It’s April 1964. A band from London, England, who has built a local following by covering American blues artists like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, is set to release their debut studio album. The self-titled album would feature only one song, “Tell Me”, written by the band’s two iconic front men. That group would spend the following decades carving out their legacy as one of the greatest bands of all time- The Rolling Stones. Rising out of the British Blues scene of the 1960s, the Stones would write some of the most beloved songs of all time by combining traditional Blues music with contemporary Pop. By doing this they infused the pain and longing of Blues into commercially successful music. This was one first times that popular music could be about less popular emotions. Songs like “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Paint It, Black”, and “Satisfaction” would shape modern music. These songs weren’t just risky pop hits, they were genius plays of melody and lyrics that offered deep insight into the world as well as what it means to be human.
But this was before all that. This was even before the iconic tongue and lips logo. In the 4 minutes and 5 seconds of the only song written by Keith and Mick on that debut album, “Tell Me”, these two would combine musical styles to form the foundation on which they built a career of renowned music. 56 years later, in Tokyo Japan, a guitar player named Tom Ishizuka is combining his own styles of music to transcend this early Stone’s hit into something entirely new.
Ishizuka, born and raised in Tokyo, has been playing guitar for over 40 years. Like the Stones in 1964, he’s started to build a small following by covering traditional Blues artists. Ishizuka first heard “Tell Me” when he was only a kid. “I was so much influenced by The Rolling Stones when I was young, and I still love them” Ishizuka said. In his recently released cover of the song, he and Nigerian singer CHUREMI put one of the most untraditional twists on Blues Pop music by infusing Reggae and Funk. What makes this so interesting is the stark contrast of the two styles, not just musically, but emotionally. While the Blues were born out of deeply personal pain and longing, Reggae was cultivated in the sixties with an emphasis on social experiences. If Blues is about the heartbreak, Reggae is the love that preceded it. By combining these styles, Ishizuka shows love and heartbreak at the same time. The Blues melodies in this cover carry the longing and loneliness on top of the optimistic and promising reggae beat. This is all pulled together and highlighted by CHUREMI’s singing with its beautiful tone of hopeful despair. Most artists take albums or careers to take the listener on the same journey that this song accomplishes.
Ishizuka is an artist on the rise and with his unique and powerful style, he is one that every hardcore music fan should be aware of. He plans to release more music and perform live more than ever this coming year, stating he will continue to do so as long ‘as long as he breathes’. “Music shaped me as who I am now. It allowed me to connect with a lot of cool people around the world”, Ishizuka said, “Music helped me to get over hard times. Music always gives me energy and joy”.
Good songs help us understand ourselves and the world around us. This is something incredibly rare to come across and almost universally cherished when it is. Ishizuka’s cover of “Tell Me” is an absolute must listen for any music fan, regardless of taste or preference in genre. This song is undeniably powerful, adding new meaning and emotion to the original song. More importantly, it transcends simply being another cover song into being a unique and meaningful artistic expression about what it means to be human.
You can listen to Tom Ishizuka’s cover of “Tell Me” here.