A teenage summertime love affair with a foreign exchange student was the inspiration for this song by Wishbone Ash. Though overlooked in the US, Wishbone Ash reached #3 on the UK charts with the album Argus, which features “Blowin’ Free”. Wishbone Ash’s twin lead guitar sound would inspire many band that followed.

Wishbone Ash – “Blowin’ Free” (Martin Turner, Andy Powell, Ted Turner, Steve Upton) Copyright 1972 Colgems Music Corp./Blackclaw Music Inc – ASCAP

— This show is just one of many great Rock Podcasts on the Pantheon Podcasts network. Gotta catch ’em all!  


Hey, it’s Brad Page. I’m back in the studio, powering up the mics and cranking up the headphones because it’s time for another episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, here on the Pantheon Podcast Network. Each episode of the show, we take a song and look at it from every angle, trying to get a handle on what makes a song work. No musical knowledge is required here– you don’t have to be technical, all you got to do is listen.

This time around we are listening to a track from a band that was big in Europe and the UK, but just never really caught on here in America. This is Wishbone Ash with “Blowing Free”.

Wishbone Ash came together in 1969 with Andy Powell and Ted Turner on guitars, Martin Turner on bass and Steve Upton on drums. Though Ted and Martin share a last name, they’re not actually related.

The thing that distinguished Wishbone Ash right out of the gate were those twin guitars of Andy and Ted. Though there had been other bands with two lead guitar players– the Allman Brothers come to mind– Wishbone Ash was one of the first to make harmony guitar parts such an essential element. That was the Wishbone Ash sound.

They released their first album in December 1970. Less than a year later, they released their second record, and in May 1972 they released their third album called “Argus”. It’s the album that most people consider to be their best.

“Argus” was well received, both critically and commercially. It was their biggest selling album, reaching number three on the UK charts. The “Argus” album flirts with progressive rock and hard rock, but it was the upbeat track “Blowing Free”, the closest thing to a pop song on the album, that got them on the radio and exposed to a wider audience, at least in the UK.

The song almost didn’t make it onto the album. The band thought it was too poppy compared to the rest of the record, but Martin Turner insisted that they keep it on the album.

The song is credited to Martin Turner, Ted Turner, Andy Powell and Steve Upton. Martin Turner wrote the lyrics and he plays the bass. Ted Turner and Andy Powell are on guitars and Steve Upton is on the drums. The album was produced by Derek Lawrence and engineered by Martin Birch, both known for their work with Deep Purple.

The song kicks off with a great guitar intro by Ted, and it didn’t have the same impact here in the states, but in the UK, learning that guitar intro was like a rite of passage for British guitar players, like “Stairway To Heaven” or “Sweet Child of Mine”, it’s just one of those intros that seems like every beginning guitar player had to learm. That introduction was actually inspired by an old song by the Steve Miller band called, “Children of the Future”.

They took that and turned it into something of their own.

Before the band fully kicks in, they’re going to change up the guitar riff.

Let’s listen to those guitars again.

You can hear how they’ve panned the guitars to the left and the right to add some differentiation and some dimension to the sound. Martin Turner’s bass part is also great here, too. Let’s listen to some of that.

When Martin Turner was a teenager growing up in a seaside town in southwest England, he had a summertime romance one year with a Swedish exchange student. Her hair was golden brown like a cornfield. When he was looking for lyrics for this song, he reminisced about that relationship and that story of teenage love and loss; that became the song.

Following that verse is a guitar solo played by Andy Powell, most likely played on his Gibson Flying V guitar. He was mostly known for playing Flying V’s. This is a great guitar solo.

Next up is the second verse. Martin’s Swedish girlfriend didn’t speak much English and he didn’t speak any Swedish, but I guess they found some way to communicate. Apparently when he asked her if he could kiss her, she said, “you can try”. That phrase appears a couple of times in this song.

Now the song shifts gears into a quieter, more melancholy section. Every good memory has a tinge of sadness for those lost moments you’ll never relive again.

I really like what Martin Turner’s bass and Steve Upton’s drums are doing behind this section. It’s simple but really effective. This leads us into another guitar solo. This one played beautifully by Ted Turner. Just incredibly tasteful. I think that’s just great. To me, he captures that wistful feeling of recalling old memories.

But that melancholy doesn’t last long. They kick right back into the verse riff, and Andy Powell takes over with another solo.

Let’s listen to some of that guitar.

And they return to the first verse.

More guitar work by Andy Powell. Now some of their trademark guitar harmonies start to appear in the background.

And here we have a slide guitar solo played by Ted Turner. Ted had started to listen to Ry Cooder, one of the great slide players of all time, and it inspired him to play a little slide guitar here. This is the first time Ted had ever tried playing slide.

Guitars start to build up from the background.

“Blowing Free” by Wishbone Ash

In the UK publication “Sounds” magazine, which was a big deal at the time, the readers voted “Argus” the best album of 1972, beating out albums like David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”, Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” and the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street”. That’s some serious competition– that just shows you how big Wishbone Ash was in the UK.

But here in the US, “Argus” didn’t get any higher than 169 on the charts. America just wasn’t that interested in Wishbone Ash, but guitar players– guitar players were paying attention. Bands like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden would adapt that twin guitar harmony style, and, though largely forgotten by the average listener, Wishbone Ash left their mark on generations of guitar players.

A couple of years ago I was reading an issue of “Classic Rock” magazine and they had an article on this song, which inspired me to dig out that album and eventually inspired this episode. It had probably been 20 years since I last listened to this record, and you know, it’s always great to go back to an old album you haven’t heard in ages and hear it again with fresh ears.  And it reminded me of my past loves, and loves lost.

Thanks for listening to this show. I really appreciate it. New episodes of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast come out on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back soon with another new edition. You’ve been warned.

You can keep in touch with the show on our Facebook page or on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, where you’ll also find all of our previous episodes. And, of course, we’re available on Amazon, Apple, Google, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, pretty much anywhere you can find podcasts, you’ll find this show.

And we are part of the Pantheon network of podcasts, home to many more music related shows, so check those out too.

Thanks again for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on Wishbone Ash and “Blowing Free”.


Wishbone Ash

Argus Album

Pantheon Podcast Network

Deep Purple

Steve Miller Band

Ry Cooder

Classic Rock Magazine

Thin Lizzy

Iron Maiden

Gibson Flying V Guitar

It’s never a recipe for making great art when you’re under pressure to deliver an album to a rival record label due to contractual obligations… though Jimi Hendrix was never satisfied with the result, the Band Of Gypsys album became a very influential album and remains a favorite among Jimi fans and guitar players of all stripes. On this episode, we journey back to New Years 1970 to explore “Message of Love” from this legendary album.

“Message Of Love” (Jimi Hendrix) Copyright 1970 Experience Hendrix LLC

 — Hey, I was just thinkin’… now would be as great time for you to check out the other Rock Podcasts on the Pantheon Podcasts network!


Greetings to all, here on the third stone from the sun and beyond. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast beaming across the cosmos on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and each episode of the show, I pick a song and we explore it together, listening to all the nuances that make it one of my favorite songs. You don’t need any musical skill, knowledge or experience here– just a love for music and a little curiosity.

Well, here we are at the start of a brand new year, and I was trying to think of an appropriate subject for a January 1st episode. I thought, “we’ve talked about a lot of guitar players on this show…” I love guitar players. But I realized that, after over 140 shows, we’ve still never talked about one of the most important guitarists of all time. So let’s rectify that. It’s about time we talked about Jimi Hendrix.

Of course, Jimi Hendrix is a legend, with a legacy of some really important and influential records. It’d be tempting to pick a song like “Purple Haze” or “Voodoo Child”, “All Along The Watchtower”, or his version of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Those are all historically important tracks. But I wanted to do something different.

So, I chose a song from very late in his career when Jimi was at a turning point in his career– at a crossroads, to use a cliche. So, we’re going back to a New Year’s Eve over 50 years ago, when 1969 gave way to 1970, with Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys ringing in the new year at the Fillmore East, playing “Message Of Love”.


Everybody knows that Jimi Hendrix is a legend, an icon. There are literally dozens of books written about him; there are documentaries. So I’m not going to go over a detailed history of Hendrix, but to understand how Jimi Hendrix ended up playing at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve, first we have to go back to his early years in New York City.

Jimi Hendrix was a working musician, paying his dues and playing as a sideman to people like the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. In 1965, he ended up as a guitarist in Curtis Knight’s band, playing cover songs on the New York and New Jersey circuit. Jimi eventually grew tired of that and formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.

It was during a stint playing in Greenwich Village, New York, when he was“discovered” by Chas Chandler, former bassist for The Animals, who was transitioning into being a manager. Chandler brought Jimi over to England, and they put together the Jimi Hendrix experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 Now here’s where things get messy. Back in ‘65, when he was playing with Curtis Knight, Jimmy had signed an exclusive recording contract with a guy named Ed Chaplin. Jimi had also signed a contract with producer Juggie Murray. But hey, look, Jimi was a struggling musician, just trying to find some success– any success. He was a guitar player, not a lawyer, and he was naive. He’d sign anything if he thought it could help him at the time.

But now, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience having hit records on the Warner Brothers label, Ed Chaplin came a calling in 1967 with his contract from two years earlier, and he sued.

Hendrix had made some recordings with Curtis Knight back in ‘65. Those records are not very good, but Chaplin licensed them to Capitol Records, who then released two albums worth of that stuff. In fact, at one point, you had the legit Warner Brothers records competing against the Capitol stuff at the same time.

Here’s a song from the Curtis Knight sessions; it’s an instrumental called “Knock Yourself Out”, which Jimi got a co-writing credit on.


Eventually, a settlement was arranged with an agreement that Ed Chaplin and Capitol Records would get the rights to one Jimi Hendrix album. Hendrix had just finished recording “Electric Ladyland”, which was a double album, so it was agreed that the next album would be given to Capitol.

But things in the Hendrix camp were tough. First, Chas Chandler had left the fold, and not long after, Noel Redding quit.  Jimi brought in his old army buddy, Billy Cox, to play bass. Then Jimi rounded up a bunch more musicians, adding additional percussionists and a second guitar player. He called the band “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows”, and this was the band that played at Woodstock.


But a month later, Jimmy broke up that band. It just wasn’t working for him.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on. He still owes one album to Capitol, and Jimi didn’t even have a band. So, Jimi, Billy Cox, and drummer-vocalist Buddy Miles put together a band. They made a deal with promoter Bill Graham to play four shows at the Fillmore East in New York: two shows on New Year’s Eve, and two shows on New Year’s Day, 1970. All four shows would be recorded, and they would release the best tracks as a single live album to fulfill the Capitol Records contract.

Before the show, Jimi, Buddy and Billy, calling themselves “Band of Gypsys”, worked up a set consisting mostly of new material, including “Machine Gun”, one of Jimi’s most incredible guitar performances.

