Alexis Korner "Get Off Of My Cloud" Columbia USA LP (PC 33427) 1975


"Alexis Korner has had a great influence on the British blues scene. If only for helping bring the Rolling Stones together, Alexis should be carried round London in a sedan chair for the rest of his life." – Peter Townshend, The Who 1971


"Alexis Korner is one of the bulwarks of the British popular music movement, and his influence and mere presence seems to range over a score of years. Alexis is always around, whether helping to engineer an R&B revolution (or) changing the face of pop music ... " – Chris Welch, Melody Maker


"Without a doubt, it was Alexis, together with the late Cyril Davies who was directly responsible for nurturing the way in which most progressive blues and pop in this country has developed. For it can virtually all be genetically traced back to his band – Blues Incorporated." – Roy Carr, New Musical Express



Liner Notes by Tony Scaduto


Fortunately for us, Alexis Korner has never needed that sedan chair because he's been very busy making music. As a result, his influence on pop music can be traced from 1961 with the Rolling Stones, to Cream, to Led Zeppelin, right up to 1975 with Bad Company, and believe me I've only named a few.


No way is Alexis Korner going to stop now. Alexis is a high energy, almost manic guy, bouncing around with an inner excitement for life and music. His mind is always sparking off a thousand ideas, always an originator. Alexis is simply one of those rare people whom Yeats called the antennae of our race: the artist, the men and women who feel the pain of existence and describe it for us in poetry, in the novel, on film or on canvas, or in music.


After three years, I thought I knew Alexis pretty well. Then I got this album and put it on the turntable. Everything you thought you know about the guy explodes, and one essential characteristic becomes clarified: Alexis stands as the single consistent contributor to the music of our times, from the late 50's to this very moment in space/time. That's what all the shouting about his being the "Father of Us All" comes down to – Alexis is the intangible soul deep inside that very physical body that is pop music.


You can feel it on this album. If there is any such thing as a musical consciousness binding us all, then Alexis is tapping its pulse beat, crystallizing it for us. His roots – so overused a word – have absorbed nourishment from jazz (way back to Louis Armstrong and on to Parker and Mingus), from the "pure" Delta blues, from rhythm and blues, and from all of the music of the 60's.


For me, personally, Alexis is like Stephen Crane, who etched the grim reality of war in The Red Badge Of Courage and forced every serious writer thereafter to face up to the grim reality of life with honesty. Alexis has been doing that all of his life in music, and now this album, which I think is going to be one of those rare signposts, an album so rich in ideas that other musicians are going to be taking off from it for years. I don't mean a trendy album, something faddish. I think this is one of those few albums that point a fork in the road. The Stones, who picked up so much from Alexis in the beginning, did it with their raunch-blues that made us all go back and listen to the black blues that is the core of rock. Dylan did it with his songs, breaking open the three-minute vise of pop music and enriching the language of that music.


Alexis is enriching it further, by recreating and fusing all the feeder roots of pop, from jazz to Muddy Waters to Motown, until something incredible happens: you can feel, as your feet start moving and your mind starts racing back through all the music you've ever heard – you can actually feel all those subdivisions of pop music blending into one and then flying out again. Like a kaleidoscope. There's so much happening in here, so much that's joyous, and painful, and so incredibly humorous.


The album is a total experience! It's theatre, fully visual and incredibly alive. You can see it and hear it, most especially on Get Off Of My Cloud – Alexis as leading man, directing his band and his chorus as he transforms the youthful arrogance of the Stones' original into a dramatic vignette of today's urban experience: cool, laid-back paranoia that comes to life because Alexis makes you see and feel all those people out there trying to muck up his mind and rip off his soul. The whole album is like that – a universality of feeling that touches the widest possible range of your emotions.


Alexis once said he's not a good singer: "It's a joke even to refer to me as a singer." He's absolutely wrong. His voice on these songs is the thread that knits it all together, a musical instrument weaving a tapestry, not just another piece of vinyl with ten cuts. Any good tailor will tell you that you must never let the thread show. Alexis is a superb tailor. His thread doesn't show until you go searching for it, trying to figure out why this album works so well.


"I came up as a sort of blues-cum-jazz player," Alexis once said, "and I always worked with jazz players because they have a particular feel for things which I don't want to get away from."


