Songlines: Worried Dream – Parts III & IV

Part III: Fleetwood Mac (Konserthuest, Orebro Sweden – Nov. 1969) and

John the Revelator (two studio performances)

It is just a few weeks short of a full year between the last (incomplete) live recording of Green performing this song in 1968 (see “Worried Dream Part II) and the next available one from 1969.

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal / Jeremy Spencer: guitar, vocal & maracas /

Danny Kirwan: guitar & vocal / John McVie: bass /

Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded November 06, 1969, Konserthuest, Orebro Sweden

Available on: bootleg

Worried Dream (B. B. King) (9:58) –

The show this was taken from was particularly strong, and it would appear complete.  Which makes the lead into this number, ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ / ‘Under Way’, so strange:.

Green offers a couple of perfunctory “thank you” s to the audience after those numbers end and the clapping quickly subsides.  Green can be heard retuning in the interim and the audience begins to get a bit restless.  Almost thirty seconds pass before Green strikes the first chord. 

Although shorter than the last intro played on the number by Green, (see “Worried Dream Part II)  this is by far the most desolate, the silences growing as Green plays a diminishing number of chords.           

Some in the audience are clearly uncertain as to just what is happening, and one fan can be heard gently admonishing those talking near him to quiet down and just listen, with a long “sssssshhhhh….”  

Shortly after this Green allows a full nine seconds to tick by between chords. 

Green shouts out the opening line and Fleetwood punctuates it with a drum strike.  Green feathers the strings and almost ten seconds of silence follows before he sings the second line.  Fleetwood wisely remains silent until the end of the verse.

After the slow drip of the intro and first verse, the song now flows forth, with Green’s vocal especially strong, as he moves steadily through the lyrics, with only the briefest breaks between the couplets.  He now sounds as if he is speaking to someone, anxious that they do not interrupt. 

Having said what he needed to, we come to the break; one of Green’s finest.

Just under four minutes in length it plays like a suite; it starts as a storm-tossed sea, sea and sky seamless as the waves come crashing down around him.  Then it breaks, cymbals giving way to wood block; the stars begin to shine in the suddenly cleared sky.

Kirwan soon joins in, adding a counter-point melody beneath Green’s lead.

Soon enough though, clouds again obscure the moon and darkness overtakes him; the seas begin to churn and he tossed overboard.  Repeatedly lifted and slammed back down, he is pushed beneath the waves, not knowing up from down.

He surfaces finding that the sea has calmed, and in the last verse, asks his woman to throw him a lifeline. 

Green set the bar incredibly high with his performances of this song and it is to the other groups’ credit that they having taken their inspiration from him they do not attempt to duplicate what he had already done but sought to place their own stamp on the song.

John the Revelator’s vocalist and bass player Tom Huissen was not only a witness to the first flowering of Peter Green’s guitar prowess, but also this period’s conservator.  

It is his recordings, made as a sixteen year old Netherlander living in London, of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Peter Green, which have been released over three volumes as “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live In 1967” on Forty Below Records.

Returning to Holland, he formed his own blues band modeled on Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. 

Winning the celebrated Loosdrecht Jazz competition in 1970, they received an offer to record for Decca and were given three days to record and mix their first LP, “Wild Blues”.

John the Revelator

Tom Huissen: vocal & bass /

Frans Ten Kleij: lead guitar /

Fred Huissen: drums / Jos De Wilde: slide guitar /

Charles Van Der Steeg: tenor & baritone saxophone /

Henno Van Donselaar: alto saxophone /

Released on Wild Blues (Decca 1970)

Worried Dreams (B. B. King) (5:41) –

                Although they kept Livin’ Blues’ plural title, their arrangement is closer to Fleetwood Mac’s, beginning with the minute long intro; long, lonely guitar lines supported by the gentle strumming of another.  

The strumming then carries the vocal, with only an occasional accent from the lead guitar.  Huissen’s vocal, more natural than Nicko Christiansen’s seems modeled on King’s style, with repetition and quick interjections of exclamations meant to heighten the emotions, but once again, the listener feels that the song is being “performed” rather than felt. (it is the singer’s job to sell the illusion that are experiencing the words being sung)

The saxophones come to take us into the next verse and with it comes the piano.

The band does an excellent job of bringing all the instrumentalists into the mix, complimenting one another, enhancing the final result (quite an achievement with seven pieces).  Add to this the two minute long break (a beautiful showcase for Frans Ten Kleij), displaying the subtlety and “true” emotion missing from the vocal.

 Their ending, to me, is one of the strongest so far; they bring the listener to two closed doors, behind which is either a “Lady” or a “Tiger”; the choice is made, but then never do see what was inside.  Rather than frustration though, the listener feels as if they have just stumbled out into the daylight after a dark ride, a scary/exciting experience that you are happy is now over.

When “Wild Blues” was reissued on CD in 2003, an instrumental rehearsal of the number from 1972 was among the bonus tracks.

John the Revelator

Tom Huissen: bass guitar /

Frans Ten Kleij: lead guitar /
Paul Dammers: slide & rhythm guitar / Fred Huissen: drums /

Hille van der Galien: baritone saxophone & conga’s 
Released on Wild Blues – Reissue, bonus track (Pseudonym 2003)

(Previously Unreleased Demo Track)

Worried Dreams (B. B. King) (4:50) –

                Starting off similarly, the number brings in the saxophone just past the one minute mark and Ten Kleij lets rip, turning in a powerful instrumental rendition of the song; with the horns higher up in the mix, few vocalists could keep pace without sounding histrionic.  To do so would also change the number completely and as we will see with the next released version from 1974, that is exactly what by Little Milton chose to do.