Both Buddy and Billy were veterans of R&B bands, and they brought a funkier, soulful groove to the songs that the Jimi Hendrix Experience just never had. Buddy was also a great singer, too. His lead vocals are featured on two songs on the “Band of Gypsys” album. Buddy introduces this track on the record.


The song starts off with a chromatically ascending riff before kicking off into the main riff of the song.


Let’s just hear Jimi’s guitar on that riff.


Behind that, Billy Cox is playing a pretty busy bass part over a pretty simple drumbeat, laid down by Buddy Miles. Let’s hear their parts.


They only play through that riff twice before starting the first verse, which is a variation on the main riff, simplified a bit to leave room for the vocals.


I really like the backing vocals there. One of the things about Jimi’s previous band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was that they didn’t have a strong vocalist in the band to back up Jimi. Buddy Miles was a powerhouse singer, and he adds a lot. And with Billy Cox chipping in, these backing vocals were kind of a whole new sound for Jimi.


After a few lines of the verse, we get a new short riff with Jimi and Billy playing the same part together mostly. And that brings us back to the verse riff.


And that brings us to another new riff. This one’s a little more rapid fire, with Jimi and Billy doubling the part, and Buddy scat singing the riff with them.


Now here we have a somewhat quieter or gentler part. Jimi is playing some of those chords he was famous for; as much as he’s thought of as an incredible lead guitarist– and he was– he was also a killer rhythm player.


Jimi’s rhythm guitar playing is as identifiable as his lead playing. Let’s hear this part again without the vocals, so that we can hear a little more of his guitar.


The verse riff, the backing vocals come back in, but this time, Jimi’s just going to vamp a bit around the riff. At this point, Jimi is going to crank up the volume and play a solo, and I think now is as good a time as any to talk about Jimi’s guitar sound. Though he played other guitars, Jimi was primarily associated with the Fender Stratocaster. As a left-handed player, he would take a right-handed Strat, flip it upside-down and restring it, and that’s what he was playing this night with the Band Of Gypsys.

Now, playing the guitar upside-down like that meant that things like the volume & tone controls and the vibrato arm were in a different position than they would be if you were playing it normally. And Jimi was able to take advantage of that, particularly with the vibrato or whammy bar.

Jimi also pretty consistently used Marshall amplifiers, I think typically Super 100’s, but don’t quote me on that. But that was the standard beginning and end of his signal chain: a Fender Strat into a Marshall amp. But what went between his amp and guitar? That’s another story that changed frequently.

Jimi was always looking for new sounds, and he would explore any new effects gadget that came his way. Guitar effects pedals were still a relatively new thing in the late 60’s. Jimi was friends with a guy named Roger Mayer, an electrical engineer who had worked for the British Navy. He started building effects devices for guitars, like fuzz pedals, and one of the earliest units he built was the Octavia, which takes the input signal from the guitar and generates that sound one octave higher, then mixes it back in with the original guitar sound, and adds distortion or fuzz. Like most guitar pedals, it would sit on the floor between your guitar and amp, with a button you’d press with your foot to turn it on and off.

Jimi first used the Octavia on the solo for “Purple Haze” in 1967. Roger Mayer would continue to tweak and modify the Octavia for Hendrix. And Jimi was using one of those later versions for this Band Of Gypsys show.

You can hear the Octavia most notably on the song “Who Knows” from this show. Jimi was also using a fuzz pedal built by Roger Mayer. It was either a Fuzz Face or an Axis Fuzz, depending on what you read. He had two other effects pedals on stage this night: a Vox wah-wah pedal, which you can hear on the song “Changes”:


And he was using a Univibe, a new and pretty innovative pedal for its time. It’s a little tough to explain what a Univibe actually sounds like– it’s a cross between phasing, a chorus sound, and vibrato, but you can hear it in action on the song “Machine Gun”.


Now, there is one other thing to take into account regarding Jimi’s guitar sound, and that’s the order in which the effects are plugged into each other. Believe it or not, it makes a big difference in the sound. For example, a wah-wah pedal plugged into a fuzz pedal sounds significantly different than the other way around, a fuzz pedal plugged into a wah. This can lead to endless rounds of debate and conjecture, but luckily, we have some photographs from this show that pretty clearly show the sequence of his pedals that night:

His guitar is plugged into a Vox wah-wah pedal, which is plugged into the Octavia, which is plugged into the Fuzz Face, that’s plugged into the Univibe, and then that is finally plugged into his Marshall amplifier. Wah pedal, Octavia, Fuzz pedal, Univibe.

Okay, so back to “Message Of Love”. At this point, the fuzz is really going to kick in, and Jimi’s going to go for his first solo.


And now, Jimi’s going to step on that wah-wah pedal.


Now Jimi’s gonna hit a harmonic and quickly bend it down with the whammy bar, then turn off the wah pedal for the rest of the solo.


You can hear them slow the tempo down there.


The band is going to break, and then Jimi is going to do a little scat singing, this time singing along to his guitar part.


They’re gonna build it back up here. Jimi and Buddy are gonna add some vocals.


It sounds a little rough coming back into the riff there. I can’t imagine they had more than a handful of rehearsals before these shows, so there’s bound to be some rough spots. But that’s what makes this a truly great live album. There’s a real “edge of your seat” energy to this record. They didn’t go back and fix up every mistake– this is how it really went down that night, New Year’s 1975.

Jimmy’s gonna cut loose with the second solo. Let’s focus in on Jimmy’s guitar.


They bring back that chromatic climb from the beginning of the song to wrap it all up. Jimi’s just messing around with the whammy bar and some feedback.


The Band of Gypsys – “Message Of Love”

The song has also been credited as “Message To Love”, but on all the versions of “Band of Gypsys” that I have, it’s referred to as “Message Of Love”. So that’s what I’m sticking with.

The “Band of Gypsys” album was commercially very successful. Critics didn’t necessarily love it, and Hendrix himself was never satisfied with it; he felt it was rushed and it didn’t sound great, and if it wasn’t for the contractual obligations, he wouldn’t have released it. Not that it mattered. By the time the album was released, the band had already broken up.

But the album has gone on to be very influential, paving the way for future funk rock acts. And it was an important touchstone, particularly for black artists making their mark in the rock world, like Living Color and Lenny Kravitz. And it remains one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix records, and just favorite guitar records in general.

Thanks for joining me for this musical journey on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. As always, I’ll be back in about two weeks with another new episode. Until then, get your fix of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast by listening to any of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or find us on your favorite podcast app.

You can keep in touch with us on Facebook, just look for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast to find our page. And please support the show by sharing it with your friends and just telling somebody about it.

On behalf of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, I gently remind you to support the artists that you love by buying their music, and I’ll see you back here next time. Thanks for listening to this episode on Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys. Happy New Year, everyone.

Jimi Hendrix

Band of Gypsys

Message of Love

Fillmore East

Fender Stratocaster

Marshall amplifier

Octavia pedal

Fuzz Face


Wah-wah pedal

Billy Cox

Buddy Miles

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Bill Nelson combined Prog Rock, Glam and Art Rock into the unique sound that was Be-Bop Deluxe. They were musically adventurous, but always maintained a strong sense of melody and a memorable hook or two, as evidenced by this track from their 3rd album Sunburst Finish, released in 1976. Let’s explore the “Sleep That Burns“.

“Sleep That Burns” (Bill Nelson) Copyright 1975 B. Feldman and Company Ltd. All rights assigned USA and Canada to Beechwood Music Corporation

Remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.


Greetings, music fans. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast coming to you on the Pantheon Podcast network. My name is Brad Page, and each episode of this show, I pick a favorite song of mine and we explore it together on our never-ending quest to discover what makes a great song. No musical knowledge or skill is required here, just musical curiosity.

On this edition, we’re delving into a song by a band that had some success in the UK, but it never translated to the US. Nevertheless, I think they were a pretty interesting and pretty unique band. So let’s explore Be-Bop Deluxe and a song called “Sleep That Burns”

The band Be-Bop Deluxe was really the vehicle for Bill Nelson. A guitarist, singer and songwriter from Yorkshire, England, he attended Wakefield College of Art in the 1960s and did some recording as a guitarist for other artists and got a little bit of attention for his guitar work on an album by Light Years Away in 1971. Here’s some of Nelson’s playing on the Light Years Away song called “Yesterday”:

Nelson released his first solo album, “Northern Dream”, on his own label—that’s pretty adventurous for 1973.  He pressed up 300 copies, one of which found its way into the hands of the legendary BBC DJ John Peele, who played it on his show, which in turn got Nelson a record deal with EMI Harvest Records. By then, Nelson had formed a band of his own which he called Be-Bop Deluxe. EMI signed Be-Bop Deluxe and released their first album, “Axe Victim”, in 1974.

After the release of “Axe Victim”, Nelson fired everyone from the band and reformed the group with a new lineup, including drummer Simon Cox and bassist/vocalist Charlie Tumahai. a native of New Zealand.  This new version of Be-Bop Deluxe released their next album, called “Futurama”, in 1975.

The “Futurama” album really established their sound: a little bit progressive rock, a little bit glam, and a little bit of that Roxy Music art-rock sound, all anchored around Bill Nelson’s brilliant guitar playing.

Nelson had also been playing some keyboards on the albums, but for the next record, he wanted to expand that, so he brought in a full time keyboard player to the band. His name was Simon Clark, but since the band already had a drummer named Simon, they convinced him to use his middle name, Andy.

But changing up band members wasn’t the only changes on Bill Nelson’s mind. He wanted to mix things up on the production side, too. Their first album had been produced by Ian McClintock; Roy Thomas Baker was the producer on their second album. Nelson wasn’t really happy with either of them, so he wanted to produce the next album by himself.

The record company, though, thought he was too inexperienced to produce the album by himself, so they wanted him to co-produce with somebody else. EMI suggested John Leckie, who was a staff engineer at Abbey Road, and they felt he was ready for his first job as a producer. Nelson met with Leckie and they got along great. So they agreed to produce the next Be-Bop Deluxe album together.

Sessions began in October 1975 at Abbey Road. After a month or so of recording, the album was complete and it was released in January 1976. They named the album “Sunburst Finish”. The album features one of the all-time great album covers, and the record includes the track “Ships In The Night”, which would become their biggest hit, reaching number 23 on the UK charts. But I don’t believe it charted in the US.

Bill Nelson, though, has said many times that “Ships In The Night” is his least-favorite track from Be-Bop Deluxe, so we’re not going to explore that one here, even though I like it. We’re going to focus on another favorite track from this album, the song that closes out side one of the record, “Sleep That Burns”.

I should mention here that in 2018 the album was reissued as a deluxe 2 CD set that included the original version of the album, along with a new remixed version. I debated over which version to use here; I generally prefer to use the original versions, but some of the instruments and parts stand out a little better on that 2018 mix. But in the end, I decided to stick with the original mix. So just to be clear, we’ll be hearing the 1976 version here.

