Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disappeared Divas II: Ode to Bobbie G

It's time for round two of the Chicks Who Told The Wretched Music Biz To Fuck The Fuck Off series, this time focusing on an even more mysteriously reclusive Diva of days gone by... and one I'd pay to see make a comeback.
They found her, you know. Tracked her down a few months ago to a mansion at the top of some gated community in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Found her phone number. Called it. She picked up, and in the classic, giveaway drawl intoned that there was no one here by that name. You could almost hear the wink, and the internal, "Well, I guess it's time to change the number again."
Never seen or heard from since 1982, the story of Roberta Lee Streeter -- stage name: Bobbie Gentry -- is one of those music industry tales that just leaves you shaking your head. Author of arguably the single most argued over popular song in species history, her whereabouts and Whatever Happened To's mount by the year, forming a legend unique in the music of our era.
She was born this day in 1944 in the heart of the Ground Zero of The Blues, the Mississippi Delta, and 23 years after that she rose to prominence on the back of one of the greatest songs ever written in any era, like a Southern Gothic novel with chord changes. The track made her a global superstar and a pioneer -- she and Dolly Parton (another subject for this page for another day, trust me) are thought to be the first female Country artists to write their own material.
As brilliant and unprecedented as Ode to Billie Joe may have been -- and it's still, 50 years on, one of the greatest tracks ever penned by anyone -- there's way more to Bobbie Gentry than just the title track off her debut platter, and she was hardly just a "Country artist". Songwriters and performers like this are one in ten million, only occurring once every few generations. Too bad the suits didn't trust her to do her thing, descending like flies and doing what power puppet profit pigs always do, cajole you to repeat the exact formula that got their Teen Thai Prostitute funds a-swelling in that biiiiiiig bank account of theirs.
Take her (ridiculous, even today) song Fancy.... it's just your typical, detailed story song about a poor mother with no option but to turn her 15-year-old daughter out as a hoe. And it has a happy ending, turning out to be the right move in the context of the story she's telling. And it went to #9 on the charts. How do you have a hit single, in 1970, with a song like that? As a woman???? She makes what the faux-controversial divas of today sing about sound like songs about waiting in line to have your hair done.
I was thinking when I began writing all this yesterday, about how yesterday's honoree and today's, born one year and one day apart, are really super similar by a lot of vital metrics. Both wrote challenging, unapologetic material about the deeper and more honestly seamier side of the human condition, and relationships as they relate to women. Both did so in completely uncompromising, artistically visionary ways. And both did so wearing pretty much next to nothing! Really, Bobbie was as provocative in her own style as Betty Davis would be, just a few years later, in hers.
After ceasing recordmaking in 1971 -- one reason being that the industry bigwigs wouldn't allow her production credits on her records, even though it was she that was producing them in the studio -- she went on to conquer the Las Vegas strip, becoming one of its hugest attractions in the 1970s with her wildly theatrical, genre-bending shows.
It was all eventually water under the Tallahatchie Bridge (pictured above) though, and she grew weary of the physical demands the Vegas performances put on her body night after night, eventually stopping altogether in around 1981, and appearing for the last time on TV in 1982. Since then, not a peep. Not a picture. Not a sighting. Not a whisper. At all.
All of this -- much like the 1977 film adaptation of Ode to Billie Joe -- will make a fantastic, Garbo-esque biographic film or documentary someday soon (why not both? I'm down), but until that day we are left to ponder five of the most tantalizing words in music: Whatever Happened to Bobbie Gentry? Like that package that went sailing off the bridge in that iconic hit song, we may never know the truth. But that's ok too, because as Leonard Cohen so famously said, we may be ugly, but we have the music. Actually he claims Janis Joplin told him that, but it is what it is.
As with yesterday, there is literally zero archival stuff of Miss Bobbie to share with y'all, but no worries cuz as with Betty Davis, years and years ago I made a CD of my favorite tunes of hers that eventually found its way, as FLAC files, into my phone, which doubles as sort of an iPod for me. So get ready, cuz Imma put it onya right down below here.
Bobbie Gentry
Mississippi Delta Reunion

01 Okolona River Bottom Band
02 Rainmaker
03 The Girl from Cincinnati
04 Niki Hokey
05 Find 'Em, Fool 'Em and Forget 'Em
06 I'll Never Fall In Love Again
07 You've Made Me So Very Happy
08 Fancy
09 But I Can't Get Back
10 Reunion
11 Mississippi Delta
12 Marigolds and Tangerines
13 Somebody Like Me
14 Sweete Peony
15 Glory Hallelujah, How They'll Sing
16 Skip Along Sam
17 Son of a Preacher Man
18 Seasons Come, Seasons Go
19 He Made a Woman Out of Me
20 Where's the Playground, Johnny
21 Mean Stepmama Blues
22 Something In the Way He Moves
23 Jeremiah
24 Lookin' In
25 Ode to Billy Joe

