Blues Britannia – must-watch TV broadcast, Friday 7 August

BBC4 repeats its intermittently enlightening night of blues programming tomorrow night, Friday 7 August.

The core programme is a new BBC4 doc, Blues Britannia, a 90-min examination of how Anglo musicians took the blues, turned it into a key popular music form and exported it to the world (and back to the US, or so the story goes).

It covers the 1950s missionary work of jazzer Chris Barber and bluesman Alexis Korner, leading to the ‘60s R&B boom and the ascendancy of the Stones, right through to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Cream and finally to Led Zep.

It’s a valuable primer, though the self-satisfied succession of old men in full-on reminiscence mode can be irksome; the narration, by Nigel Planer, isn’t to my taste, either.

The central argument (indeed, the party line peddled by Brit musos of a certain age) about the US market being oblivious to the blues until the English Invaders sold it back to them, has always struck me as self-serving bullsh*t: Music for Grown-Ups would welcome the views of American readers on the matter.

Blues Britannia airs at 2200 tomorrow, with related programmes before and after. And can be viewed online via BBC iPlayer for a week after transmission.

Gerry Smith

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