“Sleep That Burns” was written by Bill Nelson. Like everything else on the album, Nelson played all the guitars and sang the lead vocal. Charlie Tumahai played bass and did the backing vocals. Andy Clark provided the keyboards and Simon Fox plays drums.

The song is about dreams. Bill Nelson said, “I had a fascination with how we spend so much of our time asleep. Dreaming and dreams don’t make sense. I thought of the song as being kind of a movie.” And so, to set the stage for our theater of the mind, the song opens with the sound of an alarm clock going off and someone awakening from a dream.

If that big introduction sounds a little familiar to you, that’s because Bill Nelson came up with that part as sort of a homage to “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who.

There are many layers of guitars all throughout this song. Nelson’s main guitar at this time was a Gibson ES345. The color of that guitar is what gave this album its name, and he uses that guitar on many of these tracks. Let’s listen to the guitars on this intro.

There are two heavily distorted guitars playing those Pete Townsend chords, panned left and right. Sounds like there’s also an acoustic guitar or two playing those parts. Then there’s a cleaner electric guitar playing an arpeggiated part in the middle.

By the way, if some of these musical terms and guitar lingo is confusing to you, go back and listen to Episode 75 of this podcast called “The Language of Rock”, where we explain some of these terms.

There’s also a higher pitched part that sounds like a lead guitar line, but it’s actually Andy Clark on the mini Moog synthesizer. After two repetitions of the intro part, we head right into the first verse.

There’s a fantastic galloping rhythm to the verse, and a great guitar part that Bill Nelson is playing, these upper-register triplets played on his guitar. Let’s listen to just the instrumental parts on this verse without the vocal.

Just a couple of lines for the verse and then we hit right into the first chorus. No time wasted here.

A slightly different feel for the chorus, and Andy Clark’s piano comes forward in the mix. Clark is playing the Abbey Road Studio One piano, a 9-foot Steinway grand piano that no doubt appeared on dozens of classic recordings. Let’s hear a little bit of that piano.

I like that extra “All right” in the background there.

They repeat the intro riff before the next verse, and Andy’s synthesizer part is even more prominent this time.

“I’m locked in your dark world, where hearts hold the keys; half-opened, enchanted, half-truths and half-dreams”

Andy Clark’s keyboard parts add another layer on this chorus. I believe in addition to playing piano, he’s also playing a Melotron. It’s the very same Melotron the Beatles used on “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Let’s just hear that part again, this time with Charlie Tumahai’s bass up in the mix.

As we mentioned before, Bill Nelson envisioned this song as kind of a movie. He described this next section as a new scene in the dream, where you’re sitting in a cafe in some exotic place. Listen and you can picture that in your mind. Andy Clark’s using his Mini Moog again to create some sound effects. The band raided the Abbey Road Sound Effects library and made some of the background noises themselves by clinking plates and silverware together to create the sound of the cafe. The band also gathered around the mic to make the background chatter as well.

Andy Clark’s playing some nice tack piano here.

And then the dream gets darker, as dreams often do.

The vocals are suddenly doubled and panned left and right.

Bill Nelson does some nice guitar work here, recorded backwards. Back in the 70’s, there was no easy way to do this. You had to literally turn the tape over backwards and hope that what you were playing would work. Let’s hear just the guitar.

Spiraling piano leads us back into the intro riff and the next verse.

Here’s another chorus. This time, let’s see if we can bring up the drums in the mix.

Simon Cox on the drums. The drums are mixed pretty low on this track, it’s kind of a bummer.

Let’s pick it back up at the final verse. There are additional background vocals echoing the lead vocal on this verse. Bill Nelson’s added single guitar notes, sustained with feedback, on this chorus.

Nelson lets loose with a great guitar solo for this finale.

“Sleep That Burns” – Be-Bop Deluxe

Be-Bop Deluxe would record two more studio albums and a great live album before they disbanded in 1978.

Bill Nelson’s next project was a band called Red Noise, but they only released one album in 1979. Always a restless creative mind, bill Nelson’s sound and style has evolved a lot over the years and he’s released literally dozens of solo albums. He’s incredibly prolific.

Drummer Simon Cox went on to play with Trevor Rabin and a bunch of other projects over the years. He’s still out there kicking it somewhere.

Andy Clark joined Bill Nelson in Red Noise, he band that immediately followed Be-Bop Deluxe, but again, they only released that one album in ‘79. But Andy would go on to do significant work as a session keyboardist on some great records. He played on David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” album, including the song “Ashes to Ashes”. He plays on Peter Gabriel’s “So” album and “The Seeds of Love” album by Tears for Fears.

Bassist and vocalist Charlie Tumahai unfortunately died in 1995. After Be-Bop Deluxe, he played with The Dukes, a band that featured former Paul McCartney and Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, but that didn’t last long.

Charlie was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and in 1985, he returned back home and joined the legendary New Zealand reggae band The Herbs. He was also very active in the Maiori community and volunteered a lot of his time. Charlie was a hero to many New Zealanders, and it was a real tragedy when he died of a heart attack in December 1995. He was only 46 years old.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. There are plenty more like it if you want to check them out– all of our episodes are available on our website lovethatsongpodcast.com, or look for them in your favorite podcast app.

You can share your thoughts with us on Facebook or send us an email lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com. And if you’d like to support the show, no need to send money or anything like that, the best thing you can do is to tell your friends about the show and get them to listen.

I’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. On behalf of everybody on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening and I hope you enjoyed this episode on Be-Bop Deluxe and “Sleep That Burns”

Gary Moore was never a household name, but among guitar players, he was a legend.  He reinvented himself multiple times over his 40-year career: first as a hard-rocker with Thin Lizzy, then a jazzy prog-rocker with Colosseum in the 70’s; pioneering a modern heavy-metal sound in the 80’s, and playing the blues in the ‘90’s.  On this episode, we delve into a track from his 1987 Celtic-flavored hard rock album, “Wild Frontier”.

“Over The Hills and Far Away” (Gary Moore) Copyright 1986 EMI 10 Music Ltd. All rights in the US and Canada controlled and administered by EMI Virgin Songs, Inc

— This show is just one of many great Rock Podcasts on the Pantheon Podcasts network. Get ’em while they’re red hot!  And don’t forget to follow our show, so you never miss an episode!

Welcome, Citizens of the World, to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network.

One thing that’s shared by almost every culture, in every part of the world throughout history, is that music plays an important part in celebration, in worship, in recreation, in making even the hardest jobs more bearable. Music, it’s part of life, and if you’re from a culture that doesn’t celebrate music… well, I feel sorry for you. On this podcast, we celebrate that greatest form of music: the kind that ROCKS.

Every edition of this podcast, I pick one of my favorite songs and we explore it together on our never-ending quest to discover what goes into making a great song.

Last episode, we spent some quality time with one of my favorite bands, Thin Lizzy. One name that kept popping up on that show was Gary Moore. I wanted to spend a little bit more time with Gary Moore, one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.

He had a long and always evolving history; his career lasted over four decades, most of it underappreciated, I think. On this episode, we’re going to take a look at a song from right about in the middle of his career; this is a song called “Over The Hills and Far Away”.


A few years back, I did a show on 5 of my all-time favorite guitar solos– that was episode number 25 of this podcast, if you want to go back and check it out. One of those solos was by Gary Moore. He had all the flash and technique, but unlike many hot-shot players, especially those shredders from the 80’s, Gary had a fantastic sense of melody. He could play blindingly fast, but he could also move you emotionally with a melodic performance.

Robert William Gary Moore was born April 4th, 1952 in Belfast, Ireland. His father gave him his first guitar when he was 10 years old. Interestingly, Gary was a lefty, but he learned to play the guitar right-handed. In 1968, he joined Skid Row– no, not the metal band with Sebastian Bach; this Skid Row was a bluesy rock band from Ireland, with Phil Lynott (later of Thin Lizzy) on vocals, although Lynott left the band after recording only one single. But this is where Lynott and Moore first worked together.

A few years later, when Eric Bell left Thin Lizzy, Gary joined them, but it only lasted a few months. He did end up recording three tracks with them, though, in 1973. Gary recorded his first solo album, and he continued making solo records all through the 70s, and some of them are really good.

At the same time, he joined the prog rock group Coliseum II, and he would rejoin Thin Lizzy two more times– once as a fill-in guitarist for a tour in 1977, and then as a full-fledged member in 1979. Thin Lizzy’s “Black Rose” album is the only album of theirs where Gary plays on every track, but to many Lizzy fans, they consider that their best album. But it didn’t last long… Gary quit Thin Lizzy for the last time just a few months later.

Gary’s solo albums continued to get better. “Run for Cover”, released in 1985, is a great record– it’s probably my favorite Gary Moore album. Then in 1987, he released the album “Wild Frontier”. Phil Lynott had died the year before, and the album is dedicated to him. Maybe in tribute to Phil, maybe because Gary was just feeling connected to his Irish roots, but some of the tracks on this album have a real Celtic feel to them. It’s an interesting blend of hard rock and traditional elements.

Case in point is this song; but before we get into “Over The Hills and Far Away”, let’s talk about the lyrics.

This song tells the story of a man jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, but he can’t reveal his alibi… because on the night of the crime, he was sleeping with the wife of his best friend. Rather than reveal that secret, he keeps quiet and ends up serving a 10-year sentence for robbery. Now, this is a classic type of folktale, in fact, it’s very reminiscent, maybe even inspired by an old Lefty Frizzell song from 1959 called “Long Black Veil” that song tells a similar story of a man who’s hanged for murder because he wouldn’t admit that he was with his best friend’s wife at the time of the crime. “Long Black Veil” has been covered many times: Johnny Cash recorded it on his classic album “Live at Folsom Prison”. Here’s a bit of his version:


My favorite version of “Long Black Veil” is by The Band; it’s on their legendary album “Music From Big Pink”:


Here on “Over The Hills and Far Away”, Gary Moore puts his own spin on the story.

“Over The Hills and Far Away” was written by Gary Moore and produced by Peter Collins, who produced albums for Billy Squire, Bon Jovi, Queensryche, Alice Cooper and Rush. Gary plays all the guitars and does all the vocals. Neil Carter handles keyboards and Bob Daisley is on bass. For the drums… well, there’s actually nobody credited with playing drums on the album, and that’s because nobody did play drums on the album. All the drum sounds are programmed; it’s a drum machine. No actual recorded drums on the record at all. It’s a bit unusual for a hard rock record. There are no credits on the album for drum programming either, but it was probably done by Roland Carriage. When Gary went on tour for the album, he brought along Eric Singer on drums.

The song begins with some tribal drumming, and remember, these are all electronic drums:


You can hear some of those traditional sounds building under the vocal


Then as soon as that vocal line finishes, the song explodes with a Celtic melody.


