John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – ‘It Hurts Me Too’ – Alternate 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.

Despite their 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”.

To the best of my knowledge (corrections welcome) this was the recording used on all of the various releases on which it appeared:

John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

John Mayall: vocals & 9-string guitar /

Peter Green: guitar /

John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded April 19, 1967

Released (exact date not known) on: Looking Back (Decca 1969)

It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red / Elmore James) (2:52)

Modeled on Elmore James’ 1963 recording of the song (he had first recorded it in 1957); 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 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)

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

It Hurts Me Too (2:32)

Seeking further insight on these recordings, and eager to share the news of a “new” Green-era Bluesbreaker recording, I contacted Green expert and musician Bela Stephens

He wrote back that he pulled out his vinyl copy of “Looking Back” and dropping the needle, was disappointed to hear the same recording he had known for more than fifty years.

Undeterred, he found his copy of the original 45 and playing the B-side, heard this:

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, ‘Double Trouble

and “Crusade – bonus tracks” (Decca 2007)

It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red / Elmore James) (2:50)

And there was the answer: his copy of “Looking Back” was in Stereo.  It was originally released both Stereo, indicated by a blue record label and Mono with a red label; the 45 was in Mono.

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 two recordings are not different takes – the “original” release is Mono; the piano can faintly be heard, but takes a lead role in the Stereo mix

The Song Index in “A Love That Burns Volume 1” 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

POST SCRIPT – 04 / 20 / 18

The single was released in the Netherlands on August 28, 1967 with the A & B sides reversed, so that ‘It Hurts Me Too’ was now the A-side.

Green expert and collector Don Brown confirmed that they used the same Mono mix that was heard on the British release and that the piano cannot be heard.

It now seems safe to say that the Stereo release of the Decca LP “Looking Back” (Decca SKL 5010) in 1969 was the debut of the “piano version”.

As Mono was considered a thing of the past (commercially) by 1969, it only makes sense that all of the compilations on which the song appeared after that would use Stereo mix.

In response to an inquiry from Mario Pirrone, Mike Vernon, the session’s producer, replied that he simply could not remember the exact details of the sessions or the “how” and “why” there came to be two mixes of the song in circulation, so it would seem that we have taken this line of questioning as far as it can go…for now





1 Comment

  • comment-avatar
    M Godwin April 22, 2018 (12:43 pm)

    @BrianGrist Looks very similar to the difference between the original mono and remixed stereo versions of ‘Alone Again Or’ on Love’s Forever Changes LP!