Importance in which he was the only one who mattered. You can have your Chuck Berry, your Little Richard, your Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis…Bo Diddley seems like the only one worth a shit in that whole pile. Elvis never wrote a song in his life, Jerry Lee and Chuck got caught up in tawdry sex affairs back in the good ole' days when that was enough to kill a career and Penniman went and found the Lord at a time when the world needed him the most.

The whole time, amidst it all, was Bo Diddley.

You'll be hard-pressed to name me a debut single that carries as much musical, cultural and outright badass heft as Checker Records 814 "Bo Diddley" backed with "I'm a Man"

To name your first single after yourself is pure cockiness and to pair it with the brilliant boasting of making love to a whole line of women in an hour, he clearly set the template for self-assuredness that permeates all facets of hip-hop culture…and he did it in 1955!

He was on the Ed Sullivan complete with shakin legs before Elvis Presley and instead of covering Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" like he was supposed to he bucked it all and just did "Bo Diddley." Watching the footage now brings me to genuine tears, a piece of majestic beauty, the matching suits, Jerome quaking maracas cause his life depended on it, Bo as sure of himself as one could ever be, a bad ass black man beamed into the living room of millions of those in white America …some called it jungle music, race records…it's simply and purely rock and roll.

(if there's a better one minute ten seconds on YouTube, I've yet to find it)

I could go on even more about how genius it is to surround yourself with genius…Jerome Greene(fucking JEROME deserves his own fucking wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I could wax about him for hours, but another time clearly), Billy Boy Arnold and the most perfect harmonica sound ever committed to tape, the Dutchess, Lady Bo and the Bo-Ettes are all evidence that the man knew how to put together a band.

Not only is Bo Diddley the only person with a drum beat named after him, but HE'S NOT EVEN A DRUMMER! HE'S A GUITAR PLAYER! That fact alone speaks volumes…and you can argue day and night about whether or not Bo just reappropriated the clave beat, shave and a haircut or the juba, one thing remains is that if you heard any of those, you wouldn't call them by their esoteric names…you'd just call it as the Bo Diddley Beat.

A few weeks ago the Dirtbombs were recording some "stripped-down" performance for an internet TV something or other. Not fans of deconstruction or decollage, it was difficult figuring out what in the hell we could actually do without amplified bass or fuzz guitar. In comes the Bo Diddley Beat to the rescue…we vaguely re-jigger "Leopardman at C&A" to include maracas and a tambourine and the thing works like a charm. It left us with a pretty failsafe dictum that I now share with you: whenever in doubt…the Bo Diddley Beat.

Coupled with the Back from the Grave compilation series (which is also somehow only in existence because OF Bo) Diddley is the sole reason that the Gories ever came together and their recorded versions of his songs "Crawdad", "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Mona" are further proof for advanced primitive life on this planet.

Mick Collins had told me before that the Gories had all agreed that they would reunite if presented with the chance of backing Bo Diddley. Mick was the first person I called when I'd heard Bo died and I sadly commented that it seemed like they wouldn't get back together now. But after thinking about it for a second, it was clear. With Bo Diddley gone, the world need the Gories now more than ever. Hopefully, if any good can come with his passing, it will be the much-needed reunion of the Gories.

I can safely say that Bo Diddley is in heaven right now, surely giving hell to the imposter who's been parading around as Jesus for the past two millennia and hopefully claiming his rightful place guiding us with that driving beat. Godspeed Bo, you're already missed.


Sam said...

"If you aren't there by Judgment Day
Then I'll know baby you went the other way."

"Go Bo Diddley" was in my parents record collection, and as a wee sprog it was one of the only records we could all agree on. It's still one of my all time favorites.

Sadly the only time I every got to see him live he was either having an off night or was just past his prime. He had this big James Brown style ensemble complete with a valet to put a cape on him at the end of the show, but he hardly played at all. Not like that wild animal you can see in the Youtube clips.

Anonymous said...

Though not quite as sad as having to live in a world without Bo, is reading all of the crummy tributes in left his wake. How is this better ? You've replaced the George Thorogood and Stones references of the major papers with slightly more obscure bands, and as a bonus you put down some of his (also genius) contemporaries. WHY??? This piece was run over by an UGLY MACHINE.

-Ian from Chicago

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Chicago.

Thanks for yr. cogent obit.

Anonymous said...

Elvis has cowriting credits on several songs. So to say he never wrote a song in his life is misinformed. Just for the record.