I was listening to a live radio broadcast on HCR104fm of the Huntingdon Christmas Lights switch on which we are hosting. One of the live acts was playing the Blues standard “Sweet Home Chicago” and when they finished playing they back announced it as Sweet Home Chicago by the Blues Brothers. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!
Ok, yes the Blues Brothers did play a version of this song but they are one name on a very long list that includes the likes of:
and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Sweet Home Chicago is a song by Robert Johnson not any of those named above least of all the Blues Brothers. This kind of thing winds me up. If you are going to cover someone elses song, the least you can do is know whose song it is. I am especially surprised at this from a Blues band as people who like the Blues usually study the form in quite some detail and most will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Blues.
Now some might say “so what?, they got the artist wrong.” but I am not exactly talking about some obscure Blues player now, I am talking about Robert Johnson, one of the most legendary and influential Blues players that ever existed and arguably one of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the six string. For those of you who need some educating, Robert Johnson is the blues player who, legend has it, took himself down to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for phenomenal guitar skills. He recorded the song in 1936 and the melody dates back even further and was a standard in itself even at that point.
Anyway, I digress, I have seen this a number of times and not only from bands but fans as well. There was the funny scenario a few years back where, that T.V No Talent Show decided that the winner would release a cover of Hallelujah. This led to an outcry from fans who started a rival campaign to have the original version by… Jeff Buckley… to the Christmas number one spot. WRONG! The original was by Leonard Cohen. There are lots of examples I could go into and most of them on the fan side of things are forgiveable I guess. There are plenty of cover versions that have gone on to greater success and are some times even better than the original and if that original was recorded decades before you were born then I can see how it is sometimes easy to mistake a cover for an original. Perfect examples of this include, Hey Joe or All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix – covers of Billy Roberts and Bob Dylan respectively or House of the Rising Sun by the Animals (actually: Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster), Black Magic Woman by Santana (actually Fleetwood Mac) or Hound Dog by Elvis Presley (actually Big Mama Thornton). These are forgiveable but for a band to cover a song and not to have bothered to do some research on who wrote it and what it’s meaning is really bugs me, I do really think that bands should show a bit more respect and know their shit when they get up on stage to play someone else’s song.
The same goes for wearing a bands t-shirt. If you are going to wear a bands t-shirt, you better know your shit because I am going to quiz you on it. Too often you see teeny boppers walking round in Ramones T-shirts but if you ask them to name the members of the band they can’t do it and their names are even LISTED ON THE BLOODY T-SHIRT. The same seems to be the case for AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, The Clash and t-shirts for a handful of other bands. You see these t-shirts on sale in those horrible High Street clothing shops and they are picked up by all sorts of people that are trying for that kind of homogenized, safe but slightly edgy looking High Street rocker/punk look. In most cases they have never listened to the band let alone know anything about them except for the fact they existed at some point.
This really winds me up, band t-shirts are a badge of honour, they give people an instant snap shot of some of the kind of music you like, your possible philosophies in live (depending on the band) and signal you out as a brother/sister in arms or at least someone you can instantly strike up a conversation with. Too many times, I have been stood at a bar turned round and seen someone wearing a t-shirt of a band I like so I try to start up a conversation with them only to have them look at me blankly and say something like “what the hell are you going on about mate”, you then apologise and say that you noticed their t-shirt only for them to say “oh, that, I just liked the look of it”. I even had one person say to me, about the Jam t-shirt they were wearing, “well their an old band and I’m only 19 so how could I know anything about them”. THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU WEARING THE T-SHIRT? The internet could tell you anything you wanted to know about them in about 5 mins as well as provide you with their entire discography (not that I condone the downloading of music at all even if it is legal) for you to listen to.
T-shirts and other merchandise are sacred and special to us true fans, they are our equivalent of football shirts, we wear them because we support the music and the bands that play it. All you teeny bopper, fashion chasers and anyone else with not a single minute interest in the music, please kindly fuck off and leave our t-shirts alone and if I see you in one, you better know your shit because I will be testing you and there will be consequences.
So please, if you are going to pay tribute to a band, either musically through cover songs, or by wearing their t-shirts, patches, hoodies or bags, please know your shit.
Turn on, Tune in and Rock out!