Total time: 1:19:24

Well that'll be it for July from me, unless another seminal, formative muso kicks the bucket before next Monday and I'm pressed into Emergency Grief Duty anyhow. But pull my little mixtape down and paste your ears to what makes today's mystery Birthday Girl worth all the decades of hype that surround her whereabouts. And as always, we wish Miss Bobbie Gentry the very best of 72nd b'days. and many more. And please come back and make music again, can you? This parade of idiots in neon micro-thongs, singing about pimps and hoes, don't hold a candle to what you had to say on the subject back in the day anyway--J.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Disappeared Divas I: Backseat Birthday Betty

OK, let's take a break from the social media platforms that will surely serve as a Rosetta Stone when futurefolk are trying to wade through the pile of corpses to figure out how 90% of our species came to be extincted, and get into two days of posts concerning two ladies who were born one year and one day apart, and are perhaps the two most famous musicians of our era ever to remove themselves entirely -- as in without a trace -- from the music industry.
Let's be as direct as a Greg Errico kickdrum, cuz he's the drummer on a lot of Betty's stuff: there is no funkier music that will ever be made in any galaxy than that of Betty Davis. That's it. There will be music as funky, but there will never possibly be anything that exceeds the raw funk power of her completely insane catalog. Her songs are so funked up they make last week's George Clinton post seem like Mitch Miller Spins The Polka Hits.
I was thinking about the (classic) Ice Cube track off AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted called Once Upon a Time In the Projects, which when you think about it contains all the seeds of the Friday films in its 4 minutes of hilarity. Some of the most iconic tracks in hip-hop are built on Betty's beats; that one loops Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him in a most headnodical fashion.
Let me break it down to you, OK? No Betty Davis? No Madonna. No Lady Gaga. No Nicki Minaj or whatever her name is. No (your preferred pop mistress of sexual provocation and innuendo here). Let's be even franker. No Betty Davis? No Electric Period for her onetime hubby, Miles.
Yes, she is all of that and a bag of Funk. When she married Miles Davis for that quick 13 months in 1969-70, she introduced him first to a guy she had known in downtown NYC since the mid-1960s, a cat called Hendrix... her song He Was a Big Freak details how she used to whip Jimi "with her turquoise chain," among other points of interest. It'd be an understatement to say that she was Miles' gateway into the Rock sounds with which he would then turn around and create yet another of his monumental, stylistically-defining moves. Jazz-rock fusion? Betty helped make it a thing.
She struggled so mightily to get the record suits of the 1970s to promote her, but she was met with a stiff arm and the admonishment that she'd have to tone her act down for mass consumption and lose the unbridled, Egyptian-sex-queen-in-outer-space persona she invented to animate her songs. She told them all to go fuck themselves with a carrot stick.
In walking away and outright disappearing from public life, she likely sacrificed millions of dollars and a career that would have made her a household name. But in holding the line, she managed to make several records that will forever be capable of melting the linoleum off a dance floor.
Her legend only grows more mysterious by the year. Recently someone found her and asked what she's been doing for the last 35 years since quitting music. She replied "Nothing much, really." I swear she is like a cross between Big Mama Thornton, Ann Peebles and Greta Garbo. In fact, her reclusiveness is matched only by the lady on whom I will post tomorrow. But one disappeared diva day at a time.
Miss Betty the OG Funkstress turns 71 today, can you believe that? There are millions of people who'd camp out to see her play if she ever returned, oh my. That is about as likely as Miley Cyrus doing a cover of the complete Nasty Gal album, but at least we have the original, uncut stuff she did to power the planet with Pure Funk Motion.
There isn't even any quality archival material that circulates of her onstage... the legend has it that many shows ended with the promoter trying to quell a riot whilst informing her that she would in no way be permitted to perform dancing like that and wearing barely that.
To honor this completely under-the-radar pioneer whom few remember but who has her funkaprints on so much music and style of our time, I am gonna share this comp CD I made of her stuff years and years ago, and that's been in my phone ever since. If you're unfamiliar I'd advise pulling it down and then immediately buying six copies of all her full albums. If you know her already, you know her already and are fully aware... her music is not what you'd call "forgettable".
Betty Davis
'70s Blues

