RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO, Chapter 10 – Some Rock & Blues History: Ronnie the Song Writer
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AN AFTERWORD WITH A RHYTHM & BLUES MAN – 18 Feb 2010
I took this book, and visited Ronnie B, who has played with every band, and sung in all the bars; his fingers jingle with big silver rings.
I hoped he might tell me some more about the 1960s musical scene. Afterwards I found the lyrics online for Red Rooster and Why do Fools Fall in Love, which he spoke of.
First, he said, “You know, I was looking all over the house just now, for the music of“Your Song” – Bernie Taupin wrote it – Elton John’s big hit – when he was only 15. Bernie and Elton … “
It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money, but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live.
If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you.
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.
I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song.
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on.
So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You’ll see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.
“You know,” he went on, “all the Stones’ early album songs were covers – other people’s songs. Then Mick and Richard had to start writing their own. Think what that was like – black virgin ground!”
LITTLE RED ROOSTER (The lyrics, pre-Rolling Stones)
I got a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow the day
Keeps everything in the barnyard
Upset in every way.
Well if you see my little red rooster
Please drive him home
Ain’t been no peace in the barnyard
Since my little red rooster’s been gone.
Well all the dogs begin to bark
and all the hounds begin to howl
Watch out strange kin people
Little red rooster’s on the prowl.
Hey there, little red rooster
You ain’t shit to me
You think you’re a stud, boy
Well I doubt, I doubt you’ll ever be.
While you’re away, I’m gonna fuck with your henhouse
I’m just being neighbourly.
(1) this is an additional verse, sung by Brent Mydland. The lyrics and music are by Willie Dixon, but could also be Griffin and Day. Little Red Rooster was banned by US radio stations over its supposed sexual innuendo. Willie Dixon also wrote I Just Want to make Love to You.
Ronnie continued: “1955 – 1963 ; the white kids discovered the black heroes – their music had been kept apart from us by segregation. The Mods began to say – don’t listen to that generation government – I like this music!
The US racist government tried to squash rock n’roll. They put Elvis in the army – he had a pure black voice, deep south – they sent Little Richard to church, and they sent Chuck Berry to prison for screwing a thirteen year old girl; and Jerry Lee Lewis got married. He was white, but born in Louisiana – they all thought he was black. And Buddy Holly died at 27 – in R&B, twenty-seven is the age to die – “That’ll be the Day”: – remember Eddie Cochran? – the first white band to appear at Harlem Apollo – and all the kids went to the Chuck Berry concerts – the establishment said “There is no black problem” – they were in denial.
You know Elvis’s hit, Heartbreak Hotel was written by a black woman? It’s a sheer, raw, blues-picker number.
“The first song I ever heard was Why Do Fools Fall in Love? I was thirteen. I wish I could find it now …”
oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do birds sing so gay?
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love?
Why does the rain fall from above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love?
Love is a losing game
Love can ashame
I know of a fool
for that fool is me.
Tell me why, Whyyyy, Whyyy Tell me why … (Background music)
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day?
Why do they fall in love?
Why does my heart skip a crazy beat?
Before I know it will reach defeat!
Tell me why, Whyyy, Whyy
Why do fools fall in love? … (Hold Long)
(Here’s a U-TUBE EXCERPT from 1956 Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers – their first radio broadcast on the Frankie Lane Show:
Laine: You were only 13, when you wrote this big hit.
Lymon: Well Mr Laine, one day I was dressing, and an Inspiration came to me.
Laine: What was the inspiration?
Lymon I needed a new suit!
Laine Tell me, what does a 13 year old boy know about love?
Lymon Well Mr Laine, I been falling in love since I was five, but I been a fool about it since I was eleven.
Laine You only had two rough years then, but I go all the way back to Brian Murphy. So. You ready to rock and roll? That means I gotta get lost, huh?
Lymon That’s it.)
Ronnie: “The teenagers hadn’t heard or been told the Blacks were a bad thing. For the Who, it was My Generation. So in the States, the music establishment tried to replace the black music with sound-alikes – you know, they replaced Rock n’Roll with Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Fabian, these watered-down types – Telstar. Telstar made copies of hits on the cheap. Real whitewash rubbish – and over here they sold us Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Billy Fury, and the ballads – Matt Monro, yeah.
“The EARTH of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard which you could smell, was gone: and replaced by plastic. It was deadly.
