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Monday, November 26, 2012

Bo Diddley: Hey! Good Lookin'


1) Hey! Good Lookin'; 2) Mush Mouth Millie; 3) Bo Diddley's Hoot Nanny; 4) London Stomp; 5) Let's Walk A While; 6) Rooster Stew; 7) La La La; 8) Yeah Yeah Yeah; 9) Rain Man; 10) I Wonder Why People Don't Like Me; 11) Brother Bear; 12) Mummy Walk.

Two Great Guitars might have been an oddity, but at least it left a stronger impression than Bo's regular studio albums from the same era. This one belongs in about the same class as Bo Diddley & Company — as solidly masterminded and produced as anything the man could knock off in his sleep. But with the musical world growing more and more demanding by early 1965, and slow­ly awakening to the idea that «progress» could and should not only come «naturally», but could also be permanently stimulated, the idea of making a 1965 record that sounded so firmly like 1957 was getting colder and colder by the minute. This one didn't sell at all, and I don't blame anyone — were I alive and buying LPs in 1965, I probably wouldn't buy it either.

The only track here that suggests a certain awareness of one's surroundings is ʽLondon Stompʼ, a dance-blues number that crudely parodies a bunch of English accents, all based on Bo's recent experiences in the trans-Atlantic cradle of the English language. Just a novelty number, but one well worth a listen — after all, surely all that tolerance towards the legions of white British boys imitating the walks and talks of grizzled black bluesmen entitles us to hearing the grizzled black bluesman returning the favor. Then again, a parody is only a parody, however funny it may be (and this one ain't particularly funny).

Everything else is just standard Bo fare. The title track is no Hank Williams cover, but simply another pomp-and-stomp opening number to exploit the Diddley beat, even if it opens with a couple of deceptive licks that Bo might have learned from the Chuck Berry sessions — then in­tegrates them into the old beat to the point of disintegration. ʽI Wonder Why People Don't Like Meʼ is a decent Motown stylization — and the lyrics, with their tongue-in-cheek rags-to-riches story, might actually be a subtle jab at the typical «Motown star» of the time (especially appro­priate for Bo, who was struggling for survival at the time and must have been fairly envious of all the young, smooth, soulful whippersnappers like Marvin Gaye).

The rest? For the most part, just variations upon variations, with semi-catchy recycled vocal grooves at best and no particularly curious guitar parts whatsoever. The best Bo Diddley song of the epoch was not even included on the original LP for some reason — this is the grim, parent-scaring ʽMama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shutʼ, in which the man gallantly asks the matron of the family to refrain from interfering in his romantic relations with her daughter. (And the guy was worrying about why nobody was buying his records!). It does seem to crop up on some editions, though, so do try to hear Hey! Good Lookin' in its company — the only way to ensure that Bo actually did have some bite left in late '64 / early '65.

Oh yes, ʽMummy Walkʼ is rather amusing as well ("hey little girl, I mean a-you in yellow, I don't wanna see you do the mummy walk with the other fellow" is one of the classic lines of the pre-Patti Smith era, in any case). But on the other hand, you should also suspect that something is wrong when two songs in a row are called ʽLa La Laʼ and "Yeah Yeah Yeahʼ; and when you ac­tually hear them, you will most likely go from suspicion to somewhere else, much less pleasant. Overall, a thumbs down — lack of diversity or originality is one thing, but simply remaking your own history, going round and round in circles, is another thing. An annoying thing.


  1. I wonder how relevant thios record's relevance at at its release date actually is. The time that has passed since 1965 is quite a bit longer than the time span between 1957 en 1965. Would your conclusions have been the the same if this record had been released in 1957 and Bo's 1957 record had been produced in 1965? I agree that Bo (and a lot of other bluesman) did have a tendency to record the same song over and over with different lyrics, but in way that is just part of their charm, isn't it? (Although I have heard it said that most authors write the same novel over and over as well.)

    1. That certainly is part of their charm in one of two cases - (a) if you are a major fan / "soul brother" of the artist in question or (b) if you never intend to relisten to the old stuff in the first place, treating it as disposable (as it used to be in the pre-war era, when it was easier and seemed to make more sense to record a new take than to press more copies of an old one). But that mentality was already on its way out in 1965 (not in 1957). Besides, it is somewhat ironic that a man who called himself "The Originator" would end up doing so many remakes of his own past.

  2. I guess we'll have to see Bo Diddley as one of the last original bluesmen then, basically a one-trick pony. But there's nothing wrong with that per se. I can listen to any John Lee Hooker song, even when many of them of are very alike, because his voice is so mesmerizing. Same with the Bo Diddley beat, although of course he didn't invent it. We also have to appreciatet he fact that he allowed women in his band, which can be inetpreted either as ultra-machismo or as a form of avant-garde feminism. I do continue to enjoy your blog b.t.w.

    1. And managed, often with one chord and a few variations, to play some great guitar. Listen to his non-lead guitar rhythm work in "I'm Looking for a Woman" (not on this LP).

      And he had range: that is a standard blues, and one would think, hearing it, that that was all he played.

      As for quality of the recordings: Chess Records didn't have the best facilities; and that is understandable as the focus of the Chess brothers was not music but money.

      If it weren't for Willie Dixon, the Chess brothers would have been laughed off the block.