Friday, 20 April 2012

The Fulminators have been running through the swamps - and we lived to tell the tale!

Yes, I know I should be writing about politics or high culture or somesuch, but a Tony Joe White song popped up on iTunes yesterday and I just had a yen to create some Swamp Rock (it might also have had something to do with the general dampness) - and here's the result. I did the music first and then wrote the little story that goes with it and added the vocals afterwards. It needs TJW's soft baritone or John Fogerty's magnificent roar to bring it alive, but, apart from the touch of interference accompanying the guitar solos (I set the volume high so I could play it without a plectrum), I like the backing, especially the strummed acoustic guitar and the almost subliminal organ - quite authentic, I reckon.

I've already written about the great John Fogerty, the man who created the sound I've tried to capture on "Night of The Swamp Beast" (you can read that post here), but I was almost as big a fan of that other Swamp Rock giant, Tony Joe White, who popped up on Top of the Pops in 1970 with "Groupie Girl" but who had already made the big time in the US with "Polk Salad Annie", which had reached No. 8 there nine months after its release in 1969 (and which Elvis Presley went on to cover no less than five times on various albums - perhaps the drugs made him forget he'd already done it).

White had a pretty good run until the hits ran out in the late '70s. He eventually gave up performing and concentrated on song-writing. His fortunes revived when he produced Tina Turner's 1989 album, Foreign Affair, which included four of his compositions ("Steamy Windows" was the biggest hit - I prefer his own version). He returned to performing after that, and found himself back in the charts in 1991 with the very decent album Closer to the Truth, which I bought at the time - I was just delighted to see him back where he belonged.

My favourite White numbers are the very early "High Sherrif of Calhoun Parish" and "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" - two terrific story songs - and, from the latter part of his career (2003), the hauntingly delicate "Rico".

I reckon Tony Joe White was another of those solo American performers - like J.J. Cale - who Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler spent a lot of time listening to forty years ago - and probably still do.


  1. A really atmospheric sound and the whole song lifts when your solo with that tweaked patch kicks in. Rockabilly players will be tring to copy the parameters.

    Is this an appropriate time to say, 'So farewell then, Bert Weedon'? For many of us, this was our first exposure to the electric guitar from a 40 year old man with a dodgy ginger quiff, a wind-frozen grin and an already out of date hollow body jazz pedigree. Hank with his Burns and later his red and white Strat out-cooled him quickly, before we caught up with the US guys who really could play and felt embarrassed to have bought 'Ginchy'. Bert then made a second career for himself with appearances on childrens TV and his Play in a Day tutorials.

    The Bonzos, as ever, speak for us all when they say: "We are normal and we want our freedom. We are normal and we dig Bert Weedon".

  2. Funnily enough, I was also intending to quote from the Bonzos to mark Bert's death. But then I listened to his version of "Guitar Boogie" on YouTube and decided not to mention the event, as the backing is so cosmically British and crappy (his guitar's sort of okay). All his covers sound like he looked - strictly end of the pier, and duff and naff and making music for the pre-rock 'n' roll crowd (cut to shot of old folks unconsciously tapping their feet to Bert's "wild" beat). His records sound like they've been made by someone who has never actually heard any rock and roll instrumentals, but has had them described to him... oh well, you get my drift. Sorry he's gone - and he was an extremely amiable cove with no "side", and he was undoubtedly a stepping stone along the way - but at least he had a good innings. And "Ginchy" is probably the best thing he recorded - which is not saying a great deal!

    Thanks for your nice comments re the recording - I tried to get the John Fogerty sound (for some odd reason, he used to play a Gibson Les Paul), but reverted to rockabilly, having failed to quite capture it.

  3. You capture Bert and his Play in a Day style exactly.

    Russ Conway, Winifred Attwell, Karl Denver, Craig Douglas, Jess Conrad, the Hawaiian guitar of Wout Steinhuis, Jess Conrad, Eden Kane on Saturday Club and Easy Beat on the Light Programme...there really wasn't much competition for the Beatles and Stones at the time they started.

  4. Sadly, we will not be able to find a quote from the Bonzos to mark the passing of Levon Helm, although the question 'Can blue men play the whites?' would be answered with a cool and dismissive 'Yes'.

    The Band when I saw them in 1970 were a bit like like the 70's Dutch football team, with its total football approach. The nominal drummer, Levon, could play the mandolin and sing, the pianist Richard Manuel was also a drummer and singer, the bassist Rick Danko could sing and play guitar and Garth Hudson was as much at home on the accordion as he was sitting behind the mighty Albert Hall organ as he played Chest Fever. Robbie Robertson could play a mean Fender and never wasted a note. Three of them were song writers. Brilliant performers all.

    Surprisingly for all the critical acclaim only Robertson, by careful control of his royalties, ever made much money out of it, a source of some pain and bitterness later. But they had an influence way beyond that. King Harvest certainly came.