Get Out Of Jail Free

Norton & BonnieDo not pass GO

Greasy Rob the car mechanic, Otis the mailman, Stomping Stu from the village allotments and the Doc were busy playing a game of Friday night Monopoly on the kitchen table. A glazed brown pot of Rington’s Tea steamed away beside Otis who was the banker and custodian of the premium biscuit assortment. Otis had hotels on his home straight green collection, Rob had all four stations and the Doc had a strong collection of reds and pinks. Stu, meanwhile, was thumbing his Water Works and keeping an eye on the orange properties. (more…)

Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach [..with tab]

Switched On BachHark, what peaceful music rings!

[To the Memory of the great Herbert Harris, Choirmaster and Organist of All Saints Church, Harpenden, UK].

Welcome to the Harp Surgery, where one minute we’re honking the blues and next minute we’re power harping on a tangent. Time now to turn the clocks back three hundred years to the ornamentation and etiquette of the Baroque.

Whether or not you’ve studied classical music, it’s a certainty you’ve encountered its superstars. In absentia, these dudes have colonised elevators, call centres hold messages and even TV theme tunes (check out The Antiques Roadshow ) for decades. Our house favourite is Johann Sebastian Bach. Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, composed in the early 1700’s, was regular fayre for the Good Doctor as a junior.  And somehow, Bach was hip. (more…)

Boogie On Reggae Woman..[with tab]

Stevie Wonder diatonic harmonica

It was 1974. With a string of hit singles under his belt, Stevie Wonder recorded Boogie On Reggae Woman amidst some more reflective compositions for his new album, Fullfillingness’ First Finale.

The song’s title is slightly misleading. This is no Trench Town rasta vibe. There is a reggae skank for reference, but underneath it’s as fundamentally funk as Superstition and just as ground breaking.

For Harp Surgery fans, what makes the song especially interesting, is its infusion of a bluesy piano line and some highly expressive first-position blues harping. Let’s look more closely..

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More Beatles Harmonica [..with tab]

Beatles harpTo the toppermost of the poppermost

Further to our harmonica study of Love Me Do, we should now take a further look at John Lennon’s harmonica recordings with the Beatles.

Not including the harmonica quartet on Sergeant Pepper’s For The Benefit Of Mr.Kite, we have identified at least a dozen Beatles tracks that feature harmonica. To be brutal, most of these are either ‘minor’ pieces from the band’s catalogue or else examples of Lennon’s harmonica work in its unaccomplished state. Rocky Racoon or Little Child for instance have particularly ‘unsophisticated’ harmonica parts. On I’ll Get You, the harmonica is badly out of tune.

What quickly becomes apparent is that John Lennon’s melodic use of the Chromatic harmonica was probably more comfortable than his diatonic work. With the Chromatic he could skilfully sidestep the need for reed bending on the short harp, which was not something he had yet mastered in the early 1960’s. We’ve chosen to help you nail three tunes where John Lennon’s harp lines feature most strongly.. (more…)

Love Me Do – The Beatles [..with tab]

Beatles HarmonicaI’ll always be true, so please, love me do

Much has been written about John Lennon’s harmonica playing with The Beatles. He started playing at a time in the 1960’s when American blues music was taking the UK by storm. Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin Wolf all toured the UK. The Rolling Stones were stiff competition in the popularity stakes, with harmonica work by the multi-talented Brian Jones and many other UK R&B bands followed.

Listen to

Bruce Channel was also touring the UK on the back of his ‘Hey Baby’ hit (many will be more familiar with the 1990’s cover version, famous for its loutish Ooh-Aah chant). With him was Delbert McClinton, the harmonica player on the hit. Legend has it that Delbert McClinton taught John Lennon cross harp while Channel’s band was touring Merseyside. In a later interview however McClinton busts this myth.

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Little Bitty Pretty One (Rockin Robin) – Rod Piazza [..with tab]

Little bitty pretty one, come on and talk to me

Rod Piazza 2 ©FrankVigil.comIn a previous post we had the good fortune of reviewing Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers live in Las Vegas. It was a welcome treat as the Harp Surgery has always been a fan of his work. Little Bitty Pretty One (Rockin’ Robin) brought back happy memories of a time when this instrumental was a hot topic of conversation. It is not just a catchy tune; more importantly it includes a devilish switch between separate draw bends in hole 3 and the straight draw in hole 2. Something the Harp Surgery likes to call a wobble.

Wobbles can be executed in several departments of the harp. They are achieved by direct bending in one hole (this could be a draw bend or a blow bend), rolling into an adjacent hole and then returning to the original bent note or, as in this case, a second bent note in the original hole. Join us on our journey into rocking blues and all will be revealed. (more…)