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The Riff Prevails


Off-topic Sunday with US correspondent, Serge Fabergé.


One has found much spare time now that cafe society has been restricted - even with the yoga, the sales of the special sourdough, binge-watching and building a motorcycle in the salle (Guided by this excellent 'How To Build A Motorcycle' book available on this very site no less) there has been time for cultural pursuits. Binge-watching Midsomer Murders has been pushed aside for revisiting and re-evaluating Bo Diddley, and he is indeed brilliant. Yes, he has basically one riff but it's really good one. Better than anything Dylan managed certainly, and in his own way he was more revolutionary than all of his contemporaneous cultural warriors.

For example, here in 1955 on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'. Four dapper black men bringing African rhythms and Chicago street corners in millions of American homes, all insouciant attitudes, maracas, and shimmering guitars.

1960. Not a particularly good year as far as music went, (the top two sellers were Percy Faith and Jim Reeves) so Bo sounds possibly more outrageous than five years before. The riff has become heavier and dirtier and there's the mighty Peggy Jones aka Lady Bo. A woman up front, rocking as hard as the boys but with a deadly sashay and tight shiny pants. The white boy on bass is living the life and helping invent the Rolling Stones.


1965. A decade on and the screaming kids know what going on. The show is slick, the suits slicker and there's the Bo-ettes with the Duchess, aka Ms. Norma Jean Wofford, on rhythm guitar and wigs. Musically it feels like Bo is feeling the future - there's disgruntled wildness like he's keying into what we now call garage rock...


Three years on and it's gone wild. Maybe not his best band (that drummer is either a last-minute replacement or stratospherically high) and not a great recording, but it's all there - the laviousness, the pure attitude, the theatrics and, of course, the riff. A mad, psyched-out version for the changing world, but the riff prevails...


FURTHER READING: GI has written a blog post about the Duchess back in 2017. Read Bo & the Duchess


#sergefaberge #music #1960s