ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD

One of the delights of blogging is the sense of sharing interests and passions with people around the globe. This is especially true of music with its capacity to cross boundaries, cultures and even language. Now and then I’ll bring up the map of the world showing number of views (by country) depicted in varying shades of pink. The numbers may be modest but the spread is fascinating.

Naturally enough, the big players are the writer’s country and the home of the brave, followed by other english-speaking lands (including, at a stretch, Wales). But who would have thought that Brazil would edge New Zealand out of the top ten? Or that Indonesia and Ireland are locked in an arm wrestle at 36th?

A while ago while browsing through the weekly totals, clicking on each little bar and glancing at the country list corresponding to that chunk of time I noticed something interesting. I’d expected that pretty much every ladder would be topped by either Australia or the USA but to my surprise and delight, it was not so. Sure, those two dominate, but there was much more variety than expected. An idea for a new series* was born.

What about a series of posts, I thought, highlighting an album from the country that topped the views for a particular week? It would honour the readers from that country and prompt further delving into the Vinyl Connection collection. Let’s do it!

Where to start? It has to be the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock and roll, doesn’t it?

January 2019

Without embarking on a long and complicated history of popular music, it is worth remembering how the sixties blues revival in the US was sparked not by American musicians, but by British bands like the Rolling Stones who “discovered”, admired and copied the blues greats, then took the music back to its roots.

This is wonderfully illustrated by the classic story from the Stones first ever visit to the US. With some excitement, they asked reporters about the whereabouts of Muddy Waters, a major influence and provider of the band’s name, assuming that such a key blues figure would be well known. To their dismay, one of the reporters asked, “Muddy Waters? Where’s that?”.

Ultimately, however, the welcome result of this export/import process was rediscovery and reappraisal of America’s blues roots. 

One young music scholar with a penchant for the blues was Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, a young white man from Massachusetts who co-founded Canned heat with fellow record collector Bob Hite. Canned Heat had considerable success in the late sixties with hits including “On the Road Again” and “Goin’ Up the Country”. Their enthusiasm for—nay, devotion to—the blues was well known, leading to a connection with country blues legend John Lee Hooker. At that time, Hooker was not known for the chooglin’ boogie that so informed Canned Heat’s music. John Lee usually performed and recorded with his guitar, an old amp, and a wooden floor to stomp on. But that did not deter Wilson, Hite and their fellow Heat members from setting up a recording date in May 1970 to accompany John Lee Hooker on a new recording.

The result was Hooker ’n Heat, a double album that showcases the blues legend with a vigour and immediacy that is palpable some fifty years on. The respect Wilson et al had for Mr Hooker is amply demonstrated in both the title and the music of this fabulous album. Placing Hooker’s name first was a clear mark of respect. Giving him most of the first record as an (almost) solo platform was an act of generosity and acknowledgement. Ironically, it began a steady rise in popularity for the bluesman that was not reflected in the career of Canned Heat. But that’s another story.

Hooker’s sparse, rhythmic boogie shines on the ten songs of the first disc. His unique style is front and centre. As Pete Welding observed in the liner notes to the 1991 re-issue,

John Lee was not the easiest performer to accompany; he stretched lines out beyond their expected length, changed chords only and when he was moved to, extemporised lines, phrases and whole choruses, and so on. Hooker’s approach to music was extraordinarily spontaneous and fluid.

Yet the accompaniment by members of the Heat is consistently deft, enhancing the songs with Wilson’s subtle harmonica or, later in the set, Henry Vestin’s guitar.

Across the two discs, there is a slow but steady increase in intensity as Wilson adds piano as well as harmonica before the whole band lurches into “Whiskey and Wimmen’”, the third cut on disc two. It’s here that we really get to hear the infectious boogie that Hooker is often remembered for (as, indeed, are Canned Heat!). “Let’s Make It” struts, “Just You and Me” moans and sways (and Vestine shines)… The album climax is the eleven minute version of signature Hooker tune “Boogie Chillen No.2” which cooks like well-stocked barbecue. If your feet aren’t stomping in time by this point, Jack you dead.

Hooker ’n Heat is a timeless blues album that bridges the past (Hooker’s country blues) with late-60s blues-rock, influencing much music that followed. Definitely one of those 101 More Albums You Need To Hear Before You Turntable Dies.**

This one’s worth checking out too.

* Vinyl Connection is known for beginning lots and lots of series/themes with a flourish, series which inevitably peter out well before the material is exhausted. I blame the need for gainful employment (and a magpie like capacity to be distracted by shiny objects).

