The reason that I know so little about 80s rock is because during that decade, I was immersed in learning about the blues. I had begun to read about how musicians like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones and even early heavy metal groups like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were all inspired by the genre, which exploded in the UK during the early 60s and helped the rest of the world – including America – rediscover cats like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Freddie King.
My first proper blues record was a Chess reissue of a live Muddy Waters record of a 1961 (I think) show he did somewhere in the South. His music, of course, predated the Civil Rights movement, but you could hear both the pain and the pride in his voice when he sang tunes like “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’m Ready,” two songs considered the best of his ‘macho’ repertoire (incidentally, the former was penned by bassist Willie Dixon, who also wrote countless songs for other blues musicians).
From then on, there was no turning back for me. Before you knew it, I had a collection that included all the greats from the past and quite a few contemporaries as well, especially the late, great Stevie ‘Ray’ Vaughan.
I remember exactly when it happened. I happened to be in a record store in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the late 80s when I heard the first licks from “Love Struck Baby,” the opening track of his debut recording, Texas Flood. I remember being completely taken not only by his guitar playing but also his singing. I became an instant fan right there, and purchased the record on the spot – now I can’t even remember why I had gone to the store in the first place.
I also recall when I heard about his untimely death just a few years after I discovered his music. Today, I have all his records, including the ones that were posthumously released – my favorite being his double Live at Montreux record – on the first you can hear the audience booing him (he was completely unknown then and was playing with an electric band during a mostly acoustic evening), while on the second he receives a standing ovation – things that happen to anyone’s career, I guess.
The only frustration I have about the blues is my frustration for never having been able to be in a blues band. Sure, I have participated in open jams and played improvised tunes with pick-up groups, but all my attempts to either start or participate in such a group.
But hey, Eric Clapton only made a straight blues record when he was in his 50s… so I guess I have time.