British Blues – Rock Icon John Mayall’s Historic Return to the Paris Olympia

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by Mark W. Suits

Seeing posters in the Paris Metro that the British Blues icon John Mayall was going to play at the famous Paris Music Hall L’Olympia immediately got me on the phone with my friend and VT collogue Jane Rosenstein so that we could obtain press passes to hear him.

It was a great thrill to go see John Mayall, British blues father of many rock stars of the 60s such as Eric Clapton and Robert Plant, at the famous old music hall Olympia.

We got there and our contact, Mayall’s Paris organizer Yazid Manou showed us in, and obtained a photo pass to go up front during the first three songs. Then he pointed down the long wide corridor leading down into the theatre, surprised me and said  “John is just down there to the left signing his new record if you want to meet him…”

Jane Rosenstein and I were surprised to find John Mayall in his 80s, with short hair sporting a somewhat Hawaiian-like shirt, un· unpresumptuously selling and autographing his latest album on our way into the famous old music hall.  Thrilled to meet the blues godfather of much of British rock myself, told him I admired his unique Blues since I was a teenager. For the unique talent he is, it was a real pleasure to find such an unassuming humility in such a great contributor to our musical culture.

John Mayall put on a solid show of new Blues songs covering a range of modern human concerns only a man who has risen above his own importance could muster.

He played to a full house most of whom knew of his music since the 60s. First John said he was happy to be back at the Olympia where he first played in 1969.  The audience applauded.  As is his hallmark, John proceeded to play as if it was still the 60s his blues harp, guitar and piano.  He played a few oldies from his earliest albums and a no longer 20-year-old audience were stomping their feet, raising their arms and  John commented that we were a great audience.  He proceeded to play songs from other albums including his new albums.

The rather no longer 20-year-old audience fell deep into his new Blues braking spell (much to his obvious pleasure) and there was a great deal of foot stomping to his new tunes (and a few oldies). Mayall himself was very thankful, and obviously genuinely pleased by the enthusiasm and said so several times, recounting the first time he’d played the Olympia in 1969.

To me,  Mayall is the father of British Blues… The very creator of a distinct British Blues hybrid style which, pure and unique in its own right led into the entire British both rocker and mods styles…

Mayall however, maintained his own unique style,

sort of sidestepping subsequent rock while remaining true to his own unique blues, meanwhile as his work catapulted numerous artists into the rock scene.

Of course, certain Blues purists may still hold inflexible scorn over the departure of this American style called “blues” with its deeper roots steeped in Mississippi poverty of a segregated southern post-slavery black American culture way prior to JFK civil rights, as the young pioneer Mayall dipped into this black culture from a white British middle class (not even American) artist, and thus helped usher in much of the British rock scene (certainly with a huge influence boomeranged inadvertently back into the American rock scene with later 60’s artist such as Jim Morrisson). Blues after all was a major before all back bone influence towards the origins of most rock music, and perhaps even Jazz.

Mayall’s Blues has traveled far into the future from the amazing now classic 1947 recordings by Alan Lomax in the Louisiana State where the very African roots of leader response vocals were imported on slave ships; as Mayall’s unique blues takes a leap from classic blues genius such as Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Son House, etc. whose blues were about the oppression black people suffered, transporting that culture to a primarily white British culture with which he reinvented a new blues around the blue realities of middle-class England; this inadvertently had an enormous effect on the entire instillation of the 60’s British rock scene: without Mayall ever really becoming a rock and roller, was always part of that while yet remaining in his own unique niche of British blues. His recordings still wow for both their insideness and astute apartness to the entire Rock culture via Rock’s closest ancestor, again: the blues.

Mayall, born in 1933, also had nearly 10 years on most of the sixties upcoming rock talents, so ahead of his time pretty much paved the way for younger artists like Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green, both later founders of Fleetwood Mack… or drummer Anysley Dunbar who later worked with Frank Zappa, and a host of other huge names in rock can be connected somehow to Mayall’s blues, including Led Zeppelin’s Roger Plant, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters… etc… So Mayall himself is simply a humungous founding father of all sorts of music we all know. He is obviously also a survivor.

John and his band have already been touring his new work since September through Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium; and is presently playing in other French cities, to finish October playing through Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, before returning to London early November for three shows according to his web site’s tour schedule. Then he will be touring cities in the USA during March 2016… for more detailed information and or updates, please check his website:

JohnMayall.com

After the concert, Mr Mayall was back, with his band at the boutique selling CD’s by the members of his band. Jane lent me five euros and I bought the drummer Jay’s CD while chatting with both he and John (who informed me that his CD was pack up and only sold before the concert, but he does appear in both of his band members CD’s… then got in a conversation with the Bass player about his solo which was wonderful having a cool riff out of the famous tune from Edward Greig’s Pyre Gynt Suite #1… (and I cheat being a fanatical cross cultural “melomane”: french for ‘serious music buff’) and was amused to find him to be a real grass root blues rocker perfectly unaware of the origin of that famous classical standard (hey, can trace my love for classical music to the Rossini used in ale Bugs Bunny movies but when I was a conservatories learning to read and write music and about it’s origins and roots, these people were out playing for their bread thus became professional talents rather than impractical intellectuals, and my hat is off to that: so in that electric bass guitar improvisation’s classical tune (maybe snuck in to his mind by a cartoon or movie) two worlds apart come together into one mimicking indeed the John Mayall achievement for creating exactly that between black american blues and British popular lyrical song likely passing though such as Noel Coward, who know?!

Anyway, we had a short chat about Nolan Redding (Jimmy Hendrick’s bass player) and the fact that I was sorry to not have another 20 on me since indeed his CD not only had both John Mayall and Jay, whose CD was in my pocket… but also had Buddy Guy in it… dang! But then, had I known what I know now would have blown 60 euros rather than 20… but alas : struggling artist myself… one CD is cool… and that one signed by John and Jay … since listened to it with great pleasure; am happy and thankful for a lovely evening!

Cheers all.

Dear readers, After all of these nice photos of Marks, I saw a great HD YouTube, so here it is.

Source

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