You may Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive apparently, but if that’s the price I have to pay to listen to a track as sublime as ‘Bumblebee Bumblebee’ over and over again, then I’d take that deal, thanks Mr Hooker.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 06

Like all that is joyous, perfect and downright tasty in the world Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive* was released in 1972 as the follow-up to Endless Boogie**.  By this stage record companies were pitching their blues releases almost solely at the vast white rock and pop audiences, whose appreciation of the blues had been crowbarred wide open by various loudly amped hairy young dudes desperate to don their authenticity and gravitas, in those blissful days before anyone had invented cultural appropriation.

Bought on a whim and a voucher a year ago, I picked up Never Get Out because I wanted to get some 70’s John Lee Hooker and I noticed that Steve Miller and Van Morrison guested on it.  Plus I didn’t own enough LPs with buses on the cover of them and I had to put that right.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 04
God, I wish I caught a bus that needed a ‘No Dancin” sign up.

As I may have carefully alluded to earlier, the best track on Never Get Out is the opener ‘Bumblebee, Bumblebee’ a Hooker original which sneakily rewrites the lyrics to his own 1951 recording ‘Bumblebee Blues’ and Memphis Minnie’s^* 1930 cut, umm, ‘Bumblebee Blues’ to create a whole new, copyrightable tune.  The slick beastie Hooker serves up for our delectation is a masterclass in laid-back lasciviousness.  Over an almost negligible groove, Robert Hooker’s organ and Cliff Coulter’s electric piano slink along whilst John Lee, Benny Lowe and Luther Tucker’s guitars weave occasional flashes of silver across the soundscape.

I find Mr J.L Hooker’s behaviour upon being attacked by the titular insect somewhat puzzling.  Mr Hooker’s bumblebee has stung him, making his temperature rise; in fact the way this bee has stung him has made him exclaim, holler even, ‘hot dog!‘*^, he tells us this several times.  The aforementioned female insect has a stinger as long as his right arm and despite this he seems intent on finding her, instead of very sensibly giving her a wide berth – or even defending himself with a rolled-up newspaper.  One can only assume that the insect’s sting has rendered Mr Hooker somewhat delirious and incapable of too much rational thought.  But it has to be said that ‘Bumblebee Bumblebee’ is laudably accurate in dealing with the consequences of being stung by an insect of the genus Bombus.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 01

Now, as we all know the active chemical component of bee venom is the toxin melittin; which does indeed cause a very localized rise in temperature for its’ victim – a consequence of which could well cause the recipient to holler ‘hot dog!’, or even for the more uncouth amongst us, something profane.  A bumblebee is capable of stinging repeatedly as its’ sting lacks the barbs which are present in the stings of other bee species, which cause death to the insect when stinging a heavier skinned creature like a human.

Sorry, I may have digressed slightly here, but I do like bees.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 05

The other three tracks on the first side of Never Get Out are very good, they all swing fluidly and well, ‘Boogie With The Hook’ particularly.  This is unsurprising, you have a whole heap of excellent musicians in the room all at the behest of a blues legend who is still firing on all cylinders.  Which is all fine and pleasant but the songs aren’t up to very much in themselves, so it never really switches up into fifth gear.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 02 (2)

Which really cannot be said about second side opener ‘T.B Sheets’, which confusingly is not a cover of the Van Morrison track of the same name, Hooker’s is better.  The track is sung from the viewpoint of the sufferer whose time is nigh and is illuminated by eerie stabs of violin, courtesy of Michael White and that voice – you have to earn one of those over many years, you don’t get given one straight off the shelf.  It’s a killer chiller.

Sadly that’s it for high-class kicks – ‘Letter To My Baby’ is a very rote blues boogie and the 10-minute Van Morrison duet ‘Never Get Out of These Blues Alive’ is very uninspired fare indeed.  The latter being less than the sum of its’ parts, far more Dylan & The Dead, rather than Hooker n’ Heat and that’s a fact.

John Lee Hooker Never Get Out 03

Never Get Out has two heaped portions of genius pie and then some other stuff, it is all played excellently well and the production by Ed Michel is quite brilliant – this has to be the best recorded blues album I own.  Those bus pictures though? they make me holler ‘Hot Dog!’.

Now about bees … they do say you’ll never get out of these bees alive.

839 Down.

*henceforth to be known as Never Get Out, because I need to get to bed before 3am tonight.

