Songlines: ‘Worried Dream’ Part I – B. B. King and Fleetwood Mac
This song was originally released as the A-side of a Bluesway 45 in August of 1967; the second of three B. B. King singles released in the U.S. by Bluesway that year, the other two coming out in April and November. The song was also included on the LP “Blues on Top of Blues” in January of 1968.
The big hit from the LP, ‘Paying the Cost to Be the Boss’ (released as a single in March 1968) became a concert staple at the time, as did the ‘Worried Dream’ B-side ‘That’s Wrong Little Mama’ (also on the LP)
B.B. King: guitar & vocal /
Other musicians not known
Released, A-side Bluesway 45 August 1967
Available on, Blues on Top of Blues (Bluesway January 1968)
B.B. King – Worried Dream (2:54) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBN_LXdsGsA
For the first verse, King sings each line without accompaniment, seemingly alone in the night, crying out into the void; his guitar providing the only response.
Staccato piano triplets and stabbing blasts of horns then lead us into the song proper.
As King begins the next verse, the horns sound woozy and a swirling organ has been added to the mix, as the unrelenting piano tapping mimics his pounding heart, an aural approximation of being jolted awake from a particularly vivid nightmare.
The blaring horns, used as punctuation, bring a 1960’s film noir ambiance, a world where men regularly engage in fist fights without first removing their jackets or ties.
Rather than traditional rhyming couplets, the lyrics are built on repeated declarative sentences, as if the singer is in a dialogue with himself; each responding line providing clarification or agreement with the call.
Industry “wisdom” mandated that a single had to be under three minutes so there is no time for anyone to solo (King is relegated to playing descending minor notes after the lines).
Unfortunately, the abbreviated run time does not allow for the song to be brought to any type of satisfactory conclusion. The final explosion of horns signals a definite close to the song, but only musically, not narratively.
King seems to have lost interest in the number after its release. It was after all a thinly disguised remake of ‘The Letter’, the A-side of a Kent single he released in 1963.
There are no officially released live recordings of the song that I know of (or bootlegs) and it was not anthologized until 2012, forty-five years after its first release.
It did, however, catch one fan’s interest at the time.
Green most likely heard the song on the “Blues on Top of Blues” LP, as Bluesway did not release the song on 45 in the U.K.
We do know that Green performed the song on the BBC’s Radio One “Saturday Club” on April 09, 1968. Unfortunately, of the four songs done that day, this one seems to have been lost to time.
This is especially unfortunate as when Green cut the song in the studio two days later, he allowed it stretch out for over five minutes, an unheard of length for the BBC.
Playing the number live, it would only get longer, making me that much more interested in hearing the arrangement he used for the BBC broadcast.
Peter Green: vocal & guitar / John McVie: bass /
Mick Fleetwood: drums
Additional musician, Christine Perfect: piano
Recorded April 11, 1968 – Released 1971, The Original Fleetwood Mac, (Blue Horizon)
Available on: The Original Fleetwood Mac and The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967 – 1969
It is the addition of Christine Perfect that makes this recording unlike anything the band had done up until this point. Unlike her piano work on ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ (also recorded that day) Perfect plays with confidence and a deep understanding of the needs of the song, filling out the sound, (something the rhythm section too often neglected to do at this time), allowing Green to minimize his guitar and focus on his vocals.
Which, maybe, was not the best idea for this number at this time. For me, Green’s vocal is the weakest aspect of the recording. It is simply too laid back for the emotion that the lyrics are meant to convey.
Vocally, Green could not bring the gospel-inspired intensity of a B. B. King or Otis Rush; that intensity was channeled into his guitar playing when it was needed.
Ironically, while Perfect’s piano work changes the band’s sound in such a positive way, the fact that Green is not playing guitar throughout the number may be why his vocal lacks its usual strength.
Compare this number to the similarly structured ‘A Love That Burns’ an acknowledged classic also recorded around this time (April of 1968)
Set to an even slower tempo, Green plays guitar throughout the number and his vocal reflects and amplifies the emotions of his playing.
On ‘Worried Dream’, his vocal improves as the song progresses, especially after his guitar solo.
The symbiosis between his voice and his guitar will become more readily apparent as we begin to explore some of the live recordings of this number.
It is the loss of the opportunity to hear that interaction between hand and voice, (Perfect wouldn’t have been there) and being required to distill the number down to fit the BBC’s time constraints makes the loss of the BBC recording that much more frustrating.
From the information available to us, this was the only take (or complete take) of the number done that day and Green apparently never returned to it in the studio.
This performance would remain unheard, in the vaults, until finally being released in 1971.
There are currently six live performances of the song in circulation, the earliest captured a few weeks after the studio recording and the last from Stuttgart, West Germany in March of 1970.
We’ll take a look at the earliest live recordings by Fleetwood Mac and the first commercially released covers of the song by the Dutch blues bands Livin’ Blues in the summer or fall of 1969 and John the Revelator in 1970 in the next entry.