Though there aren’t any specific instruments credited on this track, I believe there are some traditional acoustic instruments in there, along with the keyboards and the guitar. Let’s hear them all together:


And that leads us right into the second verse, where Gary’s heavy guitar chords come in:


Gary throws in a little bit of classic 80s whammy bar there. Let’s go back and pick up right before that part:


Some keyboards are added here.


So here’s the first chorus; harmony vocals are added on the first and third lines– that’s a typical technique we hear all the time– and the drums are playing an interesting pattern:


And the guitar sound has gotten really big. It’s a pretty simple part actually, the guitar is just playing one chord every two beats, but I’m guessing there are multiple guitar tracks layered on top of each other here to really thicken up the part.


I like that little bass part there.

Now, on the second verse, there’s a new keyboard part. Let’s hear that, and listen for the little guitar part that’s added on one phrase, duplicating the keyboard:


There’s some really nice guitar work under this part of the verse. I love the way it plays against the keyboard part. Notice the background vocals, too:


We’re coming to the bridge, and there’s a definite change in mood. It’s almost wistful… you can picture the prisoner looking out of his cell window, longing for freedom…


Those Celtic instruments return, and we’re about to hit a break where those instruments are right in your face in the mix. It’s really powerful.


This brings us to the guitar solo.


And here’s a classic a capella chorus; you just gotta do it on a song like this.


There’s some flanging on the percussion here.

And there’s a key change there; it jumps up a whole step from E to F sharp. Key changes are a classic way to inject some new energy into a song.


Let’s check out some of Gary’s vocals here at the end.


Gary Cuts loose on guitar a little bit more at the end here for the long fade


“Over The Hills and Far Away” – Gary Moore

After this album, he’d record one more record and then walk away from the sound of hard rock and heavy metal. He shifted to playing the blues. In fact, his first all-blues album in 1990 was the best-selling record he ever had, and with a few exceptions, he would focus on the blues for the rest of his career.

In February 2011, Gary died in his sleep from a heart attack; he was only 58. But he left behind over 20 Studio albums, plus all the work he did with other bands and artists. It’s quite the legacy.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. There’s another one coming right up! Let us know about your favorite Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy songs. Share with us on Facebook or on places like Podchaser; you can rate us, write a review, and share the show with your friends. And don’t forget to follow the show, so that you never miss an episode.

We’re part of the Pantheon Media Network of podcasts, and there’s a ton of other great shows waiting for you on Pantheon– check them out!

Always remember to support the music and the artists that you love by buying their music. And thanks for listening to this episode on Gary Moore and “Over The Hills and Far Away”.

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest live albums of all time, Deep Purple’s Made In Japan. This is a truly live album– no doctored-up, overdubbed fixes here, just a killer band at the top of their game, tearing through a live set with little thought to the recording process. They thought this album would only be released to a limited audience in Japan… turned out to be a huge hit and the ultimate Deep Purple album. This episode, we explore the power of Deep Purple in all their glory with the definitive version of “Highway Star”.

“Highway Star” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice) Copyright 1972 HEC Music, EMI Music Publishing

If you enjoyed this episode, check out these 2 other episodes featuring Deep Purple:

And remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.


Hey, it’s Brad Page, back once again with another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast network. Each episode of this show, I pick one of my favorite songs and we dive into it together, looking for all of those magical moments that make it a great song.

You probably all know by now that Deep Purple is one of my favorite bands. Today we’re talking about the album that made me a Deep Purple fan. In April 1973– 50 years ago this month– Deep Purple released their “Made in Japan” live album, and it became a true classic. So let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of this great record with a look at one of the standout tracks on the album: “Highway Star”.

We’ve talked about Deep Purple on this show a few times before, and we’ll talk about them again, I’m sure. So I’m not going to go into deep detail on their whole history right here, but here’s a quick overview, just to catch us up to where this album entered the picture in the Deep Purple universe:

Deep Purple was founded around 1968, with the core members being Richie Blackmore on guitar, John Lord on organ and Ian Pace on drums. After recording their first three albums, they fired their original singer and bass player and brought in two new members: In Gillan on vocals and Roger Glover on bass. This became known as the “Mark II” lineup of the band.

 By 1972, this Mark II lineup had recorded four albums together, including the “Machine Head” album. That’s their record that includes “Smoke on the Water”, as well as the original version of “Highway Star”.

“Machine Head” came out in March 1972, and the band hit the road to promote it. And by August of ‘72, they headed to Japan to play three shows.

Now, in my opinion, at this point, 1972, Deep Purple were one of the greatest live bands in history. The band was simply on fire, and they were unbeatable on stage. They had retooled their live set to feature more songs from that recently released “Machine Head” album, which were all songs that just came to life when performed live.

The Warner Brothers office in Japan decided that they wanted to record those three Japanese concerts for a live album that would only be released in Japan. The band kind of reluctantly agreed, but they insisted that their favorite recording engineer and producer, Martin Birch, would come to Japan with them to handle the recording.

The band performed the three shows, and though they knew the gigs were being recorded, they didn’t really think much about it. They were just concentrating on putting on a few really good shows for their Japanese fans. Honestly, they didn’t consider the album to be that important either. They figured it was only going to be released in Japan and not that many people would end up hearing it. In fact, most of the band didn’t even show up to hear the final mix.

But somebody at Warner Bros. must have been smart enough to know what they had, because they ended up releasing the album in the U. K. as well, in December of 1972… and it was a hit. So a few months later, “Made in Japan” was released in the US in April 1973. It reached number six on the Billboard chart, and to this day, it’s almost universally considered one of the greatest live albums of all time. Unlike a lot of live albums, there are no overdubs and no fixes done to this record. It is a true live album, representing the band exactly as they were on stage.

Of the three shows that were recorded, most of the album was taken from the August 16 show in Osaka, Japan. “Highway Star” is one of the tracks taken from that show.

“Highway Star” was the song that they chose to open the show, and it’s the first song on the album. It features Ian Pace on drums, Roger Glover on bass, John Lord on keyboards, Richie Blackmore on guitar, and Ian Gillan on vocals. All five band members share writing credit on the song.

The track begins with the band pretty casually taking the stage and getting their instruments warmed up. John Lord leads us into the song with the organ. Ian Pace begins a build up on his snare drum; Ian Gillan introduces the song. Roger Glover is in on bass, and Richie Blackmore’s guitar is revving the engine. This song is about to take off.


Ian Gillan was never happy with his vocals on this album. Apparently, he was just getting over a bout with Bronchitis and he just wasn’t satisfied with his performance. But I always thought he sounds amazing on this album. Let’s see if we can bring up the vocal tracks a little bit in the mix and listen.


I’ve always loved the interplay between Ritchie’s guitar and John Lord’s keyboards. The way they create this massive sound that’s just greater than the sum of their parts. Let’s hear their parts here. Simple but effective. Richie’s guitar is panned to the left, john is on the right.


Love Richie’s guitar at the end there, he’s just wrenching the whammy bar on his Fender Stratocaster.


Let’s bring up the vocals again.


That is a vintage Ian Gillen vocal right there. And there’s a great drum fill by Ian Pace that leads us out of that chorus.

And that leads us into an organ solo by the great John Lord. There’s a fantastic little instrumental riff here that leads us into the next verse.


And let’s focus a little bit on what the bass and the drums are doing.


Now it’s time for Richie Blackmore’s guitar solo. And remember, this is recorded live; there’s no overdubs, no punch ins, no fixes. Not every note here is perfect. If you want to hear perfection, go listen to the studio version of this song, which is iconic. But here, you get a performance that is a go-for-broke, knock the audience right out of their seat performance. Richie is on fire here.


Once again, Richie is just yanking the hell out of his Annie bar.


Here’s the last verse.


Listen to Richie, his guitar on the left, and to Roger Glover’s bass, too.

Deep Purple – “Highway Star” from “Made In Japan”, released in the US. 50 years ago this month.

I think for every music fan, there are specific albums you remember hearing for the first time, like watershed moments. This was the album that showed me the power of a live performance, how intense music can be when performed by five musicians at the top of their game.

John Lord passed away in July 2012. One of the most important keyboard players in the history of rock and pop music. I don’t think he often gets the credit that he’s due.

Richie Blackmore, one of the most important guitar players of all time, pretty much walked away from rock and roll around 1997 and formed Blackmore’s Night with vocalist Candace Knight, playing sort of a contemporary version of medieval in Renaissance music.

But Ian Gillan, Ian Pace and Roger Glover still play in a version of Deep Purple today.

Thanks for joining me for this tribute to one of my all-time favorite albums. If you enjoyed this show, there’s plenty more like it. You can find all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on Amazon, Google, Apple Podcasts. Spotify… anywhere that you can find podcasts.

This show is part of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, home to many other great music related shows, so be sure to check them out.

If you’d like to comment or leave a review of this show, Podchaser is the best place to do it.  And of course, you can keep in touch with us on our Facebook page. If you’d like to support the show, the best way to do it is to just tell people about it and share it with your friends.

I’ll be back in about two weeks with another new episode. Until then, go get a copy of “Made in Japan” and crank up “Highway Star” by Deep Purple.

Back on Episode 25, we listened to 5 of my favorite guitar solos; here on Episode 125, we revisit that idea and listen to some more great guitar moments. As before, I’m not saying these are the greatest solos of all time– a great solo doesn’t have to be flashy or technically brilliant, but it does have to be memorable, it has to fit the song, and it should take the song to another level. So, let’s hear 5 more favorite guitar solos.


Welcome back, my friends, to the extended solo that never ends. This is Brad Page, host of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, coming direct to your eardrums via the Pantheon Podcast network.

Way back in episode number 25 of this show, I took a break from the usual format to play five of my favorite guitar solos. Well, here we are at episode number 125. So I thought, 100 shows later, let’s revisit that topic and feature five more guitar solos.

Johnny Winter came out of Beaumont, Texas, made his first recording at age 15, and in 1968 signed a deal with Columbia Records for an advance of $600,000– at the time, the largest advance in history. He released some very successful records, but unfortunately, he became addicted to heroin, which derailed his career for a while. He sought treatment and eventually cleaned himself up, though, personally, I don’t think he ever fully recovered. But he released a comeback album in 1973 called “Still Alive And Well”. And that is my favorite Johnny Winter album. That album opens with his version of “Rock Me Baby”, a B.B. King song we discussed a while back on our B.B. King episode. Here, Johnny revs it up, tearing through every lick in his library and then some. It’s a tour de force moment. All the evidence you need to prove that Johnny was one of the greatest blues rock guitarists in history. Johnny’s throwing lick after lick at you through the whole song. I could just play the whole song for you, but here’s just a short excerpt.


Ronnie Montrose started his career in San Francisco at the end of the 60’s. By the early 70’s, he was doing session work and playing on records by Van Morrison. In 1972, Ronnie joined the Edgar Winter Group– Johnny Winter’s brother– and played on Edgar’s biggest hits, “Free Ride” and “Frankenstein”, which we featured on this show before. In 1973, Ronnie formed his own band, simply called Montrose, which launched the career of Sammy Hagar. In 1978, Ronnie released his first solo album, an all-instrumental album called “Open Fire”, which was produced by Edgar Winter.

