This first song is one I’m sure you’ve heard before, although this is a more obscure version of the popular song “House of the Rising Sun” usually credited to The Animals. This version is by a lesser known 70’s rock band called Frijid Pink (I highly suggest taking a look at more of their songs, especially a love ballad called “God Gave Me You”).
This particular one is slightly more uptempo than The Animals version. And while I’m partial to The Animals because it was the original rock rendition to gain popularity, this one is more of a classic rock sound while The Animals had a more direct blues influence mixed with classic rock.
But very few know that this song was actually recorded in the 1940’s by a blues musician named Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter. Though this wasn’t the first recording of the song, it’s certainly one of the better known pre-Animals versions.
And while we’re talking about Lead Belly, here’s another song you might know. It’s called “Black Betty”. If you don’t immediately recognize the song, you will when you hear it.
The simple lyrics:
Whoa-oh, Black Betty
repeated throughout the chorus are the most recognizable part of the entire song.
Its origins and even the meaning of the “Black Betty” reference is disputed. It’s said to have originated as an African-American work song but is also thought to have originated in the 18th or 19th century as a marching cadence for soldiers. In that instance, “Black Betty” is a reference to their rifles with a black stock (and Brown Bess is the brown stock rifle). This also could help explain the “Bam-ba-lam” lyrics.
It should also be noted that Ben Franklin also mentioned Black Betty as a term for being drunk all the way back in 1736.
And this is one of the most well-known versions of the rock “Black Betty”. This one is performed and recorded by the band Ram Jam in 1977. It was their biggest hit. Go figure.
[Another version by Spiderbait was recorded in 2004. It starts off with a heavy blues guitar influence and breaks into a more modern rock rendition as the song progresses. I think they did it justice. Not bad for some boys down under.]
So there you have it, in case you lived under a rock your whole life. But before, the rock was much bluer.