What is this Blues-Rock thing and why is it taking over the World?
(Asking for a Friend.)
Not that long ago Blues-Rock hadn't been invented. Nowadays, like a particularly virulent outbreak of measles, everyone who is anyone has caught it and it seems to be affecting the brains of musicians and their fans everywhere. You cannot get a rucksack and a tent together in one place these days unless you have your BR iD card with you.
Blues Rock now even has its own 'Official' Facebook page. What do you find there? Every band you have ever (or never) heard of simply using the page as yet another publicity outlet. Who is on their cover photo? That famous Rock Star Alexis Korner, FFS! If you read their rubbish 'About' notes you discover that “it's all about The Blues”.... Oh No It Isn't!
Want to start a band and have no idea what to play? Join the BR club. Wanna play recycled fast shit that gives the guitarist space to flash his credentials? Rock crazy but wanna play some slow stuff? Sign here. Not very good at playing slow stuff, with feeling, passion, atmosphere and skill? BR.com is bound to have an “app” that will fit into your rock-effects box. Tick those boxes? Then, you can join the other six sodding million 'blues rock' bands currently Clogging Up Festivals and Pubs all over the UK. I suspect by now that there are bands out there who even specialise in 'blues-rock covers' so that they can dress up as anyone in blues or rock history and twirl a mic stand - which will, of course, make them even better musicians....
I am turning into a Confused Outsider but I still have lucid moments when I continue to believe that a rock band is not a blues band. Just call yourself a band for heaven's sake. Lord, Please Deliver me from This Pestilence.
What's it all about then? I am getting as Mad as Hell I can tell you, and soon I am going start banging my saucepans on the windowsill which, by the way, is one of the things they do to great effect in Europe when they think stuff is total shit.......
There was a time, not too far distant, where there were many fine rock bands. I mean really good talented bands that could shake a building with their grooves and would get the audience on their feet. They wrote a huge stack of original stuff and often refined their music to its most elemental kick-arse basics. Chuck and Keef have been known to fight about it. Some picked up 'rock 'n roll' and ran with it; Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard fought with everybody about who was The Killer; some just polished the rock bit and invested in some show-boating clothes and some just sneaked off to Rockabilly Land where fans could both rock and wear gelled hair and starched petticoats. Crikey we all sure knew where we stood with Big Rock Bands. Big hair, tight trousers and a couple of pantechnicons packed with Marshalls and roadies was a pretty clear statement of intent.
Now don't misunderstand me. I know that there are great bands out there who don't use that handy naming device and still sell-out gigs wherever they go. There are thousands of bands who are just bands and they rock. (Some readers are going to be really pissed off that I am not naming any of their bands - my insurance won't cover the consequences).
I think my current problem lies with the need that many music fans have of always trying to fit music into boxes or genres (and blues fans are one of the worst at this insistence). Not long ago The Hat wrote a piece about this box-labelling disease and gave a few examples of how stupid and pointless it is. (it's here for you to read again). My contention is that bands labelling themselves thus these days seldom give anything but a token nod to the blues – and blues fans who go to these gigs tend to go in order to be rocked off their arses rather than to listen to any musical revelations involving the blues.
Why oh Why would you want to be boxed anyway?
Of course, many blues aficionados don't need or want to be given a ridiculous catch-all title. I kinda like the 'broad church' idea, which covers everything from purist and mainstream to the independent tricky make-you-think edgy fringe. Why would you want to box these musicians – where do you put the flutes, the loops and the cigar boxes, the saxophones and those occasional wonderful and original left field vocals? The idea of one or more of these popping up as a 'blues rock' band headliner is a bit remote. Yeah, I know that some rock bands can and do make that occasional jump (don't write and tell me who they are – I already know) but they are few and far between. If it happened regularly, the sound of clapping would be quickly replaced by the noise of some resounding WhatTheFuck/Where's The Rock ?' Blues fans meanwhile can stay comfortable in the arms of their 'broad church' where the mad interesting creative independents can start a punch-up with the blues heritage traditionalists and everybody knows where they stand.
Ok. Feel free to disagree but The Hat is not convinced that there is such a thing as 'Blues-Rock' any more than my Dad's ceilidh violin was folk-jive-blues-rock.
Read My Lips...They are not the Blues Messiahs...they are just a Rock Band.
It is just a convenient name for a Rock Band that occasionally plays a slow blues number to show their fans that they can do other stuff. Stopping off mid-set for yet another bendy string 'I'd rather go blind' as a showy guitar solo doesn't turn a rock band into a blues-rock band. Honest, guv, I actually quite like some bands that call themselves a blues-rock band. I just think that the name is a pointless, catch-all, misleading and a confusing pox on the music scene that should be extinguished - before it takes over the whole world and every band is an Effing Blues Rock Band. Time we put on our yellow vests, trouser some paving stones and petition someone....
The Blues Man in The Hat