Wednesday, May 6, 2020


This is becoming topical, as the thoughts of our leaders turn to whether we, the great unwashed, albeit with very clean hands, can or should be crushed by the restarting wheels of industry. Which is more important, survival of the species or of the economy? With, as ever, the failure to appreciate the fairly solid link between the two. Maybe by both sides, but I am simply a medic, not a businessman. As I start writing, the Observer Sunday newspaper over here, the U.K., has published an opinion poll, stating a 4/5 majority wanting to err on the side of caution and to maintain the lockdown. However, many of the politicians are in the smaller subset, it seems and feels, with Boris uncharacteristically unforthcoming, with perhaps his throw of the dice having given him an unwelcome perspective, absent ahead of his hospitalisation. Anyway, one of the ideas out of lockdown is a concept of family 'bubbles', a named small list of family/friends with whom you may consort. So, who do you love? Enough?

The song is by Bo Diddley, the owlish rocker with glasses, often a bowler hat, funny shaped guitars and an unshakeable self-belief. Always looking for ways to aggrandise himself against his peers, the idea came to him as he witnessed a group of kids trying to outbrag each other. Full of arcane images to conjure up dread and a sense of mystery: rattlesnakes, skulls and graveyards, by showing he is the biggest baddest Daddy of all, he begs the question of his lover: Who do you love? With but one expected answer. Covered so many times over the years, I am sure we all think we know it, so the original may come as some surprise:

Bo Diddley

It doesn't even carry much of the trademark Diddley shuffle. That would come later. And it wasn't even a hit, at least for Bo. It took Ronnie Hawkins, the journeyman Canadian rocker, to get it charting, admittedly in his home country. The vocal is all swagger, dipping into a manic frenzy at each verse/chorus end. Not bad for 1963. Name mean anything? Ronnie Hawkins. And the Hawks. Yup, I can see that glimmer of recognition. Those Hawks, later the Band, with incendiary guitar from Robbie Robertson.This they reprised, with Hawkins, at their own zenith, for The Last Waltz.

Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks

Fast forward another five years, and we are in San Francisco. Local hipsters the Quicksilver Messenger Service were so taken with the song it became the entire second side of their second album, extends and interpreted into six separate "suites, blending live performance with studio work-outs. Indeed, so keen were the band on Diddley, they included another of his songs, Mona, on the flip.   With twin lead guitars and access to all sorts of stimulants, this was a heady and ambitious project. Arguably no small amount of pretension but, hey, it was 1968.

Quicksilver Messenger Service

I confess I knew none of these versions as they dropped, my first exposure being via short-lived UK rockers, Juicy Lucy. I was 12 and found their 1969 rendition, as ever on Top of the Pops, sinister and exciting. This group were unusual for this country in that they included pedal steel guitar, via one Glenn Campbell, not that one and no relation. Sadly it has dated badly, and my rifle back into their catalogue prove disappointing likewise.

Juicy Lucy

Now I am all grown up, my tastes have broadened and I especially love covers. So, rather than penning words, here's some of my favourites, not all from expected sources.

Townes Van Zandt

Tom Rush

Carlos Santana (with the Fabulous Thunderbirds)

Dr. Feelgood

Dion DiMucci

So, decision time, who do I love? Who's going to be in my bubble? And how do make it happen?


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