Got The Fever

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Disco (Are You Experienced?)

I come not to praise disco, but to glorify a few elite members of its corps.

In my corner of the world, most disco was for the faction of girls who liked to dress up and for the guys who said they liked the music, but realistically were looking to get laid. Although, toward the end of the era, and well into the “new-wave” era it seemed the discos had become a true blend of the polyester crowd and the left over long-haired denim crew, and all those caught somewhere between. The disco had then become a hangout where it was ok to be seen. It also helped that the music was less “hard-core” and had been homogenized to a degree by then.

But, when I went to hangout, the real beauty of the disco was the sheer critical mass volume and chest cavity pounding bass that could only be experienced by being there right smack dab in the middle of it all. That was something that you couldn't get off of the radio - no matter the stereo system. The tunes came alive there at the disco, you were more prone to move away from the bar and find yourself under the strobe disco ball dancing your ass off, if only to shake off built up sweat out of your glands brought on by the sonic goodness you were bathed in. In fact, I doubt that would have like more than a handful of disco tunes had I not been there to “touch and feel them”. Jimi’s question was truly relevant and held universal truth when he asked “Are You Experienced?”

Born To Be Alive
Contrary to what most of my crowd would be playing back in the day, I would incessantly play this tune. Strange, because it wasn’t in keeping with my ‘Disco Sucks’ lemming mentality that I sported along with the XTC, Joe Jackson, Split Enz, 999, Herman Brood and others that the crowd listened to.

I never regarded it as a disco song, just an unforgiveable great groove. You could BEG on your tattered knees for it not to have a strange control over you, but you simply cannot stop from nodding your head at this one given the surroundings and circumstance! But DAMN MAN, you should have seen the dresses swaying en mass during this one!

Maybe the guitar part killed me, maybe the bass line – it just always felt like a smoking tune to me, and one that I would sneak onto foreign turntables at fabled out-of-control parties back when the tune was just out and a way hot commodity. (I talked a little bit about sneaking tunes onto turntables in a past post). Ironically, playing tracks like this always made me VERY popular when I showed up with a crate in hand! Go figure.

Time was on my side
When I was running down the street
It was so fine, fine, fine.
A suitcase and an old guitar
And something new to occupy
My mind, mind, mind.

We were born, born, born -
Born to be alive!

Knock On Wood
The voice absolutely rules your consciousness, captures and banishes all free thought, while commanding your senses to unrealistic heights of hedonism throughout this track!

Written by the dynamic Floyd/Cropper, this was originally covered by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. It's also covered by a hundred other artists, probably my fave being Bowie's version off of David Live during his Philadelphia Soul era.

What doesn’t this have? Power Horns, maniacal drums, … everything! A dance beat that is not to be ignored. This is the track that would start up and silence the whole crowd for that one flashing, brilliant nanosecond - everyone looking wildly around in an effort to hook up quickly - with anyone - just to get on that floor with a partner and not be standing there either alone or feigning aloofness with your mates - backs to the bar, heels hooked on the bar rail, casually staring at the dancefloor. We were not fooled.

When the drums come pounding in with such commanding majesty at 2'05, I always picture those half-naked Japanese dudes in headbands that hold what look like thick pegs beating ferociously on stretched skin drums that tilt forward toward them.

I’m not superstitious
About you, but I can’t take no chance.
You got me spinning, spinning,
Baby, I’m in a trance.

Cause your love is better
Thank anything I know.

It’s like thunder, lightning.
The way I love you is frightening!
I better knock – on wood!

When she lets loose with the not-from-this-planet falsetto at 2’37, you can almost picture that she’s ruptured the fabric to heaven and look(!) - here comes God, down a forever staircase in a white suit, pure gleaming white grin, kinda coming at us sideways down the stairs, placing a foot down to the next step with each advancing beat while the confetti explodes, disco ball gyrates madly and the crowd raises up both appendages heavenly in a roar unheard of in Studio 54 times 26! That’s just how infectious this is!

Ring My Bell
Mentioned in a past post during August '06 from the good DJ who passed a meme to me as a blog hatchling. This was originally written as a teeny-bopper "talk on the phone" song for Stacy Lattimore, but she went to another label and gospel singing Anita rode it to the top of the charts. I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this that stays with me all these years, but damn I can still get a belly-full of it and smile.