And that's the undercurrent through this album, that feeling that jazz once had of a spontaneous communication between musicians. Alexis is a blues man, and he's also a jazz man. And feeling quite schizoid about it: "What happened to me is this schizophrenia I've carried around quite happily for many years now, between the blues – where the folk ideal is that the song is more important than the singer and the great singer becomes the song – and the jazzmen – who were more interested in using the blues form to express themselves: 'This is me, Louis Armstrong,' or 'This is me, Joe Oliver,' the improvisation which presents him as him and nothing else is more important than the song he's playing.


"I just had to fly along between those two lines, like flying high and low at the same speeds."


The high and low, Alexis has fused them here. He's brought together a group that's able to weave in music what's been swirling around in his head foe a long time, blending that music-schizophrenia. For the first time Alexis is using musicians who have made it, who stand at the very peak. Keith Richard [who plays and sings] is here, Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott and Nicky Hopkins. True to form, new musicians are also here: Back Door's Colin Hodgkinson, Rick Wills, Kokomo singers and musicians as well as Alexis's daughter Sappho; you can hear her singing the lead line on I Got Cha Number.


The unique selection of songs is great. Mixing Alexis's own songs with Jagger/Richard, The Doors, all the way to the classic You Are My Sunshine. An early friend of Jimi Hendrix, Alexis expresses a tribute to him in his self-penned Song For Jimi. The sad short life-span of the incredible blues writer Robert Johnson has inspired many admiring musicians including Alexis to record his songs, but this time Alexis and his co-writer, John Edwards, have written a superb song about Robert Johnson.


After listening to this album, it's understandable why Alexis would like to leave pop history behind him and like all musicians, only talk of the future from this album forward.


His background is exceptionally interesting, however. Starting back in the early 1960's when he formed Blues Incorporated, Alexis provided support and encouragement to an enormous number of young unknown English musicians who wanted to dig into the blues at a time that British music was dominated by big bands, crooners, traditional jazz groups, skiffle and other forms of "Mickey Mouse music" as Alexis once called it. It was time for a change, and Alexis unwittingly was to be an instrument of change that he never anticipated. Mick Jagger was sending him demo tapes. Brian Jones was sleeping on his living room floor. Charlie Watts was in Blues Incorporated as the original drummer; looking back he recalls: "That's the guv-nor. If anyone is going to get rhythm and blues away in this country, that's the boy. There's nobody more dedicated than he is. Honest, it's a pleasure to work with him...."


Keith Richard summed up the early 60's stating: "Alexis really got this scene together. Most of the clubs at the time were filled with Dixieland bands, traditional jazz bands. And alternative to all that Bobby Vee stuff. There was a big boom in that: the stomp, stompin' about, weird dancing, just tryin' to break the ceiling to a two-beat. That was a big scene. That's where Alexis made the breakthrough. He managed to open it up at the Ealing Club. Then he moved on to the Marquee and R&B started to become the thing. And all these traddies, as they were called, started getting worried. So they started this bitter opposition." John Mayall heard what Alexis was doing down in London and left Manchester. Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce were soon to join. Singers would include Mick Jagger, Paul Jones, Long John Baldry, Eric Burdon, etc. When musicians left his bands they formed groups of their own which became household names throughout the world. John Mayall moved to America and popularized British blues greatly through a very successful recording career. Alexis stayed in Britain constantly seeking out new musical talents, experimenting continually. Always one to two years ahead of the public, he thus forfeited commercial recording success in the 60's.


The respect for Alexis from other musicians is enormous. Ginger Baker recently commented: "Alexis was a cat with fantastic taste and drive ... y'know, generally you get one or the other ... somebody who can push mountains but has shit for taste or some delicate and beautiful cat with lots of taste but about the drive of a rose petal. Alexis was the excepion and that's why he's the real foundation of English blues." It's hard to pick up a music paper and not read about Alexis Korner from such diverse talents as: Cat Stevens, Robert Plant, Steve Marriott, Mick Jagger, Leo Sayer, Ian Anderson, Ginger Baker, Pete Townshend, Paul Rogers, Eric Clapton ... the list is endless. Quite correctly Alexis has been called "The Father of British Blues," "The Father of White Blues," or as America's Rolling Stone has put it, "The Father of Us All."


