Skronking Down the House with Bo Diddley

Chris Lehmann sends me this video, which is going to be in some pretty heavy rotation around here for a while yet....

Is it just me, or does this sound almost No Wave at a couple of points?

June 3, 2008 4:37 PM | | Comments (5)



You're on to something there. I love how messy the guitar tone is on this track--it sprays sound the way Glenn Branca or Rhys Chatham did. That said, neither of those guys had Diddley's sense of rhythm--and I can't think of a No Wave track that employed cowbell. (Perhaps a question for Marc Masters, who recently put out an excellent guide to the genre/scene.)

Thanks, Mark. I didn't know there was a book but will make it a priority to track it down.

There's something rhythmic about DNA (everything but the guitar) but you're right, nothing close to this. What you notice about the guitar tone is what I had in mind.

Also, of course, the fact that Bo was willing to go to town for a while on one chord.

Imminent chaos barely held at bay has long been an appeal of some rock acts. It's rarely, truly conveyed by their recordings. Like the way Bo shone live. The Who. X. The Velvets. The Clash. Nirvana. In some cases, of course, it's not just the "performative moment" that has them hanging out there. It's the feuds and angers within the band. But that's another reason this clip is kind of incredible, how much of a solo effort it seems. Bo's sound is so huge and ragged, and I was stunned to see that there even was a pianist involved.


I think you bring up a good point about the no wave connection. The vid you posted is incredible.

Diddley's an artist I had always avoided because he always seemed like a "classic"-type artists my parents would've liked, hence I stubbornly and unfortunately avoided him 'til folks such as yourself posted videos like the one above.

The video I saw/received that blew me away, was one maybe recorded a decade before the one you posted above:

if your comments don't allow embedding.

Specifically, what surprises me about Diddley's guitar style at that YouTube URL is the savvy, precocious sense he has of the guitar's percussive effects when amplified through electronic distortion. The black & white clip I just linked to is just incredibly heavy, palm-muted, chugga-chugga, chikka chikka, percussive-type heaviness that is downright near proto-metal, way before metal and/or punk bands would employ rhythm guitarists whose duties were to basically chug along percussively with the rhythm section. Diddley seemed to already be doing that, and at a time when Sun Records-influenced artists (God bless'em, I like those guys, too) saw the guitar more in terms of Western twang -- or surf-style twang -- than in producing the kind of bull-headed chug Diddley goes after in the vid you posted and in the vid I just linked to. It has a lot of crunching "stomp" to it than you rarely hear in anything else at that time period.

I am no blues expert by any means but on the acoustic front Son House did a lot of heavy, percussive guitar work -- from my admittedly limited listening -- that somehow reminds me of ths. Diddley, however, has a really advanced sense of the power that the *electric* guitar guitar, combined with adequate distortion, can deliver. At least from the few vids I've seen where Diddley gets really chunky on the fretboard.

Also, another note about the vid I just inked to: one of the 3 "choir girls" singing in front of Diddley -- one is also playing a cool, space age-looking guitar, kinda rare, from all I've seen. And she's quite cute! :)

Scott, Imagine seeing Bo do this act in a little bar/nightclub. I saw him in the late 80s in a bar in Philly, JC Dobbs, where 50 people would make the place seem crowded. We stayed to watch both of his sets (although we had only bought tickets for the first one). At the time, we thought, he would be one of those old guys, still able to play, but nothing like his younger self. We were wrong. He blew the roof off. I remember my friends and I looking at each other with our mouths agape. One of the best rocknroll shows I ever saw.

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This page contains a single entry by Quick Study published on June 3, 2008 4:37 PM.

Bo Diddley (1928-2008) was the previous entry in this blog.

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