Now, I could find plenty of examples throughout his career where Ronnie just tears it up with a flashy guitar solo. But one of my favorite Ronnie Montrose performances is his killer version of the old Gene Pitney song “Town Without Pity”. Ronnie doesn’t do any real shredding on this track, it’s just a fantastic showcase for his impeccable phrasing, his incredible guitar tone, and his tastiest playing. He doesn’t stray far from the original melody of the song– he doesn’t have to. He still makes it his own.


The Cars basically invented the sound of American New Wave at the end of the 1970s, and we took a deep dive into one of their best tracks, “Just What I Needed”, b ack in episode 43.  Their guitarist, Elliot Easton, could basically play anything, from rockabilly to Beatlesque pop, from punk to funk. Elliot’s got to be one of the most versatile players out there.

For example, in 1985, they released a single called “Tonight She Comes” that shows Elliot Easton could shred as well as any hair metal band guitarist. Check this out.


But that’s not actually the solo that I wanted to feature. I wanted to go all the way back to their first album, to play a solo that combines rockabilly licks with power pop sensibilities in a new wave setting. I’m talking about his solo in “My Best Friend’s Girl”.


Hard to believe that’s the same guy who played that solo and “Tonight She Comes” that we heard a minute ago. Let’s listen to just the guitar track.


By the time the Eagles made their “Hotel California” album, they had two amazing guitar players in the band– Don Felder and Joe Walsh. Everybody knows the part on “Hotel California” where Don and Joe trade off licks, one of the greatest guitar duels on record.

But one of my favorite guitar moments from the Eagles wasn’t played by Don Felder or Joe Walsh. It was played by Glenn Fry on the song “Try And Love Again”. You can say what you want about Glenn Fry or the Eagles, but this solo is, I think, a melodic masterpiece.


Thin Lizzy has been featured on this show a few times. That’s no surprise– I’m a big Thin Lizzy fan. The band had a number of brilliant guitarists come through their ranks, so there’s plenty of guitar highlights in their catalog. But this one, this one’s tough to beat.

When Thin Lizzy first recorded “Still In Love With You” in April 1974, Gary Moore was the guitar player in the band, though that was really only a temporary thing. Only a couple of songs were recorded with Gary during this period, but this song ended up on their album “Nightlife”, and it became a fan favorite– so much so that it became a feature of their live shows.

After Gary left, the band reinvented itself with a twin guitar lineup, and this song became a showcase for both guitarists, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. But, push comes to shove, it’s Brian’s solo right in the middle of the song that’s my favorite part of the song. Seriously, this one should give you goosebumps. Here’s Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy on “Stilj In Love With You”:


You can hear the crowd cheering that solo. When it’s over, they know they just witnessed something special.

Well, I’ll admit that I am biased, but I believe that next to the human voice, the electric guitar is the most expressive instrument on planet Earth– nothing can evoke joy or sadness, anger or passion the way a well-played electric guitar can. And you don’t have to be a virtuoso. If a player can just tap into that connection, they can produce something on the guitar that’ll really move you.

Thanks for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. If you’d like to leave feedback or a review of the show, podchaser.com is the best place to do it.

You can keep up to date with the show on our Facebook page, and you can find all of our previous episodes on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com. Or just search for us on Google Podcasts, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and pretty much anywhere podcasts can be found.

And if you like the show, tell some people about it. Share it with your friends. That helps the show to grow.

We are part of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, where you can find a plethora of music related shows, so give some of those shows a shot.

New episodes of this show are released on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll see you back here in about two weeks. Until then, plug in your axe and crank up your amp.

B.B. King created a sound with his electric guitar that changed the world and made him a legend around the world. In this episode, I’m joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel De Vise, author of King Of The Blues: The Rise & Reign of B.B. King to share 5 songs that encapsulate the story of this iconic musician.

Order your copy of Daniel’s book here:

— And remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.


Welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and we’ve got a special episode lined up this time. You all probably know by now that I love guitars and guitar players, and there is no guitar player that I’ve loved as much, or for as long, as I’ve loved B.B. King. This September 16 would have been BB’s 97th birthday. Daniel De Vise as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His biography of B.B. King, called “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King”, was published last year, and it is excellent. So I’ve asked Daniel to come on the show to talk about B.B. King and why he’s one of the most important artists of the last 100 years. We’ve picked five songs to illustrate his career, his impact, and the path that his life would follow. So, let’s get into it. Here’s my conversation with Daniel De Vise.

BRAD:  Daniel, thanks for joining me on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I read your book, “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King”, and I really, really enjoyed it. So, I’m excited to have you on here to talk about B.B. King. We decided to pick 5 songs as a way to show the scope of his career. It’s no easy feat when you consider he released dozens of albums. But first, to get us started, can you give us just a quick overview of his story, where he came from, how his career got started, and how he ended up being, I think, one of the most important musical figures of the last century?

DANIEL: B.B. Was born in 1925, I think, on September 16, a day before my birthday, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, which is in the Delta. He was born into a sharecropping family, which is economically kind of like a system that came in after slavery was abolished for many black Americans in the south. You were nominally free, but kind of indentured to the land and to the landowner, because the way the system was set up, you were always in debt. You never get out of debt. You end up owing more than you make in most years, anyway. So this is like 100 pages of the book, but I’ll gloss over it. He first emerges out of impoverishment, out of poverty to become a tractor driver, which is kind of a higher-up job. And so that paid enough that he was actually earning money, which was cool. And his father had done that. His father was kind of an alpha male, hardworking dude, who also was a tractor driver. And the story might have ended there; I mean, that’s where it ended for Albert King, the father. He became a tractor driver and was able to raise a family and end the story. But B.B. had deeper ambitions. He had an ear, which I think was a remarkably gifted ear for music. He was really drawn to the field hollers, the people, shouting blues out across the fields. He was really smitten with the records that he heard. He had a great aunt who had a Victrola, and so he was able through that to listen to all this stuff like, Blind Lemon Jefferson was a huge star. So he heard recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson, just playing the guitar and singing. So he heard whatever was popular, and then he just kind of fell for some new sounds. He heard electric guitar. The sound he heard that he really fell for was T Bone Walker. And that would have been in, like, probably ‘46, ’47, when T Bone had his big hit, “Stormy Monday Blues”. And he also, around this time, also was exposed to Charlie Christian, really great black jazz guitarist who sort of introduced solo guitar into jazz music. B.B. also had heard Lonnie Johnson, who’s not as familiar of a name, but people who really, really know their guitar history would posit Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, as one of the all-time greats. He was actually bending strings and playing solo guitar in the ‘20’s, in the blues idiom and jazz idiom both. He was recording all up through the 40’s & 50’s. So BB just really fell for this solo guitar sound. And that’s how he wound up straying from gospel singing and getting into playing and singing rhythm and blues on the guitar. And this takes us to the latter years of the 1940’s.

BRAD: One of the things that in your book that really jumped out at me– and it makes perfect sense, but you don’t think of it that way– with somebody like B.B. King, who’s been an icon for as many years as you and I have heard him, h was a master by then, but like everyone when he started out, he really wasn’t very good.

Speaker A: Um, right. I don’t know that anybody had written about this, but if you listen to BB’s first, very first recordings in 1949 for the Bullet label, which was out of Nashville, he couldn’t keep time at all. He wasn’t accustomed to playing with other musicians. And also his solo playing was rudimentary, let’s say, at the beginning; he sounds more like a guitar student than a guitar master at the very beginning. And what I think happened, and I say this in the book, I think between 1949 and 1950, he really buckled down and spent hours and hours and hours and hours playing. And he learned how to play with other players and he developed this wonderful lead guitar sound. He’d been doing acoustic, more like Robert Johnson-style guitar, and I think he learned, maybe only in the latter part of ‘40’s, tothe play electric guitar, and to do this kind of solo style that he’d learned from T Bone Walker. So, by the time of his first really professional singles, which were recorded for Sam Phillips in 1950, by that time he sounded pretty close to the BB King we know and love.

BRAD: And that kind of brings us up to the first song that we chose to talk about, which was a single from 1951, a song called “3 O’Clock Blues”, which is it’s a landmark record in BB’s career, right? Tell us about that song.

DANIEL: So by 1951, BB had cut and released a number of singles with Sam Phillips at the controls. And Sam Phillips was kind of a genius. But Sam, I would argue, and I think Sam Phillips’ biographer, Peter Guralnick, probably would agree, didn’t really know what to do with BB. I think he was thinking of BB King as a singer. You can’t fault him for that, because the guitar wasn’t a prominent instrument in 1950, even as late as 1951.

BRAD: Right.

DANIEL: I point out in my book that there weren’t a lot of songs that had gone to the top of the rhythm blues charts that featured guitar. Almost all the band leaders were pianists or horn players or just singers. So there just wasn’t a lot of precedent for somebody fronting a band, playing the guitar and singing. And so I don’t think Sam Phillips thought that way. He was thinking of BB as a singer, which he was. He was a fine singer. So the irony of all this is that Sam has a falling out with the Bahari Brothers– the Bahari Brothers being the gang who ran BB’s record label. So the Baharis were left with BB. They lost Sam Phillips as the engineer. And so the youngest Bahari brother, Joe Bahari, winds up recording BB’s next side. And the song that they chose was “3 O’Clock Blues”, which had been a hit for Lowell Folson, who was a pretty well-known West Coast blues guitarist. By this time, 1951, BB was a DJ operating out of Memphis, WDIA, which was the first all-black talent radio station. So Folson allowed BB to record the song, because BB had been spinning Folson’s version of it on the radio. And the way that I describe it in the book is BB set out to put his own stamp of sincere intensity on Folson’s song, whose lyrics, quote, I’m quoting from another writer, start out as an insomniac lament, but end up with a weepy farewell more suited to a suicide note. Close quote. It seemed perfect for Bibi’s emerging vocal style, fervent, intimate and intense.


DANIEL: It was sounding good. But after the first take, Joe Bahari didn’t quite have the sound he wanted. The pianist, who was Phineas Newborn, a wonderful top-drawer jazz pianist, but he didn’t have that rhythm and blues sound. So on a break, Joe Bahari hears this really great rock and piano, like, wait, that’s the sound I want in this song. Turns out the person playing the piano was Ike Turner, who’s not yet known, but he’s just this kid, like, the Prince of his day, you know, amazingly versatile. He can play anything. So let’s get rid of Phineas Newborn, the great jazz pianist. Let’s have Ike sit at the keys. And so Ike turned in this wonderful swinging piano, and the second take, it all came together.


DANIEL: I kind of say that in my book, that I think “3 O’Clock Blues” was the first song where the producer showcases BB and his guitar Lucille equally, they get equal prominence in the song. And prior to that, BB’s voice was overshadowing his guitar. So this is, in a way, this is where the story begins, and it shot like a bullet to number one on the rhythm & blues charts, and it became BB’s first number one.

