Worried Dream – Part 1
B.B. King: guitar & vocal /
Other musicians not known
Released, A-side Bluesway 45 August 1967
Released on Blues on Top of Blues (Bluesway January 1968)
Worried Dream (2:54)
This song was 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.
When the song begins, King is alone in the night, crying out into the void, his guitar providing the only response.
Pounding drums, followed by stabbing blasts of horns lead us into the song proper.
Swirling organ, woozy horns, the unending tapping of a single piano key and a drummer playing behind the beat capture the disorientation of being jolted awake into darkness from a particularly vivid nightmare.
The blaring horns used as punctuation provide a sixties film noir ambiance where men regularly engage in fist fights without first removing their jackets and ties.
Rather than traditional rhyming couplets, the lyrics are built on repeated declarative sentences, as if the singer is in a dialogue with himself; the echo providing clarification or agreement with each original statement.
Industry “wisdom” mandated that a single be under three minutes so there is no time for anyone to solo (King is relegated to playing descending minor notes after the lines).
The number is brought to a definitive close (musically, not narratively) with a final explosion of horns, but it does not provide a satisfactory conclusion.
Although this song and its B-side, along with the A and B sides of his next single were utilized by the label when putting together his next LP, “Blues on Top of Blues” (January 1968), King seemed to have lost interest in the number after its release.
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.
We have no way of knowing when Green first heard this song. He may have picked up the single as an import in 1967, (‘Worried Dream’ was not on either of the two Bluesway King singles released in England that year) or he might have purchased the LP early in 1968
What we do know is 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 all the more interested in hearing the earlier arrangement.
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
Rehearsal – studio chatter /
Worried Dream (B. B. King) (5:21)
It is 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; he brought that to 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 in the studio vaults, unheard, 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.