Monday, January 23, 2012

British R&B bands of the 1960s

Andrew Hickey is serialising his new ebook on The Kinks. In the first part he writes of British rhythm and blues bands of the 1960s:
Like many British bands in 1964 and 65, the Kinks were attempting to sound like the American blues music of a previous generation. The problem is that like many of those bands, the Kinks were not particularly strong either vocally or instrumentally, and simply couldn’t carry the weight of this material. 
When Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley sing “I’m A Man”, the implicit meaning is “so don’t call me ‘boy’”. When white teenagers from the Home Counties sing the same material, it comes out sounding more like “I’m a grown man, now, mummy, so you can’t make me tidy my room!” 
The best of the British R&B-oriented bands, like the Animals or the Zombies or the Spencer Davis Group, got away with this by having astonishingly good vocalists – and all of these bands soon moved away from the R&B sound.
Andrew seems spot on to me here, and not just because he compliments to two of my very favourite bands.


Simon Titley said...

There was another problem with British R&B bands, which is that they sang the same lyrics as black musicians from the deep south. Trouble was, the 'deep south' didn't mean Croydon, so hearing Londoners sing about their hard lives picking cotton didn't carry any conviction.

Say what you like about the Beatles, but at least their lyrics reflected an authentic experience (Liverpool in the earlier years, LSD-fuelled hallucinations in later lyrics).

Jonathan Calder said...

But the Beatles did their share of covering Black American songs in their early days too.

Take it away Barrett Strong...