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Book Review: The First Time We Met the Blues by David Williams

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The First Time We Met The Blues is ancient history. It was a much simpler time, a less stressful time, a time before cynicism took over, a time before politicians and public figures felt the public trust was a resource to be mined and ravaged.

The First Time is a story of the Sixties. It was a time when the stars aligned, as Rado and Ragni said; it couldn’t have happened at any other time. That alignment theme has been brought up many times in many situations, and there’s no other explanation for it. The Sixties was a time when people actually tried to do something for the Earth, rather than to the Earth. When people banded together for what they saw as positive change, change for the good of mankind, rather than the good of one man. And this book is part of it.

The very early Sixties was a time when the world was just beginning to pull away from the empty pockets, the rationing, doing without, of war and postwar, for the first time in the twentieth century. First it was the Spanish-American War, then World War One, then the Great Depression, then War in Europe, then World War Two, then the Korean War. Sixty years, three entire generations of virtually nonstop rationing in one form or another.

We were just beginning to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

People had a little money, a little time not required to put food on the table, and a lot of hope. The music of the twentieth century saw first the end of the Flapper Era, then the end of Blues, then the end of Big Band, and then the end of the saccharine sound. Suddenly it was the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll (and the folk-blues resurgence), and it was like the spring that follows a horrendous winter, people digging out from under the onslaught.

And finally, this is a story told from the other side of The Pond by David Williams, a boy and young man at the time who had the fantastic good fortune to know not only Jimmy Page before the days of Led Zeppelin, but also the founding members of the Rolling Stones before they became the Stones. This is not your typical book about Zeppelin or the Stones, since it ends before either group cut their first hit record. It is a story of the times, and about much more than just the two groups. It gives us glimpses into the beginnings of the London Blues Revival, and some of the part that these two groups played in it, as well as some others to whom credit should be given. But more than anything it’s David Williams’s story. He and Page were childhood friends, and this story tells how blues music brought him and Page even closer together. It also is the story of how both blues music and Williams were responsible for Brian Jones’s fateful first meeting with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and ultimately, how the London Blues Revival brought Zeppelin and the Stones to the rest of the world.

The First Time We Met The Blues is an easy read, and can be easily read in one sitting. But my recommendation is that you take your time and absorb the detail, and learn how the music of today became what it is, and the direct connection that Zeppelin and the Stones have with Kanye West.

The book is indexed, has a foreword by Jimmy Page, and is titled after Buddy Guy’s song of same name that came out about the same time that the main characters in the book began their voyage of discovery of the blues. “In a way, he could have been singing it for us.”

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