BRAD: Yeah, there’s a few things fascinating about the track. For one, the fact that it was recorded in a YMCA, not in a studio, not in anything resembling a professional environment. It does feature some of the classic BB King licks; they’re in there, but he hasn’t quite developed the legendary BB King phrasing yet, and you don’t really hear that classic BB King trill or vibrato that he became famous for. There’s hints of it there, but it’s not fully developed yet. And the solo doesn’t really flow the way his later solos would. You can just hear that he’s made major leaps, but he’s still he’s still developing.


DANIEL: And early on, BB was obsessed with Roy Brown, the rhythm & blues singer, and if he’d stopped making records around this time, he might have been remembered as a great singer in the sort of Roy Brown mold. And that was what BB sounded like as a vocalist at first.

BRAD: Right. The next track– we’re going to skip ahead to 1964, and a single called “Rock Me Baby”, one of the most influential songs he ever released. Talk about that.

DANIEL: Okay, to unpack “Rock Me Baby”, let me first explain that at the beginning of the 60s, BB switched labels. He left the Bahari Brothers fold, the RPM records fold. The Bahari brothers… this is very difficult to completely explain because on the one hand, they kind of robbed BB blind. I mean, they took composing credits for songs that they hadn’t written. And then I picture them kind of paying him, like, one advance check on every song, and I doubt BB would see any more money, no matter how many copies sold. So that side of the ledger makes them look kind of bad. But on the other hand, they didn’t mess with him. They let him record the songs pure, sounding the same way they would sound if BB were to perform them live in a club. And they hired great musicians, great arrangers, the most important of whom was Maxwell Davis, just a wonderful musician and arranger. By 1961, ’62, BB had gone to the major label, ABC Paramount. But ABC Paramount didn’t know what the hell to do with him, and they kept recording him with the Ray Charles Orchestra and just, again, made the same mistake Sam Phillips had made a decade earlier; they thought he was a singer. For some reason, they didn’t realize they had this amazing guitarist on their roster. So they kept giving him these croony ballads to sing, and he was going nowhere in his career. So, meanwhile, the minor label, the race label, RPM, still had a trunk load of songs that he had cut for them. So they kept releasing them, through the first half of the into the second half of the 60’s. “Rock Me Baby” comes out, and just like everything that BB had done for RPM, it’s tastefully done. It’s simple, pure, no orchestration. It’s just a nice five- or six-piece blues song. And oddly enough, it became one of the most important songs that this RPM Records label would ever release under BB’s name. And the reason is, it hit at a good moment. I think that listeners out in the world were starting to– especially in Britain– were starting to discover first acoustic and then electric blues. It actually charted in the States, too. It reached number 34 on the Billboard pop chart.

Now, “Rock Me Baby” was originally, I think, a Bill Broonzy song that was originally called “Rocking Chair Blues”. And BB retooled it. And I think this is important: his arrangement of it is very musically disciplined. It has a very strong and memorable, and kind of dependable melody, that kind of doesn’t change, set against a simple repeated guitar riff that’s doubled on the piano. It’s very very simple and very disciplined, and it just works.


DANIEL: And Jimi Hendrix discovered it and put it on his repertoire when he started out as a solo artist, “Rock Me Baby” became one of his kind of standout songs.


DANIEL: And in Britain, it was the first big song of any stripe released by BB King. And this is very significant, because this is right when the people who would become the Stones and the Yardbirds were all just soaking up any black American music they could get their paws on, nobody had heard any BB King music at all in Britain. So, Eric Clapton discovered the song, I think the Animals, Eric Burton, The Animals wounded up covering it and so the song was a huge deal in Britain, and it was a significant single in America. It caused BB’s new label, ABC Paramount, to start rethinking their strategy with him because, hey, his old label had just gotten him onto the Top 40, which his new label had failed to do.

BRAD: Right. It’s one of his songs, maybe the song that’s been probably covered the most. I mean “Thrill Is Gone” is the song he’s most known for, but if you’re looking for cover versions, I mean “Rock Me Baby” was like a standard cover song, up into the ‘80’s. I mean, Johnny Winter did a killer version of it, Deep Purple used to include it in their set; I mean, it was a go-to song for so many of the blues-derived rock and roll bands. And, of course, we are more than ten years past when “3 O’Clock Blues” was originally cut. But here, you really hear that BB King phrasing, especially the way the solo pushes and pulls against the beat.


BRAD: Even that simple opening guitar lick; you can hear him kind of almost tugging back at the beat, just with that couple of notes lick there. It’s very distinctive. BB, and the vocal, it’s classic BB King too. The way he moves between belting it out to bringing it down to almost a gentle coo, all within the same line.


BRAD: And some of that vocal phrasing, like the way he sings the opening line “Rock me all night long”:


BRAD: It’s just quintessential BB, everything about this song. By now, the BB King style, both vocally and musically, I think, has been distilled. It’s all there at this point. He’s mastered that.

DANIEL: I guess I listened to most of these songs in chronological order as I was writing the book, and I get what you’re saying, because when I reached “3 O’Clock Blues”, from ‘51, yeah, I could tell that his vocals, although he still sounds like Roy Brown, he’s confident. And you can tell he’s been a DJ because he just doesn’t seem awkward anymore singing. And his guitar is starting to creep toward the sound that we know and love today. He knew how to do the vibrato very early on. I think I actually caught the vibrato on one of his very earliest Sam Phillips recordings, but he didn’t use it all the time. I don’t think he’d realized yet that that was going to be kind of his signature sound, you know?

BRAD: Right, exactly.

DANIEL: And over the years, both his voice, and we’ll talk more about his voice a little later in this, but his voice and his and his guitar attack just progressed toward the thing that we know and love and recognize today.

BRAD: So the following year, 1965, he releases a live album called “Live at the Regal”, which by any measure, is one of the most important guitar albums of all time. So first, let’s talk a little bit about this album. Talk about where this album came from.

DANIEL: Yeah. So that’s moving directly forward from the song we just discussed. “Rock Me Baby” went top 40, and that would have been an embarrassment to ABC Paramount, because they had this first-ranked blues guitarist and didn’t realize it. I think they finally decided, well, this Ray Charles orchestra thing isn’t working with BB. Maybe he’s not a crooner after all, maybe he’s a blues guitarist who sings. Thankfully for us all, they found somebody who did know what to do with him; they went to Johnny Pate, who was a fine jazz bassist turned producer. He had made a string of great singles with Curtis Mayfield, including “Keep On Pushing”.  And Johnny sat down with BB, and, you know, what are we going to do? How can we capitalize on this “Rock Me Baby” hit? And they basically decided they didn’t have time, really, to go and do a big studio album. So let’s do something live, that’s the quickest way to do it. And so it was just a matter of convenience that this landmark live record was made.

BRAD: A hugely influential record amongst guitar players, both in the States and in England. Particularly in England. I know Eric Clapton, he always sang the praises of this record. Just a really important record, guitar player wise. The song that I chose to talk about from this album is “You Upset Me Baby”. The original version was released in 1954, I think, but this version– it just cooks. It’s the first track that we’ve listened to so far on this show that features the bigger band sound with the horn section. It opens with a nice little guitar solo.


BRAD: But primarily it’s a great showcase for BB as a vocalist. He just sounds like he’s having a great night in front of a great audience.

DANIEL: So, “You Upset Me, Baby”, when it came out, I really seized on that song in my manuscript here, I wrote in my book, “it boasted neither his greatest lyrics nor his most accomplished guitar work, yet as a finished song”, and I’m talking now about the single from ten years earlier, “it was somehow more memorable than anything BB had recorded before. The reason was BB’s vocal. In hindsight, and this is 1954, this recording seems to mark the emergence of his unique voice as a blues stylist. BB was no longer channeling Roy Brown. His relaxed delivery, his conversational singing style, his tendency to lag behind the beat, the warm rasp that engulfed his voice at the end of each melodic phrase; from first to last, the vocal on “You Upset Me Baby” was unmistakably BB. King.” And also, I say it was also unmistakably ribald. And so you’re hearing all the same things in the “Live of the Regal” recording. The song was possibly the first recognizable, this is BB singing. There’s no question: this is BB. King.

BRAD: Right.

Speaker A: And then ten years later, it slots perfectly into this “Regal” set.


Speaker A: The reason why live at the Regal is so important, I think, is that he’d been doing this Ray Charles orchestra crooning stuff for a few years. And the fact that he was a great guitarist who also was a great singer, had not registered with anybody who mattered in the music industry. And “Live at the Regal” showed the double-barreled attack of his guitar and voice. And then the incredible effect he had on a black audience in a black club, just to such potent effect. It was like a revelation.


DANIEL: And the irony, though, as you know, because you read this, I interviewed a couple of his bandmates from that era, and they thought the record was crap. And the reason they didn’t like it was, Duke Jethro, the keyboard man, told me this, is that the band was paired up with the house band, so there’s two bands playing behind BB. And as a result of that, it’s not the tightest instrumental performance, because the house band at the Regal, they knew BB’s stuff, but it wasn’t, like, nearly so tight as a normal BB King performance would be with just his band. And so they didn’t like it. BB thought it was just okay, but it was still a very good BB King show. And that was good enough. Yeah.

BRAD: It’s interesting how those things turn out, right? Artist’s perspective of their own work versus how it’s received by the wider audience. And I love the record, but it is not my favorite BB King live record.

DANIEL: Well, Scott Barretta, the great, great blueshound from Mississippi, Scott told me his favorite BB King record is the next live record after this one, which is called “Blues is King”.

BRAD: That’s a great one, too. Yeah.

DANIEL: Much less well known and was recorded at a different Chicago club. And it is a wonderful record. Really, really powerful. It’s a breakup record, in fact.

BRAD: Yeah.

DANIEL: I would recommend it to anybody who’s interested.

BRAD: I like that record quite a bit, too. Yeah, so “Live at the Regal” was a landmark album. One of the things that you point out in the book, and I agree, is that for all of his amazing playing so many great songs… for a guy who put out something like 50 albums, there’s actually very few of the albums that are really great– like, great start to finish.

DANIEL: Yeah. I wrote an article for All Music, the website. Off the top of my head, I think in this All Music article, I advocate for the “Completely Well” album, which is the one that has “Thrill Is Gone” on it. That’s a really solid record, front to back.

BRAD: Yeah, and one of his better records, is an album from 1969 called “Live And Well”. And so that brings us to the next song that we were going to talk about, which is “Why I Sing the Blues”. Let’s talk about that song.

