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These Blues Go To Eleven

NigelTufnelElevenIt’s the eleventh day of the eleventh month and that means today must be one louder! Spinal Tap may have been a bottom-feeding metal myth but their dedication to loudness still rings in the ears of musicians in every genre of music. Heavy Metal and Blues have always has a special relationship. Pioneering hard rockers like Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and others all had their feet planted deep in the fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta. Black Sabbath is widely regarded as the first Heavy Metal band and they grew out of a blues band called Earth. The Metal Gods Judas Priest also came together from blues bands. These musicians came from poverty stricken Birmingham in the UK and wallowed in misery much like the people of the American south. They mixed the blues with the clanging sounds they heard all around them in the local factories, sang about dark subjects, and gave birth to what is arguably the most popular and prolific genre of music in the world.

Most Hard Rock and Heavy Metal musicians left straight blues behind. Many, like Aerosmith and Whitesnake embraced the Blues idioms and deep currents of blues run underneath their blustery Rock. A band like Vader might make you question my whole premise but if you follow the influences back through time you find the Blues. in honor of 11/11 I have put together a playlist of 11 Hard Rock and Heavy Metal acts showing their Blues influence. These go to Eleven.

SpinalTaptheseGoToEleven

1. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” They have always been a lot like Chuck Berry with a Marshall stack but here they modify a classic Chicago Blues call and response riff and rev it up to 11.

2. Motorhead – “Hoochie Coochie Man” Lemmy was born before Rock & Roll. He has shown his blues influence a number of times in Motorhead but this live track from 1983 captures a blistering performance from temporary hire Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame.

3. Cinderella – “Long Cold Winter” Lumped in with the hair band pretty boys by the record labels, Cinderella was the one of the most blues influenced Hard Rock bands of the era. From whiskey soaked vocals and slide guitars to minor key Blues, they stood out out from the party pack nothin’ but a good time pop metal pabulum.

4. Aerosmith – “Reefer Head Woman” Aersosmith was shoulders-deep in turmoil when they recorded this track for a largely forgotten (by the band at least) album. They played through their pain in this classic ramshackle performance.

5. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” MTV Zep-clone hair band Whitesnake bears almost no resemblance to the band which rose from the ashes of Deep Purple. They started life as a terrific, hard working Bluesy rock band with Mick Moody and Bernie Marsden dueling with blues licks night after night.

6. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – “Red House” Yngwie is famously a fan of Ritchie Blackmore but he loves Hendrix too and has covered a few of Jimi’s classics. Here he rips it up live and even reins in his usual over the top tendencies (a little).

7.  Ted Nugent – “I Am A Predator” This tune comes from Intensities In Ten Cities (one of my favorite album titles ever). Our loin clothed madman flexed his Blues muscles often throughout his career but this one is from way back when he wasn’t too serious about much other than rampaging guitars and lovely groupies. Everybody sing along, ok?

8. Megadeth – “I Ain’t Superstitious” Thrash Metal titans take on Willie Dixon. The winner? You decide. I still think Howlin’ Wolf is the victor.

9. W.A.S.P. – “Promised Land” Yeah, Chuck Berry isn’t really Blues but he recorded for Chess and pretty much just played fast Blues songs. W.A.S.P. was no stranger to fast blues either, since one of their big hits – “Blind In Texas” – is basically a 12-bar in in overdrive. Here, Blackie Lawless channels Chuck Berry through Elvis in a fun romp from sea to shining sea.

10. Deep Purple – “Lazy” Deep Purple is known for its Classical influenced Hard Rock and extended jams but the Blues flowed through every incarnation of the band. Here the famous Mark II lineup brings Baroque Blues to the fore in a style that mixes Bach with Freddie King and the result has Tchaikovsky spreading the news.

11. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)” The Metal Gods take on Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green classic. We close with this since it has one of the most influential Heavy Metal bands of all time tipping the hat to a sadly almost forgotten era of Fleetwood Mac’s history – an era of Blues. The takeaway here is how much it sounds like a Priest original. Was Peter Green the original Metal God?

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 9/17/14

VictoriaSpiveyTime’s running out on Hump Day but it’s not too late for some black snake moaning. Black snakes crawling, black snakes creeping, and crawling king snakes everywhere. The snake, the serpent, the biblical slithering source of sin – it turns up often in blues and it’s offering fruit from the tree of carnal knowledge. “Black Snake Blues” by Victoria Spivey is the first known recorded reference to the Black Snake metaphor. Victoria recorded the song in 1926 for Okeh. It is thought that Blind Lemon Jefferson wrote his “Black Snake Moan” in response to Spivey’s tune. Response songs were common in the early days of recorded music. If a song became popular, others tried to capitalize by recording an answer song. This is a trend that continues today, for instance, 50 Cent recorded “21 Questions” and then Lil’ Mo recorded “21 Answers.” Also, all throughout the history of blues, but especially in the early days, musicians would capitalize on the popularity of a song by re-writing in slightly and issuing it. So, once the Black Snake was unleashed it started turning up in dark places everywhere.

One of the most famous uses of the snake in blues is John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake.” The Hook recorded several versions and so have a myriad of other artists including The Doors. Jim Morrison was considered a major sex symbol in the late sixties and he knew how to supercharge the music with sexuality. He, and The Doors brought the danger, mystery, and sexuality of blues into their apocalyptic rock music.

So today we have Victoria Spivey’s tune that started it all, Jefferson’s answer song, The Hook rocking out with Foghat and Paul Butterfield as he asserts his dominance, and some rare footage of The Doors recording John Lee’s classic. Maybe next time we’ll feature David Coverdale singing about his Whitesnake. Maybe not…

Victoria Spivey Black Snake Blues

 

Blind Lemon Jefferson Black Snake Moan

 

John Lee Hooker Crawling King Snake

 

The Doors Crawling King Snake

 

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