The names of musicians that Alexis had in his bands, and the groups they formed are heavily documented elsewhere. I'd like to concentrate more on Alexis Korner personally. In 1972 I called Philip Roberge, his manager, to arrange a meeting. At his office in a 19th century building just off London's Hyde Park, Alexis and I talked for hours. I discover he's not the typical pop musician who throws the I Ching to decide what to eat for lunch, or reads Gibran because schlock-mysticism is groovy, or ... well, the guy's different and you mentally shift gears and forget everything you've read about him and start from scratch. He has a most charming wife, Bobbie and three kids who'e just as crazy about music as he is. Learning, also, that he shares your own interest in American Mafia as pop culture.


Suddenly, three years have passed, and you've spent quite some time with Alexis. Videotaping him in a cavernous dance hall in North London as he rehearses with Snape, a new performing band he'd just formed with Peter Thorup, his co-singer in C.C.S. Interviewing him about Mick Jagger and Brian Jones and the British pop scene he indeed helped create out of his enthusiasm for black American blues. Finding out that his recording group C.C.S., produced by Mickie Most, has had a string of European hit singles and a gold album. He is one of the most active artists I've ever met, combining several careers together successfully: concert performer, songwriter, radio broadcaster, television personality, film narrator, university lecture, doing voice adverts for television and radio commercials, recording artist and columnist.


Who is Alexis Korner and what's he all about? I'll let Alexis speak for himself, a few things he's said about music that I've dug out of the tapes of our interviews. They explain him better than anyone looking in from the outside will ever be able to do.



I think what really upsets me most of all about that "Father of the White Blues" thing is the word 'white.' I was playing black blues, been playing black blues since 1940, when I was 12. And I'm still playing black blues, as far as I'm concerned. I don't feel there's a need to differentiate between black and white blues. A cat is either a blues player or he is not. I don't care if he's Siamese, Negro, Austrian or English. Someone either has that feeling to communicate or he doesn't have it. And while for a long time the blues was Afro-American music because it was generated under those special conditions, it is no longer so.


Blues is a feeling, and it is a world communication. Jimmy Rushing once lectured me on this for an hour: "No, no, man," he told me, "it's a universal music, it's a whole world's music. It's got nothing to do with black or white anymore, man. It's a cat who's got the feel for blues or hasn't got the feel for the blues."


Starting in the middle of 50's, all the visiting American blues players would come around. There was a long string of solo blues players coming to London from the States, the cats who I suppose got tired of not being able to work much at home and who heard rumors that things were beginning to open up in Europe. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee started coming over, Jimmy Cotton, Little Brother, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes. And a lot of them would come and stay with my wife Bobbie and me because we had a spare room in our house.


Big Bill Broonzy was the first one in. I got an enormous amount of encouragement from Bill because at that time, and a great many years after that, practically all the critics and writers would put down anybody who tried to play the blues if he wasn't black. This is what I had to fight more than the lack of audiences – not being black. Bill and Alan Lomax were the tow Americans to encourage me enormously. And because I was the only freelance blues guitarist around, I became their regular blues session guitar player. I learned more from that than anything else.


And I learned another thing: the fact that audiences don't want to hear the kind of music you're playing does not mean they are right and you are wrong. It could be that you're the only person in the world that's right, at the moment, and you have to go ahead and tell people that you are right. I suppose that was why by the end of the 50's and the beginning of the 60's the young cats, like Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Brian Jones and Eric Burdon, were with me in this, because they felt that way about it – that blues is a personal protest, by you and about you, and you're concerned with who you are and how you feel, and coulor doesn't matter.-


I was determined to spread the knowledge of the music; if it was that important to me, it had to be that important to other people. I played the music because somebody had to play it.


I wanted to be able to make music hurt. I can't explain why one wants to pass a particular sort of pain onto other people, but you do – without asking why you do so.


We won in the end, all of us, and I guess that's what matters. But in the beginning it was not funny, people were closing off their minds. We ended up not being able to play pop clubs, not being able to jazz clubs, and certainly not being welcome in the blues clubs with electric instruments. Because they had all decided where their music starts and stops !!! And if you didn't fit in exactly between those marks and overlapped, then nobody wanted to know. It was depressing because so many of the subdivisions were artificial. I can understand a division between a Bartok quartet and Muddy Waters, because if you're going to hear them you have to have some clue as to what it's about. But that's it, that's as far as the division need go. It doesn't need to be subdivided below that. It all meshes – in what we know today as pop music.


Tony Scaduto

(Biographer of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger)


Get Off Of My Cloud