Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 104 The Blues Intro - 2 (12-Bar Blues)




[Allen continues with his Blues class, reading out the lyrics (or, more accurately, one set of lyrics) for Richard "Rabbit" Brown's classic, "James Alley Blues" 

"... (times ain't now) nothin' like they used to be
Oh, times ain’t now nothin' like they used to be
And I’m telling you all the truth - ah! take it from me 

I done seen better days, but I’m putting up with these
I done seen better days, but I’m putting up with these
I could have a much better time, but the girls now are so hard to please

'Cause I was born in the country, she thinks I’m easy to rule
'Cause I was born in the country, she thinks I’m easy to rule
She try to hitch me to a wagon, she wanna drive me like a mule 

You know I bought the groceries, and I paid the rent
Yeah, I pays the groceries and  buys the rent
She make me wash her clothes but I got good common sense

I said, if you don't want me, why don't you tell me so?
I said, "if you don't want me, why don't you tell me so?
'Cause it ain't like a man has got no place to go

I believe I'm giving you sugar for sugar, that you'll get salt for salt
I believe I'm giving you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt
And if you can't get along with me, then it's your own fault

Now you want me to love you, and you treat me mean
How do you want me to love you, if  you keep on treat me mean?
You're my daily thought and my nightly dream

Sometimes I think that you're too sweet to die
Sometimes I think that you're too sweet to die
And another time I think you ought to be buried alive!


















One other thing… how many here are musicians and know there’s a twelve-bar blues, right? right, musicians? – This is a twelve-bar blues. How many here know the chords on the twelve-bar blues ?  Raise hands.. Well, ok, a small minority, actually. How many do not know the chords in the twelve-bar blues? - ok - how many here know what "chords" are? - [small show of hands] - ok, so that’s real simple then. I’ll teach you the Blues then! - (it's) very simple..I’ve learned it, so it must be (simple)!

[Allen returns to the blackboard] - So, leaving this, to begin - "C" – there's only three chords to begin with – there's a basic, basic structure - Can everybody see now?

PW: Can you all see?

AG: No? - Put it [the blackboard, presumably] in the center. 

It’s so simple, I realize, it's so simple that, actually, ..there’s no reason why everybody can’t know how, actually, to make up a Blues (or (indeed) how to sing them). The first line is all one chord. I guess. (What would you call it? the major chord? – is that what they call it? the major chord? – "C" here, in this case).
[Allen sings along] – "Times aint now, nothing like they used to be"  - so that’s all on one chord - "Time.." - Everybody know how to make a... most people know how to make a "C" chord -  [so, this time, with harmonium accompaniment] "Times ain't now, not like they used to be"

Then, in the second line.. this (first is) also known as "1" or "C".. and then it goes up to "F" chord (and that is "4" - "1" (to) "4", right? - "Times ain't now, not like they used to be" - go back to the "C",  at the end of the last syllable of the line you go back to your tonic (1). So, the second line is.. First one is  "Times ain't now, not like they used to be" - then up two on that.. So, (on) the last syllable you go back to where you began - Is that all clear? - And then, a little bit into the third line, you go to the 5th, or, in this case, "G" - and the third line goes down. We had.."Times ain't now, nothing like they used to be..", then up at the "F"  - "Times ain't now, nothing like they used to be"..  and then to the 5th, or in this case "G"  - and, after one or two syllables, depending on where your rhythm is going (that, in your ear, you can hear) - "Well I'm telling you all the truth, Oh, listen to me". So you come back to the "C' at the end.

This was the song I learned Blues on and it's so straightforward and simple that it seems to me it's possible for almost anybody to learn, if I can learn  (because I was sort of resistant to understanding music, or, understanding anything that simple).

Student: What's that "14151" that it says here?

AG: Er..yes.. 1-4-1-5-1 - er.. they're generally used by.. I don't know if they're...they're generally used by jazz musicians, or folk musicians, to indicate this could be done in C-F-G, or it could be done in G, G-C-G, D  - So, in this case the sequence would be 14151 again. In other words, in case you want to use a different set of chords, that's the formula - 14151 - What does that mean?  14151?...

I don’t want to get that complicated into the music or the theory. It’s just that most people know how to make a C chord and an F chord and a G chord, and if you can do that then you can be Bob Dylan, ‘cause that’s all he knew when he started out, when he did his first records, and you can sing an infinite variety of blues with just that basic set of three chords, and there are some songs that are only two chords, actually (some popular songs and ballads that you can do with two chords). The original is by Richard “Rabbit” Brown and I made a rough dub of Richard "Rabbit" Brown  (which is 1929) singing "James Alley Blues" – this is called.. [Allen plays a recording] - That’s taken off Harry Smith's Folkways anthology of Blues, it’s available.

I think it’s time. I’ll continue, I think, with some more blues, and follow this up next period.

[An audio recording of the above is available here, starting at approximately thirty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in, through to the end]  ..

1 comment:

  1. More on the remarkable Richard "Rabbit" Brown here - http://oldweirdamerica.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/61-james-alley-blues-by-richard-rabbit-brown/

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