bo diddley, the jazz cafe, camden, 2 august 2004

...simply proof that a 75-year old man who invented rock n'roll fifty years ago but retired from actively writing its history forty years ago can still be the possessor of engaging charm, a fine throat and absurd, pillar-box red garb, even if he has to sit down to play and has to be ushered through the crowd pre-and post-performance like a boxer, because the stannah-free steps down to the stage might be a little much for him. but opening with his signature tune "bo diddley" and a drummer mashing up like the fall-style, and even with benign-looking grandmothers playing bass and maracas respectively, all the links with the jesus and mary chain (the reverb, the menace, the instantly recognisable shuffle-beat that the latter purloined for their "bo diddley is jesus" tribute, and a thousand other bands just purloined generally) come to life. not least as the mary chain's ex-drummer, 20 years on and since of a rather lesser band, is hanging round the bar. and yes, bo also plays "who do you love", the song that the j&mc ground out on "barbed wire kisses".

it's not all candycoated sugarkisses, barbed wire or otherwise: he doesn't play that many songs, but boy do they go on a long time. he attempts to rap - to put it kindly, it's no worse than the sugarhill gang, which it sort of brings to mind. and the band "jam" rather a lot, to keep the more superannuated of the audience happy (though bo must still be the oldest person here). but all in all, and in the context of the occasion, these things are mere detail. near the end, "i'm a man" is played: once the flip side of "bo diddley", it too spawned literally thousands of imitations - another template for what the world now knows as rock n' roll. it's no wonder that the jesus and mary chain, as they sang only a few years ago, love it so.