I thought I needed a bit of energy today. The White Stripes are quite a strange duo. Drums and raw electric guitar. There was something raw and earthy that I liked about them. They had energy. I saw them live in Bridlington and they really rocked.
So today I will play some White Stripes.
History is littered with fulcrum points that turned things in different directions; it is littered with question marks and chance discoveries; it is full of moments of inspiration.
Son House is all of those. He met up with and taught Robert Johnson to play guitar. Robert Johnson was one of those pivotal points in the mid nineteen thirties which elevated Blues to a different level. That Blues fed into Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rock Music. So many Rock Bands owed a debt to Robert Johnson and Robert Johnson might not have been a musician if not for Son House.
Funny world isn’t it?
I’ve lived through the whole era of Rock Music and loved it from its inception to its present labouring death. I was lucky enough to witness Son House play and I can report that the experience was uplifting and amazing. I didn’t know who he was when he came on. He was someone special by the end of his performance but even I did not appreciate quite how significant the man was. I had witnessed the very beginning. It was like a scientist discovering the historic wisps of the Big Bang. He may have been in his seventies but the power still shone and lit up the universe. For me he was the primordial force in Blues music.
Son playing bottle-neck guitar on a magnificent National Steel. That was the guitar to play before amplification came along. It provided the power you needed to get over the noise in a crowded room or to draw the attention of a crowd when busking. Some say his style was crude but what it lacked in sophistication it certainly made up for in clout. Son’s crucial riffs took no prisoners; they rang out and assaulted your ears. He pounded and clawed at those strings eliciting the most glorious sounds. There is nothing quite like the force of the squealing strings of a well-played bottle-neck guitar. Son mainly used a copper tube to get the shrill effects but was not adverse to other means. His gravelly voice growled over the top of those riffs and told stories and tales. It was a rich voice full of the truth of a life well-lived.
Son had alternating between preaching and playing the devil’s music. The heavy drinking seems to have been an accompaniment to both. He also liked the ladies, gambling and had served a prison sentence in Parchman Farm for murder. As a young man he had roamed around with the other Mississippi great Charlie Patton. They must have been formidable.
Son’s songs told of the life he led and his most famous one ‘Death Letter Blues’, covered by hundreds from the Blues Band to the White Stripes, was concerned with the death of his young wife.
I was fortunate. Son was rediscovered in 1964 and paraded out in front of an admiring white audience. I was one of those fortunate enough to get a glimpse of history. I tell you it was awesome.