It’s tempting to say that Bo Diddley recorded 11 full-length albums, each one better than the last; but that would be denying the pure, unsurpassed genius of his first, “Bo Diddley.”
Music historians have wasted so many perfectly good words trying to explain the significance of Bo Diddley. “Bo Diddley liberated the blues from the 12-bar form and melded it to an insistent, infectious rhumba beat,” they bleat. “Diddley was the progenitor of all that was to come in the evolution of rock and roll,” blah blah blah blah.
Listen: Why is eating a plateful of ribs and dripping all over your hands and clothes fun? BECAUSE IT JUST IS. Why is walking around with cotton candy in one hand and a blue, helium-filled balloon on a string in the other fun? BECAUSE IT JUST IS. Bo Diddley is fun BECAUSE HE JUST IS.
“Bo Diddley” (the album) was rock and roll’s Big Bang, dripping with sinew and grease and humor and understated swagger. The simplest ingredients - a guitar, a drum, and some maracas - were packed in a gunny sack and slung over the shoulder of some smiling guy with a slick process and a wild plaid jacket, who took it and ran headfirst into oncoming traffic. Reckless, yet crazy cool. He made it sound easy.
Geniuses can do that.
No doctoral thesis will explain Bo Diddley, the man or “Bo Diddley,” the album. You won’t find the answer in some scholarly article called “The Epistomological Roots of ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ or something like that, in your dog-eared copy of the Journal of the American Institute of Ethnomusicology.
Bo Diddley just is.
It’s the beach party of your dreams. Not one of those with the squeaky-clean suburban kids doing the frug at Malibu like in the movies, oh no. This is Myrtle Beach, filled with dangerous bikers and gang members and hot mamas and escaped convicts and god knows who else (best not to ask), all cruising for kicks. It’s after midnight but the heat still lingers from a blistering day. Except for a small bonfire, the dark is all-enveloping; couples vanish into it and you’d best be looking elsewhere. At the fire, some guy’s carving his initials into his hand with a pen knife, and two babes are noodle-dancing to the waves, or maybe just the voices in their heads. They need music, dammit. Just then, a cloud of dust materializes at the far end of the boardwalk, heading your way, getting closer by the minute. As it approaches, you can just make out the silhouette of a rather large man atop a little motor scooter, some crazy looking guitar slung over his shoulder. Who IS this guy? The scooter chugs to a stop at your feet, and off steps the only musician in the known world who could play this party without having the shit kicked out of him.
He plugs in, kicks off a scorching guitar riff. The band falls in. And the place goes totally batshit. Miraculously, someone thought to bring along a tape recorder. The result: Bo Diddley’s Beach Party, the absolute pinnacle of vicarious musical thrills. Presented in its original, glorious, Distort-O-Phonic mono, this sweaty grungefest kicks ass from start to finish.
Lots of albums claim to be essential, groundbreaking, and all that crap, and pointyheaded rock crits fawn over cosmic lyrical brainfarts and diminished ninths and such. Bo Ddiddley’s Beach Party just kicks sand in their faces and dares you not to dance.
Sundazed earnestly believes that you have no business calling yourself a rock ‘n roll fan, an r&b maven, or even a sentient human being unless this album is in your collection, that’s how crucial it is. In fact, don’t even talk to us until it’s in your hands. We mean it.