“But they hadn’t reckoned on a sleeping giant called Teenager, had they? The Beatles, playing clubs in Hamburg, word got round – Buddy Holly was Lennon’s hero, and Chuck Berry was McCartney’s hero – and the record companies did their best to block Brian Epstein by saying the four piece bands were out, no one wanted them. But Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, they all crossed the pond, they came over here – they were the KINGS from Chicago, the centre, that’s where the electric blues music was made.
“And the new, young English bands latched onto the black music. and played it in the clubs –”
… (While Ronnie was speaking, I reflected … 1960s, flower opens, scarlet in the field, black centre, poppy seeds … )
“… because the only music left to listen to by then, was jazz. The jazz was the acceptable mainline black music played in clubs all over London, and in the Railway Hotels … Kingston Station Hotel … The kids went for the modern jazz, and skiffle. The older ones went more for the Trad jazz – Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball.
“Brighton was hipper than London, those days. None of us had gone into central London yet. Central London was just a brothel. The suburbs bred the Mods. And in Bognor they were – we called them the Kissers!
“What’s skiffle? Well, it was based on home-made country blues, guitars or banjo, plus percussion – a washboard and your nails. In the early 1960s, there was no pop music yet. The scene was Adam Faith – the boy next door, all cleaned up. But London had the Marquee and the Flamingo – six nights jazz, Thursday R&B – Alexis Korner, and you know Rod Stewart – when I first played with him, he couldn’t sing – still can’t, he’s the first to say so – but could he do the blues! Long John Baldry discovered him. And you know the Railway Tav, here in West Hampstead? That was the Klooks Kleek – it was massive, it backed right into what is now the English National Opera house. Everyone played there! The Graham Bond Organisation – John Mayall – Eric Clapton was his guitarist.
“So that was the beginning of the blues revolution.
“These songs weren’t on the radio, they weren’t hits. The Mods went for it – then first the Beatles and then the Stones BROKE OUT! – the Beatles came back from Hamburg, and they played in the Cavern – and the Stones played in the Crawdaddy – about the time Lennon and McCartney wrote their song – not a cover this time – With Love From Me to You. And Brian Epstein went after Decca, and they turned it down, and you know, they never lived it down. Know the story “What’s the difference between Decca and the Titanic? – the Titanic had a good band!” But the word given out was: “Guitar groups are on their way out.”
“The Beatles’ first album was all covers, all black music. They hit the charts with a cool “New Music” number – Please Please Me. It was REAL, see?. Jagger and Richards started with Chuck Berry’s Come On. The Last Time was a cover, too. The Who were also playing covers. Then they went for a meeting with their record company – “Time you started writing songs.” You can see them filing out from that little office in Carnaby Street – “Who’s gonna write the songs?” – they chose Pete!
“Yeah, I remember those guys – John Mayall, Alexis Corner – they did jingles with me: and Geno Washington, Graham Bond. Georgie Fame. He’s pickled in it. The blues carried on with Cream and Hendrix The pop carried on with the Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks. And the Motown empire got built – at last they were getting some fucking respect! – promoting black music from its source – R&B, funk and soul. R&B went the black route. Wilson Pickett, a popular gospel singer, led the way for the Mod movement. And as for us Brits, so we were ruling the waves!
“And the American government gave in – ‘We might make some money out of this …’
I jotted down also, Ronnie’s comments on my Taunton Black drawings, as he went through the book: his feedback from inside the business, and the associations which the drawings triggered in his personal history, fascinated me:
Viola “Space around the notes? Yeah. When you hear each one. Soul is the gap between the black dots.”
Shoppers and Juvenile & Adult: “I’d want this on my wall, just as it is, with all the scratch marks and smudges. You know how they airbrush everything these days?”
Honky Tonk “You should say, ‘The Joanna is a working girl.’”
Swinging Blue Jeans: Good golly Miss Molly – “can you hear your mama call? This EXPLODED up my line! It’s in my system, like my first shag, fancy finding it here. But shakin’ and a shoutin’ isn’t in Little Richard’s lyrics – perhaps the Swinging Blue Jeans added this. I been looking all over for the Little Richard original. You’ve got to hear the opening piano riff … I love this drawing. Look at the energy.”
(It’s on Polygram records – Little Richard is the King.)
The Angel Caff. “Now, this means something to me, like the Impressionists. It’s surreal! Look – like this Renoir.” (He fetched an early Renoir crowd scene postcard – one of my old favorites too.)
Manfred and Harriet: “That’s Neil Young. Recognise him?”