DANIEL: Yeah, so with that record, which became known as “Live And Well”, he starts working with a 26 year old white guy named Bill Szymczyk, who was this young, I think staff producer at ABC Paramount, who had the impulse that you and I were just discussing, which is, ABC has this amazing guitarist on their roster, and they’re not doing anything with him. So Szymczyk has this vision; He wants to set BB up with a group of really solid session guys in the New York studio and just see what they could do to modernize his sound, because his sound was desperately in need of modernization at that point. And I think BB wanted maybe to do another live set, so they wind up compromising, and half the record is live and half of it is Memorex– half of it is recorded in the studio. The whole record is very good. But the final cut on it, the closer, “Why I Sing The Blues”, is truly remarkable. And here’s how I describe it in the book:

“An eight-minute explosion of anger and hurt. A performance so propulsive and powerful that it left the listener wondering why the band had been holding back. “Why I Sing the Blues” was BB’s first overtly political statement.”  And I mean this. I listened to hundreds of his songs, and he had not done politics prior to this. All through the 60’s, he had not expressed himself politically in song. So, this song appeared as a single several months after James Brown’s landmark “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. BB’s message was both longer and angrier. BB had not addressed race in a song before, let alone slavery. Now he raged about urban blight and slum housing, the chitlin circuit and the welfare state. The Dylan length lyric, apparently co-written with a rhythm & blues writer named Dave Clark, unfolded as an extended sociological observation on black America, a theme Marvin Gaye would explore at album’s length two years later with “What’s Going On”.


BRAD: It’s such a great track on so many levels; It’s a considerably funkier song than anything he’d tackled to date, which, that alone, you can see the influence of the James Brown sound. Not that it sounds anything like James Brown, but until then, he hadn’t done anything that funky.

DANIEL: Yeah. I needed, Jerry Jemmott, the bass guy, to kind of explain this to me. I’ve been listening, obviously, to this stuff for all my life. But he was helping me to understand how BB and all his musicians were used to the swing beat. And with this record, BB and his musicians broke out a funk beat, which is the sound of Sly Stone and the sound of latter-day James Brown. So it was new for him, and it made him sound more modern.

BRAD: And it sounds great. I mean, he works, unlike some of the other trends, if you will, like he slotted into this sound fantastically. He sounds great. He sounds at home on this track.

DANIEL: And young and energetic, really good.


BRAD: It’s the first time, and one of the very few times in his whole career, really, where he addressed anything that remotely had a political spin to it.

DANIEL: Yeah, I wanted to say just a few words about that. He’d done a lot of work for the civil rights movement, but really shied away from getting any publicity for it. You will not, I promise you, you won’t find any write up of him, any of the many times that he played at, like, fundraisers for Dr. King or for, the NAACP or various different civil rights organizations. He was clearly involved in the movement, but it was all behind the scenes. And he’d chosen never to go political in any of his songs up to then, and it took the war and it took some different societal changes to get artists, both black and white, to kind of go there into political statements in their songs.

BRAD: Yeah. And he touches on all of that in this song. The history of slavery and racism, housing, economics, the war, along with a lot of classic BB King work. Between every verse, practically, there’s a guitar break. There’s a great solo at three minutes and 20 seconds.


BRAD: There’s another one at four minutes and 30 seconds. That, it’s like a string of pure BB King licks.


BRAD: It’s just like a textbook example of why he’s such a great guitar player. And then the song really doesn’t so much end as it just kind of runs out of… It’s like they’re just exhausted at the end of it, and they just kind of slowly peter out. It’s an interesting way to end the track and end the album, because it’s the last track on that album.


DANIEL: Yeah, and if anybody listens to this and hears that song and really loves that song, the reason I love the follow up album so much, “Completely Well”, it’s the same musicians, and by the time they reconvene to make “Completely Well”, their second album, it’s sort of like they met as friends and they’ve got their weed, they’ve got their wine, and they’ve got their familiarity. They were no longer session hands. They were like friends, because they’d done all this before and they’d probably really bonded on this very song that you and I are discussing. So, if you listen to the next record, “Completely Well”, it’s just a masterful record from start to finish.

BRAD: Yeah, to me, those records are like two of a pair, almost. They kind of go together really well and they’re two of his strongest records. Like we said, there’s a lot of records, unfortunately, in his catalog, that they all have their moments, but they’re not great front-to- back, but I would definitely recommend, for anyone looking, particularly if you’re looking for something with more of the modern sound, that “Live And Well” and “Completely Well” are two great places to start with his album catalog.

Okay, so one last track I wanted to bring us all the way to the end– to BB’s very last album, “One Kind Favor”, released in 2008, and the track that opens that album; it’s a Blind Lemon Jefferson song, which you talked about at the beginning of this conversation. A song called “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. Because it’s a really poignant song for him to choose at this time; his performance of it is very poignant, and just the role that the song would play at the end of his life. Tell us some of that story.

DANIEL: He’d become this huge and increasingly renowned, celebrated titan of American music and popular culture. But his records of those final years weren’t consistently good. But he and his handlers came up with the idea of, I think maybe for posterity’s sake, of giving it one more really good try. So they found T-Bone Burnett. I interviewed him, he said, we started with T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson, which is, you can’t do better than that, and revisited the artists that BB had loved from the first time he cranked up his great aunt’s Victorola. T-Bone told me he consciously sought to invoke the sound and feel of BB’s recordings with Maxwell Davis and Modern Records in the 1950’s. Quote, “because I viewed them as by far the best example to BB King’s Records.” I mean, I got to agree with the man there, I think the modern record stuff is the best of BB’s work. There’s no guest artists, it’s BB and his band. He needed no help, he owns the set. And these are songs he’d known for 50 years. He was killing it. That’s what T-Bone told me. And the resulting album, the very first track, is this Blind Lemon Jefferson song, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. And I describe it in the book, “The prevailing theme of the album is weariness. BB, he knows he’s in his autumnal days, he sings with a sepulchral baritone, rising out of a funeral dance rhythm.”


DANIEL: It’s a really heavy record. More than one of BB’s musicians told me that they couldn’t listen to this record because, it’s like, “Man, BB, you know, don’t die yet. I mean, you’re not dead yet”. They really had a hard time listening to this album because it was so dark and so funeral.

BRAD: Well, the song ends up basically being his own instructions for his own funeral.

DANIEL: That’s right. He intimated as much to a dear friend of his toward the end of his life, Alan Hammonds, I believe, who was behind the BB King Museum. “Listen closely to that song, Alan”. And so they wind up following to the letter the lyrics of that song. When BB dies, his funeral, they got the white horses, and the golden chain, and thus was he buried.


BRAD: Yeah, it’s a really moving moment. And he definitely sounds all of his years on that track. But it’s powerful. It reminds me, it’s like those last few Johnny Cash records, right?

DANIEL: Well, that’s just exactly what I was going to say, I was going to jump in and say, if this is another example of him taking inspiration from other artists, you could very much see this as an answer to the American Recordings series. And it’s a very worthy record. I mean, you’re exactly right. It’s definitely one of the best.

BRAD: So there’s five great songs out of a lifetime’s worth of amazing music to get started with. But what was it that pushed you over the edge into writing this book? Because it’s not a small undertaking, writing a book like this.

DANIEL: Yeah, I chose BB partly because out of the artists I really, really revere, he hadn’t been the subject of sort of a literary biography since 1980, which is quite a long time. And then secondly, because I just thought I felt very animated by the question, is this the guy who created the solo guitar sound that became the prevailing solo guitar sound in pop music for the whole latter 30 years of the century? The best way I can think of to explain what that sound is, is if you ever watched Spinal Tap, when Nigel Tufnell is telling Meathead to keep his paws off his guitars, he talks about sustain and he says, you hear that? And goes, he actually makes the sound with his mouth because he doesn’t want to actually play the guitar. That’s the sound, that’s BB’s sound. And I just thought it was a great starting point to try to figure out if indeed BB was kind of the guy who popularized that sound. And that’s kind of why I set out to write it and everything else all the civil rights in the book and the kind of microcosm of the story of America, that’s in the book, and the finesse I tried to bring to the biographical mission, all of that is, I’m just very glad all that other stuff wound up in the book, but the initial charge that I gave myself was just to answer that question of, was he that guy?

BRAD: Yeah, well, I think the answer is yes.

DANIEL: I think so.

BRAD: Spoiler alert for the book, but the answer is yes, he is. In many it’s, you can never put your finger on the first of anything, but there are people like The Beatles that refine, right, that take a bunch of elements and refine them into something that becomes special. And BB King is one of those guys. He is in the rarefied few, of like a Dizzy Gillespie or a Louis Armstrong, an artist who is a spokesperson, a representative, an ambassador for a whole genre of music and a whole culture, because music is cultural. And that’s a heavy weight, a burden to carry. But he did it so elegantly for almost his entire career.

Daniel De Vise, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show and to talk about BB King. The book is called “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of BB King”. And honestly, I encourage anyone who’s not just interested in BB King, but if you’re interested in the history of the blues, the history of the guitar, pick up the book. It’s a fascinating story and it’s told really well in this book. Highly recommended. So, thanks for writing the book, and thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Daniel.

DANIEL: Oh, no, no, thanks, it’s really, really kind of you to have me on. It’s been a blast talking to you. I can tell we like a lot of the same stuff, so it’s been a really pleasant time talking to you.

BRAD: Same here. Anything that you’re working on, um, coming up?

DANIEL: Well, yeah, actually, while I was working on this book, I had the occasion to talk to John Landis, the great filmmaker, a couple of times because I wanted to know why BB wasn’t in the “Blues Brothers” film.

BRAD: Right. Turns out, which you talk about in the book for anyone who’s interested. That’s in the book, yeah.

DANIEL: Yes. That’s answered in there. But anyway, I got to talking to John Landis, and long story short, I wound up selling my next book. It’s going to be paying homage the Blues Brothers; the film and the dudes, and the kind of transformational comedy that happened in Second City and Lampoon and Saturday Night Live, and leading up to this great film. And also, I’m going to explain that the real “Mission from God”, if you’re familiar with that film, the actual real-life Mission from God was that Aykroyd and Belushi wanted to help the careers of their favorite rhythm & blues artists—Aretha, Ray Charles, James Brown… most of those artists, even though they’re now regarded as probably some of the most important artists in the history of American pop music, at the time they were struggling and they decided to use their ephemeral but enormous fame to shine a light on their heroes. And so, it’s kind of a sweet story.

BRAD: Thank you, man, I really appreciate it.

DANIEL: Thank you.

BRAD: Take care. Have a good day, bye bye.

DANIEL: You too. Bye bye.

BRAD: Thanks to Daniel for joining us. And thank you for tuning us in. I hope you enjoyed that. Please join me here again in two weeks for another new episode. On behalf of everyone on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening. Now go explore the catalog of BB King, there’s so much great music there. You won’t regret it. See you next time.

Yes were at their peak when they released their Close To The Edge album in 1972. This episode, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of what many consider to be the greatest Progressive Rock album of all time with a deep dive into the song “Siberian Khatru”.