**an LP that one of my very fave bands took their name from and one which I can’t afford on vinyl.  if any record company moguls are reading this, please re-release it – you’re guaranteed at least one sale right here^.

^especially if you release it on clear vinyl with a 3D cover, tote bag, poster^^, slip mat and toothbrush, limited to 100 copies.

^^preferably of Kat Dennings.

^*Memphis Minnie being the lady who cut a track in 1929 called ‘When The Levee Breaks’, that was one of the few tracks that a certain English rock band gave full and proper credit for when they borrowed the lyrics.  If you don’t know her stuff, seek it out, if you have a bluesy bone in your body you’ll like it.

*^much like that Albert King chap with his saw.

23 thoughts on “Let It Bee

  1. “I find Mr JL Hookers behavior ..”. That paragraph is one of your best. I was listening to a radio program last night and they talked about the invention of the ” hot dog”. CB is a a more knowledgeable guy today. John Lee is the groove master. That violin by Michael White is very cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this one, Joe. Particularly your thorough autopsy of Bumblebee Bumblebee. I can say with all certainty that this is one of my favourites of yours; splendid stuff.

    Anyhoo, I don’t know this album at all, but I’d say the two tracks and the cover would make it a worthwhile addition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you Jim! It was a song worthy of everything, plus I really really like bees!

      If you could find it at the right price it is a great buy – I got given a voucher for being a goody-goody at work and so it was sort of a free LP for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah yeah. The Hook was so good. My favourite era of his was when we was with a band in the 70s and 80s. Great stuff. Don’t have this one but I have Bumble Bee on some compilation some where. Solid tune.

    I’m with you on Kat Dennings too. I never watch her show but I stop and look at it sometimes… longer than I should…. She is great in the Thor movies too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much as I love John Lee Hooker, if I had to choose between him and her … well, maybe he could have written a great blues song about the disappointment.

      I still think her best film was Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love Mr. Hooker, admittedly a convert from over watching The Blues Brothers, but hey, once you’ve seen the light… I do have to question his entomology skills, he was more likely to have been stung by an African Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera)which is aggressive (even by our own horrific human standards) than a Bumble Bee, which are pretty placid. I’ve fondled many a bumble bee and never once been stung, even when moving a nest from a pile of rotting vegetation to a safer location. But hey, I’m sure there have been thousands of poor natural history observations that have lead to good songs, so we’ll let him off. After all, he did get it right with Crawling King Snake, as they are known to kill other snakes, including Rattlesnakes, as they are immune to their venom. So, you wouldn’t want to get near his den as he’s a mean, snake-strangling mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, welcome Mr Morris, I am ashamed to say I hadn’t considered Apis Mellifera – you are totally right.

      I have a bit of a thing for stroking bumblebees when they aren’t looking, as well. It’s a harmless enough vice I thought, until #BeeToo started up that is.

      I love the Hook because the rhythms and tunes on his early stuff are just so off-kilter and weird. Punk as fuck, in his way.

      Like

      1. Ha ha. I too am a bee stroker – we shouldn’t be ashamed. I’m sure there’s a place for us on the web. I also pet wasps. I had a large nest next to my decking in the garden and watched hundreds coming and going – amazing stuff. And noted two hoverflies entering the nest, striped like the wasps. They apparently clean the nests and then sneakily lay their eggs so their offspring can be be ‘raised’ by the wasps. I was thinking about doing this myself, taking my liberal children to the US, and inserting them into Republican households. Do you think this could work – or might they come back and shoot me?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hornet Hoverfly (Volucalla zonaria)is kinda cuckoo, more symbiotic as grubs clean nest of wasp, so they get something in return. On the overfly’s side, I’d imagine it’s a safe place for their young to live without being predated. It’s colour mimicry is amazing, so the wasps let it pass into the nest without killing it. It probably has some sneaky pheromone disguise too. Nature is amazing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Just last weekend, I was tossing up whether to write up this or Endless Boogie, there having been far too little roots music over Vinyl Connection way.

    As it turns out, I did neither. And glad I am too, for after this excellent presentation I can put a line through NGOOTBA, for a while at least.

    Might just mention in passing that I sold my original US pressing of Endless Boogie when I bought the CD, back in the ignorant nineties. Bye now; I’m off to self-flagellate with a strap made of bumble-bee stings.

    Liked by 1 person

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