Doo Wa Diddy. “There’s Paul Jones. He is steeped in the blues. Lovely guy. I’ve played with him many times. He’s fallen in love with God.”
All Over Now “South west London – the Crawdaddy in Richmond – now, that was the Mod movement centre. These kids liked to hear the black roots music, the blues. Later on, the funk – James Brown, Dylan, Bowie. Bowie, he just did his own thing. He’s cool.”
“You know? These are cave paintings. It’s like you go in there, and you draw them on the wall. I’m knocked out. I just know what I like, and I can’t say why I like this so much, and want it on my wall – “
Pig Market Lane: “It’s like, you know he’ll get there, through the tunnel, but HOW? The way you’ve funneled the perspective – it’s a dream feeling. And you got to follow him through, or else!”
Public Bench – “That’s my dad! And my mum – the glasses, and the knitting. The library one doesn’t do anything for me.”
Encounter: “I kept running into those two guys on Mykonos selling drugs. They are dealers.”
Pub Confessor: “My God.”
Jukebox Carlisle: “I went out with her! Hey, Joanie! This place in Sutton. What the fuck were you doing up there in Carlisle? Look at the jukebox! Hey, come back and hear mine.”
Stark Bar & Rain Streetlight: “And where you been hiding all these years? We coulda made a fortune.”
Mods and “Rap Blues Lick”: “Now all of blues and all the music to follow, is based on just those three chords. Funk, rap and hip-hop are projections of the same twelve-bar blues. There’s been nothing new, since. And you should say ‘twelve bar shuffle to the lick’, not “for” – it sounds better I think. So find out who it was, which store that Debenhams in Taunton kicked out? Ring them up!”
Brick on Brick: “This is surreal. I don’t know why it works on me.”
Cambridge Rag Week 3: “Yeah, I was about to say – This is darkest Whitechapel. Dickens.”
Swan House Hotel: “They’re having a shag! Ha ha”
Don’t Bring Me Down “She’s had an overdose, he’s trying to pull her out of it. That’s Neil Young again – Keep me searching, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold …”
She Was Untrue: “I told you not to take that stuff …”
La Ronde. “Now, where have I come across that? Was she a French floozie? Jesus! Wasn’t there a La Ronde disco – Oasis, Liam Gallagher …? La Ronde, huh!”
Hitch Hikers : “These guys are younger and nice. The other ones back there, not nice at all. These ones are just learning – they’re not selling drugs yet. I saw them on Mykonos, too.”
The “Shyama” bar in London: “Now, I know that place. I been there. Off Shaftesbury Avenue? This guy here, he’s a SPIV. Ah, I know where this is – ALITALIA, the coolest cappuccino joint in Soho.”
“And this next one – Night Romance. It’s like a movie.
And that piano player! Hah! Ha! Ha!”
Hey, want to hear my Wurlitzer juke box? Yeah, whatever you want, babe.”
RONNIE THE SONG WRITER
From “Rings on her Fingers”
Where do you bury your treasure, your secret supply
You give such pleasure my senses run dry
You go to the limit that one man can take
And minute on minute, I swim in your lake.
You wear rings on your fingers and bells on your toes
You shall have music wherever you go
Show me everything and I’ll do you a deal
I’ll show you you, it’s you I’ll reveal.
You’ve got me flying round heaven with no port of call
In sixes and sevens, we’re out of control
We’re drowning in wonder, we’re swimming in dreams
We’re close to coming apart at the seams.
Oh I’ll reveal you and show you your worth
I will reveal you, chapter and verse
No need to conceal you, it’s you I’ll unfold,
I’ll show you you, body and soul.
Ronnie Bond/Paul Taylor
From “I’ll Take the Wheel”
Have you been hiding, for most of your life,
Nobody guiding, or putting you right
We may be strangers, but my love is real +
You take me flying, and I’ll take the wheel …
From “My Way Home”
I’ve counted all the stars, I’ve played in all the bars
I’ve driven all the cars, while I looked for you.
I’ve wandered down the aisle, I’ve tried out every style,
I’ve walked the magic mile, while I looked for you.
I’ve unearthed dreams of old, I’ve come in from the cold
I’ve made friends with my soul, while I looked for you,
and I never knew your name, but I knew you just the same.
You were always on my mind, didn’t know it at the time.
And my eyes opened when my walls were broken,
I’m on receiving, now you’re leading,
and my soul drew you, cos my soul knew you,
When I ran to you, I found my way home.
Ronnie Bond/Jane Adams