Bo Diddley


Bo Diddley


His Best


Bo Diddley had the beat. Take his onomatopoeic name for a start—it was so good, he used it in a dozen different song titles: “Bo Diddley,” “Diddley Daddy,” “Bo Diddley Is a Lover,” “Bo’s a Lumberjack.” He chopped up rock ’n’ roll’s square 4/4 rhythm into jagged pieces with his rectangular guitar, hired a maracas player called Jerome Green to add a counterrhythm, and rarely bothered with chord changes. Bo claimed to have come across his patented beat while trying to play Gene Autry’s “(I’ve Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle,” though it more closely recalled the rhumba rhythm of the Andrews Sisters’ 1945 hit “Rum and Coca Cola.”

Among the future hits to feature or adapt the Bo Diddley rhythm:

Elvis Presley’s “His Latest Flame”
Them’s “Mystic Eyes”
The Who’s “Magic Bus”
The Stooges’ “1969”
David Bowie’s “Panic in Detroit”
George Michael’s “Faith”
and the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now.”

That’s not including covers of Bo’s songs, which made up a good percentage of repertoires on the British R&B circuit in 1963 and ’64: “Mona,” “Pretty Thing,” “Road Runner,” “I’m a Man,” “Who Do You Love,” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.”

Listen to a playlist of songs with the Bo Diddley beat.

From Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley, out now in hardcover and ebook.


If Elvis was considered dangerous, then Jerry Lee Lewis was outright terrifying. He wore custard-yellow suits with black piping and had a sneer that spelled out sex and dirt and a regal arrogance. He was a mean, mean man. “We’re going to hell,” he’d cry. “Fire and brimstone. The fire never dies, the burning never dies, the fire never quenches for the weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Yessir, going to hell. The Bible tells us so.” He was nicknamed the Killer, largely for what he did to his poor piano, his golden curls of hair flying as he sweated, battered, and molested the poor thing.

The piano on his first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (no. 3, ’57), sounded like it could break through the floorboards; it made a roaring, echoing noise like ominous approaching clouds. 

From Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley, out now in hardcover and ebook.

All Killer, no filler over on The Story of Pop.


Chapter 2: Elvis Presley

In the early seventies Elvis Presley’s record label, RCA, released an album of unreleased outtakes called A Legendary Performer: when it outsold his new album of maudlin country ballads, the singer must have felt he had begun to lose the battle with his myth. Trapped inside Graceland, the Memphis mansion that was half home, half prison, the humble country boy who had done more than anyone to invent teen culture grew overweight and suffered severe depression; to the outside world, though, he was still the ultimate superstar, the invincible King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Eighteen months before he died, Elvis told his producer Felton Jarvis, “I’m so tired of being Elvis Presley.”

Keep reading…

Listen to the Chapter 2 playlist (with songs by Elvis Presley):

(This playlist features only the specific songs discussed in Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! by Bob Stanley (W. W. Norton, 2014) that are available on Spotify. Additional songs, albums, and bands are referenced beyond what is included here.)

Listen to more playlists.

Follow the storyofpop tumblr for a little music history on your dash. Today’s lesson: Elvis Presley. And coming soon: the early days of rockabilly.


Introducing….The Story of Pop.

Bob Stanley’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! tells the story of pop from Bill Haley to Beyoncé and everything in between, in chapters as short and addictive as the best pop songs themselves.

This tumblr is your Internet companion to the book: we’ll be posting playlists for each chapter and highlighting the all the great (and, ahem, not-so-great) songs, artists, scenes, and genres that Stanley touches on.

So, you know: Elvis, Jay Z, the Monkees, Patsy Cline, Patti Smith, skiffle, new wave, New Order, “It’s the Same Old Song,” The Song Remains the Same, Aretha, the Brill Building, Bowie, Blondie, Madonna, Prince, Sgt. Pepper, A Tribe Called Quest, the Clash, Fleetwood Mac, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” Bikini Kill, the Kinks, disco, Dylan, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and on and on and on.

Say it with me now: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Listen up: There’s now a tumblr dedicated to Bob Stanley’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, telling the history of pop music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, in all its playable, rebloggable glory.

Follow The Story of Pop.