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Funk for Friday: Curtis Mayfield, Superfly

So obvious there doesn’t seem any point in spinning it. So funky there is no way not to.

Curtis Mayfield, “Superfly” – from Superfly-The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Song of the Day: Alice Clark, “I Keep It Hid”

The interweb has mutated into many strange forms, some good, most not so good, and fragmented into various regions. On the good side, one of the tastier regions is a subset of the larger region of musical blogs – blogs that devote themselves to posting information on older records, along with rips (digital versions) of albums that are not are out of print, unavailable or were (re)released on CD.

Within that subset, there are further divisions, active groupings organized around various genres, like garage, folk, punk – and funk, soul and R&B, which has a particularly active community of bloggers based all around the world, sharing and posting an amazing collection of records that would otherwise in some cases be almost unobtainable. Here’s an obscure album I ran across last year on one of the soul blogs I follow:

Alice Clark, “I Keep It Hid” – from her self-titled 1972 album

This is not an entirely lost album, as the information below will show, but it doesn’t have anything like the following I think it deserves, even though nothing else on the album quite lives up to “I Keep It Hid.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

Funk for Friday: Eddie Kendricks, “Keep on Truckin'”

Not a Grateful Dead song–that’s just “Truckin’.” Not your typical city involved in a typical daydream. But it’s interesting to think about the willingness of this song, of an R&B singer, to engage with the whole hippie/freak thing…

Eddie Kendricks, “Keep on Truckin'”—originally on his self-titled 1973 album

But is it a hippie/freak thing? The Dead’s “Truckin'” has had so much airplay over the years that it sort of owns the word (in its shortened n’ form). (But remind me to post the speed-freak version of it by the Bay Area punk band, Pop-o-Pies.) And the origins of the title phrase also suggest that hippie/freak connection—it had been popularized a few years before this song came out in a pretty famous underground hippie comic, in an illustration by R. Crumb (above):

Keep on Truckin’ (comics): “Keep on Truckin'” is a one-page comic by Robert Crumb. It was published in the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968. A visual riff on the lyrics of the Blind Boy Fuller song “Truckin’ My Blues Away”, it consists of an assortment of men, drawn in Crumb’s distinctive style, strutting confidently across various landscapes. The strip’s drawings became iconic images of optimism during the hippie era. Like most underground comics, “Keep on Truckin'” was not copyrighted, and images of it have been widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters, and other items. (via Wikipedia.)

But maybe despite all of that, the phrase “Keep on truckin'” had a wider currency during the 70s than I recall, and was used equally by hippies and hipsters… Whether or not this is a song with a hippie engagement—a freak meets funk kind of thing—it certainly has a nice funky groove, at times reminiscent of The Jackson 5, which makes sense since it was coming out of the same Motown hit machine.

It’s also got a transitional sound, moving from the Motown R&B sound of the late 60s/early 70s to the disco sound of the later 70s. Compare this song with the other Kendricks tune I posted a little while back, “My People… Hold On,” from just a year earlier. While I like “Keep on Truckin’,” I think this comparison shows that the move to a more disco sound didn’t do Kendricks any favors.  That earlier song is a minor masterpiece; this one is just good, and Kendricks never got any better in his subsequent disco numbers. Still, it was a huge hit when it came out, Kendricks’ first real hit as a solo artist since leaving The Temptations, of which he was one of the founders.

The most prominent freak meets funk moment was almost certainly Sly & The Family Stone, who were featured in last week’s “Funk for Friday.” I’ve also written about Funkadelic’s engagement with a style of psychedelic rock that was definitely more associated with white boys. All of this is of interest for the ways in which black music—music by African Americans and coming out of the African American community—and white music have interacted in the United States, coming together, moving apart, borrowing/ stealing/ learning from each other, but for the most part retaining somewhat separate identities. Separate Billboard charts. Separate radio stations. In an earlier time, “race records.” Separate communities of listeners. Lots more to say on this topic, obviously…

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , , , ,

Advertising Sillyness from the Seventies

A Flickr group for sharing images of ads from the Seventies:

Flickr: Advertising Sillyness from the Seventies.

I might quibble with some of them as being not-silly ads for silly products, but that is a pretty wienie quibble. (I might also quibble with silliness/sillyness but that’s another issue.)

Filed under: Pop Culture, ,

Song of the Day: Mick Jagger, “Memo from Turner” – from Performance (1970)

Featured prominently in the movie Performance, directed by Nicolas Roeg with Donald Cammell and released in 1970, this song remains one of my favorite Mick Jagger/Stones songs—right up there with “Sympathy,” “Satisfaction” and “Monkey Man.” Here it is in a clip from the movie, with what is surely Jagger’s finest performance in any film:

A higher quality clip (and without the subtitles) is available through TCM: Performance (1970) — (Movie Clip) Memo From Turner. (As a Warner film, Performance is part of the TCM archive and you can check their webpage on the movie for any scheduled broadcast times.)

The Song

The song “Memo from Turner” was released as a single in the UK and also appeared as the first track on the second side of the Performance soundtrack—which also features music by Randy Newman and Buffy Sainte-Marie. It features Ry Cooder on slide guitar, and other musicians, rather than the regular Stones line-up. (Keith Richards reportedly balked at playing on the track because of love scenes in the movie between his girlfriend at the time Anita Pallenberg and Jagger, which were rumored to have gone beyond simulation.)

The song is also available on a number of compilation albums, including The Very Best of Mick Jagger, and some Rolling Stones compilations, such as Singles Collection: The London Years.

