Addendum: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – ‘It Hurts Me Too’ – Mono & Stereo Mix

Near the end of February 2018, Italian Peter Green researcher Mario Pirrone brought to my attention an “alternate” recording of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ ‘It Hurts Me Too’ found on the 1969 U.K. compilation, “Looking Back”.

                Excited by the find (and admittedly a little jealous that this had gone unnoticed by me in all of my years of research), I began looking further into the two “versions”.

The song had been released two years earlier, as the B-side of ‘Double Trouble’.  The single, a highlight for me of the Peter Green era Bluesbreakers and of Mayall’s vast catalog, garnered favorable reviews from the British music press upon release, but still failed to chart.

                This would be the last released recording of Green as a Bluesbreaker after his departure to form Fleetwood Mac, until various studio outtakes began to appear on Mayall compilation LPs in the early 1970s. 

Despite the single’s commercial fate, both songs have since been widely anthologized, either together or separately on countless Mayall retrospectives and greatest hits collections, up to and including the 2003 “Expanded Edition” 2CD reissue of “A Hard Road”.

.  John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

John Mayall: vocals, 9-string guitar & piano /

Peter Green: guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded April 19, 1967

released June 02, 1967– B-side Decca single, ‘Double Trouble

Looking Back Mono release (Decca 1969)

It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red / Elmore James) (2:52) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHiuNtLnzaA

Mayall modeled his cover on Elmore James’ 1963 recording of the song (James’ first recording of the song was in 1957; released on Mel London’s Chief label with London taking the writing credit); James recorded the song a second time in 1963 for Bobby Robinson’s family of labels; released posthumously, it saw fairly wide release in England when issued as a single (backed with ‘Bleeding Heart’) on the Sue label. 

Elmore James

Elmore James: vocal & guitar /

Johnny “Bull Moose” Walker: piano /

Unknown: bass & drums

Recorded February 21, 1963

Released A-side, Enjoy single 1965

It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red / Elmore James) (3:17) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzr1Rfn-P4Y

The production on the Mayall recording, as with the James, is very dense; lead by the slide guitar, McVie and Fleetwood purposefully drag their feet, hanging back, remaining behind the beat.  Mayall’s piano, (again, drawing inspiration from the arrangement used by James, who was recreating the one used on his 1957 recording) dances over and around the melody.  Beneath all this, the distinct ring of Mayall’s 9-string guitar adds yet another layer of sound. 

On top of all this, a touch of reverb has been added to both Mayall’s vocal and the lead guitar. 

When James sang the song, there was an undercurrent of lamentation laced with frustration (as there was to almost everything he sang) but Mayall’s vocal, lightened by the piano, sounds more exasperated than afflicted, returning the song to its roots.  Tampa Red worked the sunnier side of the street in his blues. 

Tampa Red

Tampa Red: vocal, guitar & kazoo /

Blind John Davis: piano

Recorded 1940 – Released, B-side Bluebird 78 ‘Tired of Your Reckless Ways’ (1941)

Tampa Red – It Hurts Me Too (2:32) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuRrpP0AhMY

Tampa Red had recorded the melody back in 1929 as a solo steel guitar instrumental titled ‘You Got to Reap What You Sow’.

Tampa Red

Tampa Red: steel guitar

Recorded 1929 – Released, B-side Vocalion 78 ‘Prison Bound Blues (1929)

Tampa Red – You Got to Reap What You Sow (3:19) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iGmHFyLdTo

In this bare-bones arrangement, the melodic debt it owes to ‘Sitting on Top of The World’ is easily heard.

As to the “two versions” of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers recording?  One was not an alternative; they were the same recording, one in a mono mix (as found on the original 45 and the other, a stereo mix, first released on the 1969 Decca compilation “Looking Back”.

When originally released, Decca provided an “indicator hole” on the back cover of the LP; a blue record label meant it was a Stereo recording and a red label denoted Mono.

To the best of my knowledge (corrections welcome) the Stereo recording has been used on all of the various releases on which the song appeared after the Stereo release of “Looking Back”; thus, it is the one most people are familiar with.

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

John Mayall: vocals & 9-string guitar /

Peter Green: guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded April 19, 1967 –

released June 02, 1967– B-side Decca single, monoDouble Trouble

and Looking Back Stereo release (Decca 1969)

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red / Elmore James) (2:50) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdZ8pPqgsEE

                I was surprised by how powerfully the removal of the piano track transformed the number (at least to my ears).  Aside from bringing up the warmth of the 9-string guitar beneath the now sharper slide, it changed the way I “heard” Mayall’s vocal. 

Without the prancing piano, the feeling I got was one of melancholy.  While not as distraught as James, Mayall sounds truly moved by the plight of the person he is addressing, with his hurt stemming from having to stand aside as she allows herself to be mistreated (from his point of view). 

It is not simply the novelty of hearing this song as if for the first time after so many years that makes it so appealing; the two versions are different enough to warrant a place in all John Mayall / Peter Green fan’s libraries.

The production on the Mayall recording, as with the James, is very dense; lead by the slide guitar, McVie and Fleetwood purposefully drag their feet, hanging back, remaining behind the beat.  Mayall’s piano, (again, drawing inspiration from the arrangement used by James, who was recreating the one used on his 1957 recording) dances over and around the melody.  Beneath all this, the distinct ring of Mayall’s 9-string guitar adds yet another layer of sound. 

On top of all this, a touch of reverb has been added to both Mayall’s vocal and the lead guitar. 

As I was not aware of the mono release at the time of publishing, it was not included in the Song Index in “A Love That Burns Volume 1”.  The entry should now read:

It Hurts Me Too – John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers

B-side, Decca single ‘Double Trouble’ (mono mix, without piano) – recorded

April 19, 1967 – released June 02, 1967

Looking Back (Stereo mix, with piano) – recorded April 19, 1967 – released 1969 (U.K.) exact date not known

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