Last night I went to the 02 Academy in Glasgow to see a man who perhaps more than any other laid the foundations for the path of popular music in Britain in the 1960’s and where it would go thereafter.
He has worked with, or more accurately employed, some of the best musicians in the business. Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Walter Trout, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood is only a cross section and sample of the musicians he had in his band at one time or another.
If I needed any confirmation of the man’s greatness, it was provided last night when 75 year old John Mayall walked on stage looking fit and well.
“I’d like to start off solo with a song taught to me by Sonny Boy Williamson when we played together”
The “Beano” album in 1966 by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (so called because that was the publication being read by one Eric Clapton on the cover shot) had at least as big and probably bigger influence in this country than any Beatles album, including Sergeant Pepper.
Certainly given the choice I know which one I’d rather listen to!
If the Rolling Stones popularised blues and R&B in the early 60’s, it was Mayall and his band who announced to the world that the blues had grown up and was being taken to a new level.
The Beano album paved the way for Fleetwood Mac, Free, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and countless others.
Last night with a band, each of whom would be at least young enough to be Mayall’s grandsons (or even perhaps great grandsons) He showed the unique musicianship and vocal skill which was first brought to the world’s attention all those years ago.
They did a blistering set of nearly two hours including many of the old hits. Have you heard, Hideaway, All your love, Help me, California all delivered with aplomb.
Mayall was the only guy on stage with his shirt tucked in to his jeans and at times he did seem to be limping in amongst the diving about.
That apart I would guess he pretty much played as he would have forty years ago although these days he almost entirely confines himself to keyboard and harmonica. Last night he only played guitar on one song.
The harmonica is just played straight through the vocal mic and whilst Mayall may not be one of the true greats on the moothie he is very very good and has a fairly unique style. Similarly there are better voices, but his vocal range for his age is nothing short of astonishing.
There was only a couple of hundred folk there which is a shame but Mayall and his band played as if it was a full house.
Here is John Mayall with Eric Clapton at the former’s 70th birthday party in 2003 performing Hideaway.