A second version of the song was released on the Stones album Metamorphosis in 1975. It features a different line-up of musicians—but still not the Stones—possibly including Brian Jones and Stevie Winwood of Traffic, as well as slightly differently lyrics. I think the original is much more powerful and appealing, but you can compare the two for yourself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Movie Music, Movies, Song of the Day, , , ,

Song of the Day: Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”

Today’s Song of the Day opens like this:

I went home with a waitress
the way I always do.
How was I to know
she was with the Russians too?

So you know that (1) you are in good hands, lyrically, and (2) you are not in Kansas anymore / this is not your father’s rock and roll.

And just look at that face… There’s a line from the BBC comedy Black Books where Bernard says of Manny “half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard.” I wish I could come up with something as witty and pithy because, well, just look at that face. A bit angel, a bit devil, a dangerous nerd. Just looking at that cover, you knew, even before you got that flat plastic thing spinning, that you were in for a wild ride to strange lands.

Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money” – from the album Excitable Boy (1978)

I can’t believe this album came out in 1978, but on that point both Amazon.com and Wikipedia agree. For me this record exists a few years later, when my friends and I were in our last year of high school and first year of university and felt like we were indeed traveling in strange lands, without a map—but with this record we at least had a troubadour along for the ride.

This isn’t even the best or most well-known song on the album, nor is it my favorite (that would be “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner”—which hits me where I live politically, and in which Berkeley gets a shout out), but it may be the funniest. Listening to it now, when it still gives as much pleasure as it did 30 years ago, what strikes me is how few rock songs, still, manage to break out of the ghetto of cars, guitars and relationships, and sing about other stuff in direct and accessible ways, and in particular to tell stories, especially stories that have nothing to do with the musician, and are just… stories.

Here’s what Amazon.com has to say about this album:

With this 1978 LP, Warren Zevon stepped forward as something of the dark prince of California. Like fellow Southern California outcast Randy Newman, Zevon achieved some fame, albeit not what his talent would have earned him had he written songs more like his mellower pal Jackson Browne and a little less like Jack the Ripper in a convertible. Fascinated with bloodthirsty antiheroes, Zevon wrote with the flair of a desperately bright pulp writer and summoned images of mutilated mercenaries (“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”), pampered bad boys (“Lawyers, Guns and Money”), helpless sickos (the title track), and, of course, feral Chinese-food fiends (“Werewolves of London”). Excitable Boy’s 1976 predecessor (Warren Zevon) may be a more consistent album, but this is the one that put Zevon in the public consciousness as someone to keep an eye on–for protection as well as promise. –Steven Stolder

And here’s the big hit from the album: “Werewolves of London.”

Zevon kind of disappeared off the popular radar after this album came out, only to reappear a few years ago when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s a shame that his career should have been like that – a huge splash with Excitable Boy and then so little until the cancer brought him a weird and distressing kind of attention. In fact, we should never have stopped listening to him, and in particular, to “Lawyers, Guns and Money.”

For more…

Filed under: Song of the Day, ,

Hey, Hey, Hey

If you are of an age and a class and a space with me, then we probably share similar memories of a Saturday morning – eating big bowls of breakfast cereal and watching cartoons, like Scooby-Doo (the original, not any of the later, lesser incarnations), Johnny Quest, and… Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

You’ll have some fun now…

As Time Out Chicago suggests, for those of us who grew up on them and now have kids of our own, TV shows such as Fat Albert can make a nice change from the dreck being dished out on TV for our kids these days.

But Fat Albert serves another important role in my relationship with my stepson Misha beyond just keeping him occupied and entertained – it gives him some insight into the culture that shaped me, and crucially introduces him to African American life and culture, which was so formative for me, growing up in a black neighborhood in the 1970s, but is completely foreign to him out in the white suburbs of Australia.

(I’ve stocked the basket of reading material in the toilet with Boondocks collections to give him a more up-to-date version and vision of that life and culture. And in a year or two… The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Eyes on the Prize)

Filed under: Autobiography, TV, , , ,

What were we thinking in the 70s?

There’s been a lot of discussion of privacy and over-sharing on the interweb recently – with, eg, a new Facebook tool that lets you quickly find everyone who’s posted to the whole world about losing their virginity, their racist views or jokes about and experiences with anal sex

But this guy takes embarrassing personal disclosure to a whole new level:

Steve Almond’s Bad Hair.
[It's] one of the basic laws of Having Lived Through the 1970s, ’80s, or ’90s that you had bad hair at some point. Probably at many points. And that this bad hair was captured on film, and that the relevant pix still exist out there, somewhere, ready to undermine whatever modicum of cool you believe yourself to have achieved.

This is what I’m talking about:

(via PowellsBooks.Blog.)

Out of solidarity with Steve – a nice fellow and a good writer – and his willingness to challenge the silence and stigma around 70s hair, here’s a picture of me from the same era:

Actually, I wish I could still grow hair that long and blond – but if the price of such luxurious locks was having to have a (non-) cut like that, and wear sweater vests and wide-collared rayon shirts, I think I’d pass.

Filed under: Autobiography, Humor, ,

Brandeis girls gone wild – The Boston Globe

“On March 31 [2007], alleged Kansas City gang leader Shauntay L. Henderson was arrested shortly after the FBI announced that they’d added her to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Last week, Newsweek published a photo gallery of the other seven women who’ve landed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Sharp-eyed bloggers have since pointed out that nearly half of these infamous women were graduates of Waltham-based Brandeis University.”

read more at Brandeis girls gone wild – The Boston Globe.

Filed under: Politics,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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