** A new page (just under the banner, or here) has been added to collect these posts. Have a look and tell me what you think!

28 comments

  1. I think that’s a great idea for a new series.

    I also like the album you highlighted in your inaugural post. Even though I dig the blues, I did not know that particular record.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Christian. Hope to do a few of these!
      Check out Hooker ‘n Heat. It’s a good one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll be curious to see what you’ll come with for countries like Japan and India.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good idea! Let that boy boogie-woogie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s in him, it’s gotta come out of him.
      Cheers Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. New Zealand not in the top ten? I’m clearly not visiting enough.

    Last week my top five included South Africa, Portugal, and Australia, along with USA and UK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, lift your game, Graham!
      Portugal is cool, though finding an LP might be a challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your stats are interesting – you get a ton of visits from Australia. You get really high page views per visitor too – it’s surprising Google doesn’t notice that and toss you more traffic.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. These things are a mystery, Graham.
          But can I take this opportunity to say that I would dearly love to do one (or more) NZ posts in this series. So get spruiking, mate!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Dude, you post some big numbers on your blog. I once did a post about the blogging map. My focus was on why the #$@% no one from Greenland ever visited my blog. Now I see no one has visited your blog as well. What goes on in Greenland? I checked Wikipedia, people do live there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was wondering about Greenland too, Jeff. Should we amble over and check it out? Or devise some Greenland-centric posts?
      (Those big figs are from the entire life of the blog, mate.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually put some Greenland-centric tags in a post once. Then I decided that was cheating. Once Donald Trump finishes his Greenland deal, it will turn pink for us both.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If that happened, the people of Greenland would definitely need some cheering up!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Bruce, permission to use several exclamation marks to convey my excitement!
    1. I’m delighted to see Canada in 4th place on both lists. I’m not sure if my brother-in-law coined the term “Canada Bronze” – but our country tends to end up with a lot of 4th place finishes at the olympics, so 4th place became known as the Canada Bronze!
    2. Stats & Geography to determine a new series? Fun!
    3. On my way to check out the new page!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1. Canada WILL be featured at some point. Gold! Hurrah!
      2. I thought it was a neat idea and others seem to agree. Ain’t that great?
      3. Thanks a lot for your useful feedback, Geoff. Appreciate it.
      – Bruce

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This post is timely. I was looking over my Stats about 2 days ago and I counted 168 countries have shown up to my site in 2019 and there are around 195 countries in the world. I was surprised by how I have almost hit every country. Still 3+ months to go to see if I can make it in to every country!! Looking forward to your new series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly is fascinating. I’ve had views from countries I’ve never heard of! By the way, you are well ahead of Vinyl Connection on number of countries in the last 12 months. The tally here is a paltry 110 countries.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is the interesting part about it. My geography skills are improving. And strangely, my India views have really picked up over the last month. Have no reason why.

        Now you are over 1/2 to getting all of them. There is still time.

        Like

  7. Just gave Hite a nod in a recent take. I mention Hooker all the time. Lo and behold you bring them together. They did tap into some good stuff together and individually. CB is a child of the world so he is into anything you put out.

    Like

  8. Great idea for some posts, Bruce. I often stare at my stats and try to find some connection within them, but have never been able to do so. I once woke up to see 16 hits from Japan overnight, which totally amazed me. Then about two weeks later I received an email from an old college friend who told me he had recently traveled to… you guessed it, Tokyo! That kind of punctured my balloon a bit, but I was still glad he’s reading the blog. 🙂

    Canned Heat never gets their due. Glad you shined a light on them today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Marty. And yes, the stats are often mystifying. I’ve had that exact same experience as you – an odd little spike that was later revealed to be a regular reader travelling. Kinda nice, that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Didn’t someone once proclaim that it was to peter out than to fade away? Well, they should have then.

    Like

  10. You crossed my mind yesterday, and I thought: ‘Hmmm, Bruce hasn’t posted on VC in a while…I wonder what’s up?’ Came to your site to make sure I hadn’t missed anything recent. I love the stats and geography series idea: a great addition to your musical quiver!

    Like

  11. I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, but I enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to more in the series.

    This album ticks all the boxes for me, y’know. I’ll be checking it out pronto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Might be a bit of a wait, James. Blogging seems to be on hold at present. But glad you like the concept. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Carson Maitland - Smith · · Reply

    I’m going to my 11th Wiggles concert on December 7th
    💜❤️
    💛💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hot Potato! That’s a fine effort.

      Like

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