Well, maybe I hear this and remember the old girlfriend and I hearing it on the radio in the backseat of my very used ’67 Buick LeSabre (what a boat! The oars were optional that year.) Maybe it was the over the top cover to the album, sort of a Neptune’s daughter motif that made me smile. Or, it could be that I always remember this dick-head always singing it falsetto when he was stoned.

Whatever it was, it’s no matter at all because the groove is just killer and stays with you all night long - well after the disco closed! Suspend belief and tell me that the bass playing doesn’t rip a new smile? You’re lying if you say ‘No’.

The night is young and full of possibilities.
Well, come on and let yourself be free.
My love for you, so long I’ve been savin’
Tonight was made for me and you

You can ring my bell – ring my bell

(Ring my bell, ring-a-ling-a-ling)

Once more, keep in mind that the central ingredient, the key for me when I heard these tracks, was turning it up to 11.

Patrick Hernandez: Born To Be Alive (20)
Amii Stewart:
Knock On Wood (24)
Anita Ward: Ring My Bell (36)

Addendum: I'm not a huge fan of playlists on radio, as you're all well aware. But, what really puts musical Viagara in a playlist is when it's done by someone who knows what they're doing. I have already mentioned Fufu Stew in a recent past post. Now, I'm adding the RIBS: Rhythm In Black Satin to the list. Each week is yet another quality post that not only gives me the funk I need, but is guaranteed to turn me on to a few tracks that I might not know. Or, he digs deep into an album and plays tracks that you NEVER hear, but love with the intensity and heart of a teenage boy in love. This week he's spotlighting The Isley Brothers, The Gap Band and Rose Royce. As an added twist, he's set up two playlists - one for the faster groove of the three bands, and the other for the slower groove. Dig it.

Also, I've added a new list over to the right called "What I'm (unsuccessfully) Searching For". If you have any clues to throw my way, I'd be grateful if you'd let me know.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Lee Lewis a.k.a. The Killer

The man is known as much for his personal exploits (marrying a 14-year-old cousin, a legendary boozin’ habit, a legendary womanizing habit and for being one of the all around original party animals), as he is known for his Rock And Roll music. Back in the day, his brand of music used to get parents all red-faced mad, the authorities to surround the stage to make sure no one in the audience got up to dance and had the media branding him as someone trying to agitate the youth toward hell and damnation. The man knew what he was and what he meant, and didn't give a shit about anyone. True R'n'R punk. John Lennon loved him when he was a kid, and called “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” the best Rock And Roll song ever written. ‘Nuff said.

But, he put out a CD last year called 'Last Man Standing' - the title referring to an old album spotlighting himself and Sun label mates Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. 'Last Man Standing' is filled with pairings with artists like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Robertson, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Kid Rock, George Jones and others. He covers Zepplins "'Rock And Roll", The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Woman" to name only a few.

It also holds a few tracks that seemed unlike him. Not that I’m an expert on The Killer himself, but I had always thought of him in terms of frothing-mouthed teens violently lurching to the devil’s music. These two tracks are slower, one almost country, and the other a ballad. Truth be told, both crush my aorta.

That Kind Of Fool

Going to a bar as a guy is a great thing. I mean, with the liquor, the comrades, the loud talk, the music and of course, the women who also frequent your local water hole. Yea, the women. A bit of flirting, the buying of drinks to loosen her up, the friendly hands on each other’s lap daring each other to see how far we can casually brush against parts before being rebuked. All this despite the left ring finger wrapped with a band of gold.

Jerry’s got a different take on it - one that makes you get all serious and remorseful about it. And coming from a man who has had the best lion’s share of beer and broads it is a ponderous mood and atmosphere that he creates indeed. Accompanied by Keith Richards. Ironic that they both sing a song of this nature and lyric.

Look at that fool, goin' home to his wife
Look at that fool, he never lays out all night
He doesn't know what it's like to be untrue,
Wish I could have been that kind of fool.

Look at that fool, have one drink now he's headin' home,
Look at that fool, leavin' that beautiful lady all alone.
Then go home to someone, who loves him true,
Wish ol' Jerry Lee could have been that kind of fool!