Songlines: Worried Dream – Part IV

Fleetwood Mac (Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, TX – 1969 & Liederhalle, Boblingen / Stuttgart West Germany – 1970)

Little Milton (“Blues ‘n Soul” 1974) & Larry Davis (“Funny Stuff” 1981)

We’re going to wrap up this series with a look at the final two available performances from Fleetwood Mac.

We’ll also take a look at two later covers of the song.

The first recording comes from a show in San Antonio, Texas, where they were second on a bill to Jethro Tull.  As the openers, they distilled each song to its essence, only stretching out on ‘Rattlesnake Shake / Searching for Madge’ which at twelve minutes, was their longest version (by three minutes), up to that time. 

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

Danny Kirwan: guitar / John McVie: bass /

Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded December 12, 1969, Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, TX

Available on: bootleg

Worried Dream (B.B. King) (7:23)

                In the four weeks between the previous performance and this one, Green has completely rethought his approach to the song.

The long intro, used from the original studio recording on, has been jettisoned; it is Kirwan who plays the first note, a cry in the dark, with Green’s response its echo, bouncing off the walls of an empty room.

Green plays staccato bursts of guitar between the repeated lines of the opening verse giving the number a greater sense of urgency.

For me, this is one of Green’s best vocal performances of the song, as he too utilizes King’s trick of placing intensifiers such as “oh” and “yes” before repeating each line, as if speaking directly to each listener, imploring us to understand.

And then we come to the break; for the next three minutes Green creates a dreamlike, liquid sound.  He is floating; held aloft by the warm breath of his lover as she whispers to him. 

Then she stops speaking and he begins to fall; the tone becomes sharper, the bent notes signaling his panic.

 What makes this break different from those that came before is his maintaining of the dreamscape; as with his vocal, there is now no need to “raise his voice”. 

The number flows with its own internal logic; even when it turns into a nightmare, there is a certainty that he will awaken before he hits the ground.

His eyes open but does not sit bolt upright in the bed; shaken nonetheless, he reaches for the phone to call his baby.

It is performances such as this that make Green fans completists; collecting shows of similar set lists in the hope that one of the songs might be brought to these new heights

                The six weeks separating these two performances may as well have been six years. 

The three months that the band had toured the U.S., hearing and more importantly jamming with groups such as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band provided the affirmation for Green (not that any was asked for or needed) that the new direction that he was pulling his not always willing band in was not only viable but requisite if he were to continue with the band.

This final performance of the song now available, comes from a show in Germany, four days after the “Munich Incident”.

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

Danny Kirwan: guitar / John McVie: bass /

Mick Fleetwood: drums

Recorded March 26, 1970,Liederhalle, Boblingen / Stuttgart West Germany

Available on: bootleg

Worried Dream (B.B. King) (6:34) –

Green again foregoes the extended intro, but otherwise reverts to the earlier arrangements.  The opening verse is played solo, the quick breaks between the lines and the vocal are far more dramatic than those that came before, if not necessarily more effective.               

The break is split in two, the first half choked tangles of notes and tortured cries, giving way to an exhausted awareness of what he may have said and done, but the thorns are all too apparent beneath the blossoming roses that he now offers. 

The transition from the break to the final verse is one of the smoothest that we have but is slightly marred for me by the overwrought vocal.

It was two years after this that John the Revelator released their version (reviewed in Part Three) and another two years after that that the next commercially released cover came out.

                Little Milton recorded the song under the title ‘Worried Dreamer’ for a 1974 Stax LP “Blues ‘n Soul”.

Little Milton

Little Milton: vocal & guitar /

Lester Snell: piano / Willie Hall: drums /

The Memphis Horns

Released on Blues ‘n Soul (Stax 1974)

Worried Dreamer (B.B. King) (5:21) –

                Milton kept close to the King original but leans more towards the “Soul” side of the spectrum with a declamatory vocal, and support from the Memphis Horns.  Featuring both organ and piano, and of course, Milton’s guitar, it is a crowded soundscape, that, for me, leaves no room for any true emotion. 

Unlike all the other performances, Milton extends the final verse with repeated shouts for his girl to tell him that the “dream was not true”.  Live, with the band supporting his cries and the audience “witnessing” his “testimony”, egging him on, this may be exciting, but again, for me, on record, it is simply “showbiz”.

Larry Davis (originator of SRV’s signature tune ‘Texas Flood’) recorded the song in 1981. 

Larry Davis

Larry Davis: guitar & vocal /

Phil Westmoreland: bass / Johnny Johnson: piano /

Oliver Sain: saxophone / Billy Gayles: drums

Released on Funny Stuff (Rooster Blues 1981)

Worried Dream (B.B. King) (5:02) –

His vocal and to a lesser extent, the arrangement, also lean toward a “Southern Soul” sound, but his dirty guitar tone (a serious motorcycle accident in 1972 kept him out of music for most that decade – after the accident he said, “I couldn’t ring the note like the average guitar player. It was kind of distorted and I liked it”) keeps it rooted in the blues.  After the extended opening (a showcase for his vocals), the focus switches to his guitar. 

In marked contrast with Milton’s version, what has been the break on all the other versions now becomes the outro as well as he simply dispenses with the final verse.            

The intention here is not to compare these versions to Green’s performances; each artist is taking their own approach to King’s song, but it is notable that only Green aims to isolate and magnify the pain in King’s original.

It is his way of personalizing the emotions of the songs he sings (with his voice and his guitar) that makes him unique. 

Green once said that he gave up on playing the blues because, “The blues ended up hurting my soul so I stopped it…” 

It is frightening to realize that such beauty was forged in pain.

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