Mayall mania

Break a record (Phrase) – A term used widely in the 60s used to signify an album release.
The Bluesbreakers (Band) – Revolution on a stage. An effort at giving space to blues artists who later went to become legends in their own regard. And John Mayall was the one who started it all.
Going slightly back, it all began with Alexis Korner. Termed as the “Father of British Blues”, he was an inspiration to many artists in the time – Mick Jagger, Robert plant, Jimmy page, John Mayall, etc. If the 60s was when the movement from Blues to Rock ‘n roll began in Britain, it was the 50s when Mr. Korner initiated this movement. And it was probably this time when John Mayall (In his late teens then), started his first band The Powerhouse four. With an upbringing heavily influenced by Jazz and Blues (John’s father was a jazz musician and a Blues fan) and a talent that was ever-brimming, it took him hardly any time to make a mark in Manchester’s music scene. This was when (1962) Alexis Korner invited him to come over to London to be part of Britain’s Blues revolution, also known as the “Blues Bloom”. Soon after Mr. Mayall started his band, “The Bluesbreakers” and we all know the rest of the story.
The scene was so electric and eclectic at that time in Britain that in one calendar year one could have seen Mayall, Jimmy page, Alexis Korner, T-Bone Walker, Mick Fleetwood, Eric Clapton and John-Lee Hooker perform! Talk about good taste in music! It was the early 60s that had it, and in abundance. So when we put on the mono version of “Double Crossing time”, we instantly get transported to 1963, Greenwich Village. The thick solos on the right ear and the sneaky bass on the left (The joys of mono!) absolutely hypnotize us as we then ponder over the lyrics:
“When you think you got good buddies
They will spin around and cheat you blind”
It all seems ironical given what was to follow for the Bluesbreakers. Eric Clapton left the band to form ‘Cream’ and was replaced by Peter Green. Clapton recalls the time when as a young and troubled guitarist he met Mayall and “stayed in a tiny room with Mayall and family, listening to Blues all day” (Read this Guardian article for more on this). But very soon, even Green left to form ‘Fleetwood Mac’ and was replaced by Mick Taylor (A rolling stone in the future!). The more we learn about Mayall, the more we understand his contribution to not just the blues but the 60s Rock n’ Roll scene! Well that’s called being a King and a Kingmaker at the same time! Bluesbreakers was not just a band, it was an institution, a mecca that brought together different musicians at different points in time.
When you had a stage full of talent, how could you have the “Room to move”?
Throughout the 70s, Mayall kept working with young musicians (and also moved to the United States) and formed a new Bluesbreakers in 1984 (the name remained till 2008).
“The time must surely come
For the laws to fit the times”
Sounds apt doesn’t it? A line straight out of a wonderful piece of work (The Laws must change – Version from the 70s with the legend Johnny Almond), the lyrics fit exactly what Mayall believed in: A whole-hearted effort to create the Blues that was never heard before, in any part of the world. In line with this thought process, the album ‘Turning point’ (1969), does not feature drums and lead guitar. Almost blasphemous for the Blues critics of the time; but only a true rebel genius like Mayall could pull it off. Just listen to ‘Saw mill gulch road’ once and we assure you you’ll know what we are speaking about. A finger-guitar led marvel, it will make you forget the busy by-lanes of Bandra and will teleport you to a moonlit street in the English countryside.
In his latest Avatar (John Mayall and band), Mayall has collaborated with a range of artists that include Walter Trout, John-Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Coco Montoya. And with his latest 2017 album ‘Talk about that’, he hasn’t stopped producing gems. As solos come blazing out in the brilliant piece ‘The Devil must be laughing’, we stop and pause to realize what we are about to witness. A life full of learning, a life full of creating masterpieces, a life full of nurturing and playing with legends, a life so full of the blues – And all that will be on display for over 90 whole minutes at the Mehboob studios this February. When Mr. Mayall steps onto the stage this year for the Mahindra Blues, every blues fan can truly shout out – The Blues live here.