One Song/Three Versions – Young Man Blues

Update – This was originally posted on August 23, 2016. Mose Allison died on November 15, 2016, aged 89. RIP.

So I was recently watching the terrific Who documentary, The Kids Are Alright, when the band launched into a live version of “Young Man Blues” from the London Coliseum, 1969. Hearing this had two immediate effects – one is that I had to stop the film so I could learn the intro to the song which is one of the best licks ever; and two, I said to myself – Self, there’s an idea for a post. Which, as it happens, is this one. 

Whenever you hear anyone (Foo Fighters, Joe Bonamassa, etc.) play “Young Man Blues,” you are effectively hearing their cover of The Who’s cover of Mose Allison. So who is Mose Allison?

Well he is an 88-year old jazz musician from Mississippi whose most well-known tune – apart from “Young Man” – is “Parchman Farm” which John Mayall covered. (“Parchman” itself is based on “Parchman Farm Blues” by Bukka White, a cousin of B.B. King. Parchman Farm is another name for the Mississippi State Penitentiary.)

Allison is pretty well-regarded by blues people and rockers and in fact, his song “Look Here” was covered by The Clash on Sandinista!.

FWIW, It turns out that the actual name of the song is “Back Country Suite: Blues (a.k.a. ‘Young Man’s Blues.)” So what does the original “Young Man Blues” sound like? Here ’tis:

Of Mose, Pete said, “The man’s voice was heaven. So cool, so decisively hip… Mose was my man. I felt him to be the epitome of restrained screaming power.” This song is, of course, about the young man’s place in society. And Townshend went on to say that he would not have written “My Generation” if he hadn’t heard this song.

Oh, well, a young man
Ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days
I said a young man
Ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days

Well, you know in the old days
When a young man was a strong man
All the people, they’d step back
When a young man walked by

But you know, nowadays
It’s the old man
He’s got all the money
And a young man ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days

The all-time Who version of course is on Live at Leeds. (Which if you don’t own, you should immediately go out and buy.) And someone said in the comments that the version below is a “bloody dreadful performance.” But you know what? Let him get up and play it. Listen carefully and can how Pete appropriated the piano intro:

Chris Spedding is a UK guitarist who has a had a heralded, if largely under-the-radar career. Perhaps best known in the UK, he has played with everyone from Jack Bruce to Roy Harper to Joan Armatrading.

From his 2002 album One Step Ahead of the Blues, here is his version of “Young Man Blues”:

Wikipedia: In 2012, Allison was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in his hometown of Tippo. On January 14, 2013, he was honored as a  Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor in jazz, at a ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York. He retired from touring in 2013.

7 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Young Man Blues

  1. OK, again why I tune in. The Who version is a CB staple (along with the album it came from). Chris Spedding is also a CB guy. Last time I saw him was with Robert Gordon. Great show. Chris did an imitation of all his guitar peers, very cool. I’ll check out the tune for sure. My machine wont play the post. I’m curious as hell. Now as far as Mose goes he is an American treasure. Also seen him and was not disappointed. CB wanted to be Mose Allison. Didn’t know he passed away. Love that guy. One last thing. As usual you spark my brain pan, check out Greg Brown doing ‘Mose Allison Played Here’ off Slant 6 Mind. Find the original version on Soundcloud. The youtube live is not great quality. (But Greg Brown is great even on bag quality)

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    1. Good album? If CB ever gets out of the 70’s it will get a CB fave treatment. I might sneak a single or two in before. This would be one. Don’t you like the last bit where he reveals “Mose Allison played here” I think Greg is singing from experience. I also think he’s in the Mose club with us. Great choice Jim. I’m loving music right now. (Slant 6 Mind is a very cool album. Bo Ramsey is on guitar. ‘Loneliness House’ is killer. Not a weak track. Being a musician you will probably get it on more levels than CB. He worked with Lucinda Williams for a while)

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  2. Yeah, I meant to mention that last line. Neat trick. Lucinda Willams is good. That’s a nice tone he gets on guitar. Tone, for guitarists, is king. That’s all they talk about. I’ll check that album out. thanks.

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