A Couple More Years
I find that the older one gets, the harder it is to recover emotionally from a relationship that is over. And, in my line of work, I hear, and see it, all the time. The importance, and significance, one puts in a relationship is more real than it was when you were young. The highs are higher because you’ve become focused and actually put meaning to the words companionship, devotion and abiding love. You’ve come to not only accept, but to also embrace that substance is better than fluff. However, the lows are achingly intolerable – numbing even the common days into loathsome bouts of guilt, sorrow, dread and despair. Bathe in all that with the added knowledge that everyone told you it would never work because of the age difference. Bathe in that.

This is the real deal here. The crush is like a dead-weight yoke lying on your ribs with heavy stones being added with each waking hour. This should “ … free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart”. Accompanied by Willie Nelson.

I’ve got a couple a more years on you baby –
That’s all.
I’ve had more chances to fly and more places to fall.
And it ain’t that I’m wiser, it’s only that I’ve spent
More time with my back to the wall.
And I’ve picked up a couple more years on you baby –
That’s all.

I’ve walked a couple a more roads than you baby,
That’s all.
Girl, I’m tired of runnin’ while you’re only learning to crawl
You’re headed somewhere, but I’ve been to somewhere,

Found it was nowhere at all.
I’ve picked up a couple a more years on you baby – That's all.

Jerry Lee Lewis:
That Kind Of Fool (15)
A Couple More Years (21)

From: Last Man Standing [2006]

... The (Montana) Meth Project is the largest advertiser in Montana, reaching 70-90% of teens three times a week. This is saturation-level advertising.
The research-based messaging campaign—which graphically portrays the ravages of Meth use through television, radio, billboards, and Internet ads—has gained nationwide attention for its uncompromising approach and demonstrated impact. The campaign's core message, "Not Even Once," speaks directly to the highly addictive nature of Meth. ...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

(Covered By) The Clash

My man Darcy over at Feel It (see my links and visit often) recently had a post about cover tunes that inspired me. He asks the questions “ … What constitutes a cover version?” and talks about variations on a theme in reference to cover versions. Luckily for us he has a few gems to offer. One is the Isley Brothers version of “Hello It’s Me” (which I featured a version of by Jeannie Bryson) and an Elkie Brooks version of Ned Doheny. Both by the way are should not be missed and must be in your download folder.

Point being, most bands cover songs. Everyone from Al Jolson to The White Stripes and all in between cover songs with very few exceptions. Including The Clash.

Sandinista! London Calling. Certainly two of the better known Clash albums and two of the best albums for their time period. Fantastic punk/new-wave band who were in the forefront of the movement and among the most respected bands until their untimely, and unfortunate breakup. They could write them, that’s for sure. And man, could they pick covers.

Wrong ‘Em Boyo
Who didn’t cover this at one point? Everyone from the Beach Boys! To James Brown. But, it hadn’t been covered successfully in quite a while before the Clash covered it on London Calling.

Although the song itself dates back to the late 1800’s, the version that the Clash covered was taken from The Rulers, a rocksteady Jamaican band. It’s originally a rough and tumble song about mayhem and murder called ‘Stag O' Lee’. Lloyd Price had a hit with it in the early ’60 – 'Stagger Lee' and he was asked to change the tough ass lyrics by Dick Clark, to something more appropriate to the white American Bandstand audience!

Stagger Lee went to the barroom
Walked across that barroom floor
He said, "Now, nobody move"
And he pulled out his forty-four
"Oh, Stagger Lee," cried Billy
"Please don't take my life
I got three little children
And a very sickly wife

But listen to the Rulers version, who meld Stagg O' Lee with Wrong Em’ Boyo. The Clash lifted it almost note for note – including the retake of the first half of the song at 0’48. Love the whole island infused feel that's heavy on piano and has slapping in the background keeping time.

Why do you try to cheat?And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong?To cheat the trying man
Don't you know it is wrong?To cheat the trying man
So you better stop, it is the wrong 'em boyo!

Police On My Back
A true smoker by The Clash off of Sandinista!

Originally done by The Equals who had as a lead member a young Eddie Grant – he of ‘Electric Avenue’ fame! This kid (at the time) had a heart attack at twenty one(!) and still kept going! The Equals were one of the early mixed race bands who scored a hit before even Sly did. A great mix of pre-ska, garage and calypso. How’s that for imagination and depth? Once more, listen to how closely the Clash followed The Rulers version – note for note, eh? One of those tunes I would have loved to see live in it’s time back in swing London.

