“Rosie” / “Rock Me” (Fontana TF 817) April 1967
It wasn’t common for Alexis Korner to release singles but Fontana did just that during April 1967. This record probably sold out to Blues fans but no chart placing entailed and original copies are subsequently difficult to find.
My re-issue from the Fontana box-set, circa 1991, uses stereo recordings on both sides of the disc.
“Rosie” starts off with a Troggs-like primitive beat with layered hand-claps and tambourine clattering. The lead guitar is sharp and jagged. Alexis sings like he’s a rough down-on-his-luck hobo bluesman.
The other side “Rock Me,” is a customary blues shuffle with an obligatory slow tempo. The soft-handed drum patterns and languid lead break are a stand out.
Alan and John Lomax recorded “Rosie” in 1948 inside Parchman Farm, a Mississippi State penitentiary. This prison contained 15 labour camps where prisoners would chop wood and perform other manual labour.
While the Lomax’s travelled through Southern prisons in an effort to collect African American music untouched by the outside world, Alan Lomax found the inmates were being treated and brutally abused like slave laborers.
Because of this, prison songs, like “Rosie,” were not only sang to help pass the time, but because singing them became an outlet for intense emotional pain inmates were experiencing.
Record reviews from the British music press:
Certainly you couldn’t be in two minds about Alexis Korner’s “Rosie.” I like it. (Disc & Music Echo, 15/04/67)
Typically hard-punching slice of blues. Tough, staccato sounds, fair old lyrics – a bit specialist, though. (Record Mirror, 15/04/67)