“Siberian Khatru” (Jon Anderson; Themes by Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman) Copyright 1972 Topographic Music Ltd

And if you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous episode on Yes:


You your passage on the river of time has brought you here to the next edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, one of the many stops along the Pantheon Podcast Network. My name is Brad Page, the host of the show, where we take a song and poke it and probe it together, in the hope that we get a better understanding of what makes a great song.

Now, if you go all the way back to the very beginning of this podcast, even before our first episode, in the introduction to the show, I laid out a few parameters. One of which was that I wasn’t going to cover much progressive rock, because the complexity and length of the songs were just outside the scope of this show. I didn’t want to be doing an hour and a half long marathon episodes, but I am going to make an exception this time… because this is a special occasion.

In September 1972, 50 years ago this month, yes released “Close To The Edge”, a  monumental album in the history of progressive rock, and considered by many to be Yes’s greatest achievement. You could make an argument that “Close To The Edge” is the defining album of the Prog Rock era. So, in tribute to this milestone, put on your lab coats and those safety goggles, because on this episode, we’re going to delve into one of the three masterworks from this album. This is Yes, with “Siberian Khatru”.


More band members have come and gone than I can keep track of, so we’re not going into an extensive band history here, but this is the brief backstory that gets us to this album. Yes formed in 1968 with John Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Tony Kaye on keyboards, and Peter Banks on guitar. This original lineup released two albums, neither album having much impact on the charts.

The first big change happened in 1970, when Peter Banks left the band and was replaced by Steve Howe. Howe was a stellar guitarist, really versatile, and he brought a whole new dimension to the Yes sound. Howe had been paying his dues in and around London, and he was a member of the band Tomorrow, which released one of the seminal psychedelic tracks, a song called “My White Bicycle”, in 1967. Someday we’re going to talk about that song on this show.

This new lineup of Yes released “The Yes Album” in 1971. And this is where the band really found its footing and started sounding like the Yes that we know today.


But there were more changes to come. Tony Kaye preferred to play piano & organ, but the band was eager to explore synthesizers and the Mellotron. So Kaye was out, and Rick Wakeman was in. Wakeman had made a name for himself playing keyboards with The Straubs, and he was doing a lot of session work, too. He played the piano on “Morning Has Broken” by Kat Stevens and “Get It On” by T Rex; he played the Mellotron on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.  And that brilliant piano part on Bowie’s “Life on Mars”– That’s Rick Wakeman, too.

So it’s worth noting that at this point, Yes featured some of the most gifted musicians in the business. Steve Howe was quickly establishing himself as a guitarist to be reckoned with; Chris Squire was inspiring bass players around the world with his style and his sound; Bill Brewford was becoming a legend among drummers, and Rick Wakeman is one of the greatest keyboard players in rock history. And they were about to prove all of this on their next album.


The album called “Fragile” was released in November 1971, and it was their breakthrough album. “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround” would become hit singles and drive sales of this album, reaching number four on the Billboard album chart. It was also the first of many albums to feature Roger Dean’s iconic artwork.

So, what do you do to top an album like “Fragile”? You make “Close To The Edge”.


By all accounts, making the “Close To The Edge” album was a difficult, painful process. Yes had developed an approach where they would work out songs, one small section at a time, and then record just that section. They would record these short bits one at a time and then edit them together. It was only after the recording and editing were finished that the band would go back and actually learn the complete song. So, we gotta stop and acknowledge producer Eddie Offord. Eddie was really like the 6th member of the band. He would produce over a half dozen of Yes’ albums. He also produced records for Emerson, Lake and Palmer too. He was behind the glass for some of Prog Rock’s most essential albums, and he certainly earned his pay on this record.

“Siberian Khatru”. Is it KAT-ru or Kat-TRUE? I’ve heard it pronounced both ways. At any rate, this song is credited to John Anderson, with themes by Anderson, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.

The song kicks off with a guitar riff by Steve Howe. That’s a perfect example of how he could blend rock, country and jazz all into his own signature style.


There are multiple riffs and sections to this song. I’m going to refer to that one as the “country-fried” riff. That only lasts for about 10 seconds. And then we get to the main riff.


This section is divided into three measures of four beats, and one measure of three beats. It’s a little easier to follow or count if you just listen to the acoustic guitar track.


Let’s listen to this section again.


Steve Howe is going to re-enter with a new guitar riff. This is really his main riff for the song.


And here comes the riff for the verse.


I love this part! The guitar and the organ are doubling each other on the riff.


And Chris Squire is playing a really driving bass part.


And Bill Bruford is just laying down a great groove on the drums.


I just love the way it all comes together.


Here’s where Jon Anderson’s vocals come in for the first verse:


Anderson is overdubbed harmonizing with himself, as well as some backing vocals from Chris Squire and Steve Howe. Here’s Anderson’s part:


All right, let’s talk about these lyrics. I think John Anderson is a great singer, he has such a pure voice. But as a lyricist, he’s not really my cup of tea. I like to be told a story. I like to hear the singer pour their heart out or make a statement. In general, I’m not a big fan of very abstract lyrics. And John Anderson’s lyrics can range from vague to downright impenetrable. Anderson himself has said that this song is, “just a lot of interesting words”. And he said before that he likes the sounds of words as much as their meaning. He also said that this song is about Siberia being so far away, such a remote place, and yet the people that live there still have the same experiences, they have the same wants and needs that we do. There is a bond that we all share, even in the most isolated places. So, it’s impressionistic, it’s open to interpretation, I get it. It’s just not my preference.

The lyrics don’t make any sense when you just read them on paper. But they do sound beautiful when John Anderson sings them with that voice.


Here’s what I think of as the chorus.


Okay, let’s take a closer look here, because there’s some great stuff going on. First, here’s what the guitar is doing.


I love that. Now, here’s what the bass is doing


And of course, the drums:


There aren’t really any keyboard parts here, so let’s listen to the guitar, bass and drums together, without the vocals.


And you can hear that there’s an acoustic guitar that comes in at the end there. Now let’s hear just the vocals.


Now let’s hear all of that together again.


Once you add the vocals, the whole feel of that section changes, right? Now, the next section features sort of a vocal round that happens, almost a chant. This idea will return later in the song.


The main guitar riff returns and listen to what the bass is doing underneath it.


Back to the verse. Let’s hear that bass lick again.


Back to the verse


And let’s hear a little bit more of that bass, the way it walks down the scale there.


And this time around, let’s bring up the vocals.


Let’s have a closer listen to what we were hearing there. This song is just throwing something new at you around every corner. First, let’s go back and listen to some of those guitar licks.


Then there’s the vocal break. And that leads us into the next section, which features Steve Howe on an electric sitar. This isn’t an actual sitar, it’s a standard guitar that’s fitted with extra resonant strings and a special bridge to emulate that sitar sound. Let’s just hear that part.


Let’s hear this section altogether:


So far, Rick Wakeman has been laying low on the keyboards for a while, but now he gets to step forward on the harpsichord.


Let’s hear just that harpsichord.


And here’s what the bass and drums are doing to complement that.


Let’s put that all back together the way we found it, and see how it sounds.


And that transitions immediately into a new section featuring Steve Howe on steel guitar.


Between the crying sound of the Steel Guitar and that deep echo, it really gives this part a ghostly air. Underneath that haunting sound, the bass and the drums are playing a pretty heavy part and totally locked in with each other. Let’s listen to that.


Man, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire, just two masters of their instruments. Okay, once again, let’s put it all back together and hear this as one piece.


And now Steve Howe is just going to let it rip with a good old fashioned guitar solo.


And here’s what the bass, drums and keyboards are doing behind that:


All right, let’s hear it all together.


And then there’s a variation on the “country-fried” riff from the beginning.


OK, Chris Squire is doing something interesting on bass here, he’s playing harmonics. Let’s listen to that.


Here’s Rick Wakeman on the Mellotron


…And back to the verse riff:


Let’s listen again to how tightly locked in the guitars and keyboards are on that riff.


Here, the chant we heard earlier returns, but this time it continues to escalate, becoming more intense, building for almost a minute and a half.


The Mellotron adds to the drama.


Bruford’s giving his snare drum a workout.


The main guitar riff returns, this time doubled with a swirling effect on it in stereo. Legend had it that this sound was achieved by swinging a microphone around in a circle. But producer Eddie Offord said that they might have swung a microphone around at some point, but not for this track. The effect here was created using some pitch-shifting and an auto panning device.


Now, as the song reaches its climax, we get to probably the most intense part of the song, as the main riff swirls underneath, the drums and the vocals come at you in sharp, staccato stabs


That sounds almost random, but obviously not, as the voices and the drums are all perfectly in sync.


OK, so we know the Yes methodology was to record a section at a time and edit them together. That transition there is the first time in this whole song that I can hear what sounds like an edit. The rest of the song flows pretty seamlessly, but that does feel like an edit point to me.


Still, over the course of a nine-minute composition with God knows how many edits, pretty remarkable that only one stands out. Let’s pick it up from that point.


Let’s hear more of Chris Squire’s bass.


Wakeman is playing a couple of synthesizer parts in the background. Here’s one of them.


And on top of all that, Steve Howe is playing a very jazz influenced solo. Check out Bruford’s drum fill there.


“Siberian Khatru” by Yes.

Though their “Fragile” album would eventually sell more copies, “Close To The Edge” would be Yes’s highest charting album. Can you imagine there was a time when music this complex and adventurous could reach the top five?  “Close to the Edge” has sold over a million copies.

Drummer Bill Bruford found the whole experience recording this album excruciatingly painful, and quit the band before the record was even released.  Rick Wakeman would last one more album and then he left, too. Yes became a revolving door of members, coming and going. I can count at least 15 people who were in the band at some point, and I know that’s not a complete list. Chris Squire was the only person who was in every version of Yes and played on every album from the beginning, right up until his death in 2015. One of the greatest bass players in rock history.

Thankfully, at the time of this recording, the other players on this album, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and John Anderson. are still with us today. And producer Eddie offered he’s still alive and kicking, too.

Well, this has been the most challenging episode I’ve ever put together, and one of the longest, too. So, thanks for sticking with me. If you’re a Yes fan, I hope I did it justice. And if you’re not really a fan of Yes or Prague Rock in general, I hope this episode gave you some appreciation for the creativity, the vision and the amazing musicianship that goes into making a song like this.

Thank you for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes are coming at you on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back soon with another show. You can find all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, Amazon, wherever you can find podcasts, you’ll find us.

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Thanks again for joining me for this episode on “Siberian Khatru” by Yes.

Greg Renoff, author of “Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal” and “Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music”, joins us to talk about a pivotal album in his youth, “Burn” by Deep Purple. It also happens to be one of my favorite albums, too. We also spend some time talking about the first solo LP from bass player Glenn Hughes, another personal favorite of mine.

If you liked this episode, check out the previous episode where we do a deep dive into the song “Burn”: www.lovethatsongpodcast.com/deep-purple-burn/

— This show is one of many great podcasts on the Pantheon Podcasts network. Check ’em out!