Well I'm running, police on my back
I've been hiding, police on my back
There was a shooting, police on my back
And the victim well he wont come back

I been running Monday Tuesday WednesdayThursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Runnin Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday FridaySaturday Sunday
What have I done?What have I done?

Dig heartily on both of these – true monuments in their own right and a testament to great songwriting.

The Rulers: Wrong ‘Em Boyo (36)
The Equals: Police On My Back (42)

Yet another great site has contacted me this past week. Fufu Stew has fantastic playlists and writing that is superb – get there and feast!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Richard Pryor

The last few weeks have seen a terrible rash of psychological and emotional meteors hitting my psyche at bombastic speed and with hyper-explosive repercussions.

What with the ‘hanging on much too long’ death of a loved one, a way overdue showdown/break-up of heroically epic proportions, a monumental birthday number come and gone without fanfare and a job environment that has gone from stable and employee friendly to listening to everyone who hasn’t already left in a frenzy consistently whispering about how the place just plain … well, is not so desirable anymore.

A cure! Someone a cure! Or, at least a salve that can temper the radiating heartbreaking burns. Save that, how about temporary refuge from the barbed wire of current reality?

Better yet – serve me up a heaping helping of Richard Pryor!

Few can make me laugh involuntarily, and as hard, as can Richard Pryor. He was just so openly honest in his assessments of human nature that one could not help but laugh. And it was his varied material that kept him popular and inspired countless others.

A big plus, for me, was that although he swore and cussed, he never made it a central point of his show. That is, you don’t know him mainly for his swearing and raunchy act. Unlike dozens who tried to build a stage show or reputation as toilet-mouthed comedians (and never stayed long in the spotlight) – Rudy Ray Moore, Red Fox, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay or even Eddie Murphy are the quick ones that come to mind, he transcended that genre. Despite his language, it always had the comfortable feel of being in context of his material.

I can’t tell you how often I dug on Richard! I remember bring him on camping trips, to weekend getaways, listening in the dorms, playing his platters at parties (what other spoken word artist can you put on at a party and NOT have people groan?) and ever present in my car.

To this day, I have certain friends who will still quote R.P. in conversation. That’s how often we listened to this cat. This still never fails to bring a chuckle to the banter, and even more so when we go through the monologue for an uninitiated plebian. Hilarious.

Black Funerals
It is so blatantly true concerning the black experience during death. The absolute wailing of your Aunt, the brutality of honesty about the weather – especially in winter, the overflow of food from everyone in creation from the neighborhood … Richard is right on about this in every way! He has a great story about how his Dad of 57 died while having sex with an eighteen year old!

“Nobody cried at his funeral. they said ‘Lucky mutherfucker!”

Being Sensitive
Pryor at some of his best! Exploring and talking about how men and women differ in bed – man getting his and the woman sometimes left a little wanting.

“And I just found out something like a few years ago man that blew my mind, I just found out sometimes women don’t have orgasms! That fucked me up! Cause I thought I was doing some serious fuckin’!”

Have Your Ass Home By 11:00
This is most likely my favorite short monologue by Pryor. Back in the 50’s he’s telling us men never got anything off the girls till ‘after 11:00’ – which is the time his father told him to be home by.

“The clock motherfucker! What’s the clock say?”

Chinese Food
With Pryor, there’s always his ability to take everyday, bland events and turn it into a howl. Isn’t that one sign of a great comedian?

"I got one friend, he always orders biscuits. You got any biscuits back in there motherfucker?”

Enjoy and rediscover the genius of Richard Pryor and you too can get out of your nasty mood – even for a few hours!

Richard Pryor: Black Funerals (45)
Richard Pryor: Being Sensitive (47)
Richard Pryor: Have Your Ass Home By 11:00 (37)
Richard Pryor: Chinese Food (37)
From: ...And It's Deep, Too!- The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992)

Addendum: Let me (re)introduce you to a few online pleasures that have helped me along lately:

Soul-Sides has a great Hip-Hop cover that should remind you of something. Also, check out their V2 offering.

Echoes In The Wind continues to put out some little known tunes on a frequent basis. And get the Chi Coltrane album while you can – I am really grateful for that one!

If you haven’t heard of PostSecret, get there. Amazing collection of anonymous secrets that the site has parlayed into a few books and now they tour around sharing.

There are a lot more that I read on a frequent basis – they are my online rock. But, these provide great distractions!