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Bo Diddley's Beach Party (Live)

Bo Diddley

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Album Review

A blistering live album, especially in mono (the re-channeled stereo LP is barely passable), cut by Bo Diddley and company at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on July 5 and 6, 1963. This album contains 30-plus minutes of the best live rock & roll ever issued on record: Diddley and company are "on" from the get-go, a killer instrumental erroneously credited as Chuck Berry's "Memphis" (which it ain't) 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. And even that instrumental seems to "talk" to the audience, telling a story; once Diddley's voice comes in on "Gunslinger," the picture is complete, and perfection is achieved on the frantic, gyrating "Hey, Bo Diddley." The crowd is driven to an audible frenzy as the thundering band crunches in time to Diddley's sometimes shrieking punctuation around his rhymes. Some repertory here may elude modern listeners; this was a dance, and any tune that could be turned into one was fair game, even "On Top of Old Smokey" as a slow number, which leads into the frenetic "Bo Diddley's Dog." Diddley does even better adapting the Larry Verne novelty tune "Mr. Custer," making it his own, and has some fun on "Bo Waltz" before switching gears to the softer, ballad-like "What's Buggin' You," all of that leading to a roaring finale on "Road Runner." Diddley and the band show off most of their bag of tricks amid the man's joyous, buoyant laughter. Apparently, the shows weren't entirely a laughing matter: the police threatened to arrest the band when Jerome Green leaped into the audience with his maracas waving and the female members surrounded him; this all happening in the still-segregated south of 1963 (and wouldn't a film of the whole show be a treasure today?) Mishaps, provocations, and non-musical spontaneity aside, this is some of the loudest, raunchiest, guitar-based rock & roll ever preserved for public consumption, and it captures some priceless moments: "I'm All Right," which was the original side two opener, was lifted wholesale by the Rolling Stones for their live sets, from 1964 until as late as the end of 1966; but the whole approach to music-making here lay at the core of practically every note of music that the Stones recorded or performed for the first three years of their history; indeed, no Stones collection is truly complete without this record attached to it. This album was a rare listening treat until Hip-O Select reissued it. Finding the LP usually required visits to lots of record shops, and copies in mono, and in good condition, were even tougher to come by. The CD finally came into print in 2011, and is a lot easier to share, even if it isn't as cool as the LP.

Biography

Born: 30 December 1928 in McComb, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

He only had a few hits in the 1950s and early '60s, but as Bo Diddley sang, "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover." You can't judge an artist by his chart success, either, and Diddley produced greater and more influential music than all but a handful of the best early rockers. The Bo Diddley beat — bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp — is one of rock & roll's bedrock rhythms, showing up in the work of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, and even pop-garage knock-offs like the Strangeloves'...
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