Saturday, February 17, 2018

I'm Still Around Here, Baby

I'm stoked to have finally found this record, one I'd been looking for for years. By 1965, Bo Diddley was commercially cold and culturally passe (though not in UK and parts of Europe). The criminally hard to find 500% More Man, recorded in Chicago by Ron Malo in July of 1965 as Diddley Disciples the Rolling Stones were riding high on the charts with "Satisfaction," is a solid and rocking album, full of style, attitude, and muscular rhythms. Bruce Eder in Allmusic points out that the sessions were among Diddley's last with Norma-Jean Wofford, aka the Duchess, and that the group he's recording with is the studio equivalent of the band he's rocking with in the following year's Big TNT Show.

"It's the thing that I started, and nobody recognizes where it came from, nobody mentions that this is an old Bo Diddley lick!" Diddley observed to George R. White about the raw, funky, and soulful sounds on this album, which he was to explore in greater depth the following decade. "If you listen to the song 'Bo Diddley,' that's where it actually came from. There's a lot of it in there—the 'muffled sound'—you know." 500% More Man was released in the fall, when Herman's Hermits, Sonny & Cher, the Beatles, Barry McGuire, the Supremes, and the Byrds were ruling the airwaves. Where would Bo fit in? In the liner notes, Chess Records' Marshall Paul wasn't selling a new Bo to a new teen audience in '65; instead he seems eager to rave about what's timeless in the Bo Beat:

Party swinging, indeed. The title track is a stomping classic, Muddy filtered through McDaniel. Bo wastes no time in laying down truth:
Some of you people think
That the man growing old
But I'm still around here, baby
And I let the good time roll
"500% More Man"

The real gems are the lesser-known tracks, such as this grooving take on Chuck Berry, Bo hollering in vintage style, chasing his girl around town, the band chugging along right next to him:

"Let Me Pass"

And look at Bo and his band rev it up (while lip syncing) in this performance. Few bands played with this much style, cool, and humor:

And this song, about a robbery in Las Vegas, based on a true story that occurred on the other side of the country, is very cool, a shrugging, shit-happens tale, the wearily accepting and funny tone of which you hear in nearly all of Bo's interviews:

"Somebody Beat Me"

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