01 They Say I'm Different
02 This Is It!
03 If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up
04 Dedicated to the Press
05 Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him
06 Is It Love Or Desire
07 Stars Starve You Know
08 You and I
09 Don't Call Her No Tramp
10 Anti Love Song
11 Game Is My Middle Name
12 Your Mama Wants Ya Back
13 Crashin' from Passion
14 '70s Blues
15 Steppin In Her I. Miller Shoes
16 He Was a Big Freak
17 F.U.N.K.
18 Your Man My Man
19 Gettin' Kicked Off, Havin' Fun
20 Git In There

Total time: 1:18:47

Seriously, if these tracks don't get you bumpin' I'd refer you to the nearest coroner, as you may in fact be already deceased. I'll return in 24 hours with an even stranger story, but let's of course take the opportunity to thank Betty Davis for staying true to herself back in the day and flipping off the industry vampires who would have turned her into Melissa Manchester. And, most important of all, to celebrate her having been born this day in 1945!--J.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Swamp Fox Populi

Welcome to the weekend and round two of the birthday tribute sweepstakes. Today, we're celebrating one of the originals, born on the bayou.
Yes, it's a Saturday Night In Oak Grove, Louisiana, birthplace (73 years ago this day, that is) of one of Joshy's personal favorite swamp foxes, Tony Joe White.
Who is Tony Joe White? If you don't know, I'm not sure I can help you by describing him. But if I had to use one phrase to lay it down, I'd say TJW is in the conversation for the funkiest white person ever born on this Earth.
He's been at the forefront of the genre he helped invent -- call it Swamp Rock -- for nearly 50 years of storytelling in his songs. That's the thang about Tony Joe: every one of his tunes is like a miniature Southern novel. With funk. Lots of it. The deep kind.
Ah, those songs. Many of them tell some truth, hidden in the grooves. His track Willie and Laura Mae Jones is as perceptive a track as could be written about race relations, ripped from yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's headlines. He also wrote Rainy Night In Georgia, a song covered more times than a four poster bed in a convent.
He was born this day in 1943 and to honor the Whomper Stomper I have been busy putting gigabytes of gigs into the cloud, including two performances -- given 21 years apart -- at the distinguished Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and a 2CD compilation of his formative catalog I made and funk to in my phone when I am out and about.
Tony Joe White

47th Montreux Jazz Festival
Auditorium Stravinski
Montreux, Switzerland

01 Undercover Agent for the Blues
02 Do You Have a Garter Belt?
03 Roosevelt and Ira Lee
04 Tell Me Why
05 Holed Up
06 Rainy Night In Georgia
07 The Gift
08 Gypsy Epilogue
09 Polk Salad Annie

Total time: 48:26

Tony Joe White - vocals, guitar, harmonica
Bryan Owings - drums

720p PAL DVD of an SRF ZWEI-TV DVB-S broadcast
3.67 GB total

"Swampsnake Soul"
26th Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux, Switzerland

01 Willie and Laura Mae Jones
02 Do You Have a Garter Belt?
03 Undercover Agent for the Blues
04 Tunica Motel
05 Good In Blues
06 Bayou Rhythm
07 Ain't Goin' Down This Time
08 Closer to the Truth
09 Polk Salad Annie
10 Main Squeeze
11 Rainy Night In Georgia
12 Steamy Windows
13 Even Trolls Love Rock 'n' Roll

Total time: 1:12:39

Tony Joe White - guitar, harmonica
Jay Davis - bass
Marc Cohen - drums
Hally Marvin - keyboards

bootleg CD, "Swampsnake Soul," on the Trade Service/Rare Recording Collection label; likely sourced from a master FM broadcast

01 High Sheriff of Calhoun Parish
02 Willie and Laura Mae Jones (alternate version)
03 Woman with Soul
04 Aspen, Colorado
05 Hard to Handle
 06 I Thought I Knew You Well
 07 Elements and Things
 08 Dusty Marshmallow
09 Woodpecker (alternate version)
 10 Stud Spider
11 Groupy Girl
12 I Want You
13 Toil & Trouble
14 Roosevelt and Ira Lee (Night of the Moccasin)
15 Whompt Out On You
16 Funky Fingers
17 I Can't Stand It
18 Rainy Night In Georgia
19 Mississippi Delta
20 Polk Salad Annie

Total time: 1:19:31


01 A Night In the Life of a Swamp Fox
02 Voodoo Village
03 Even Trolls Love Rock 'n' Roll
04 Lustful Earl and the Married Woman
05 No News Is Good News
06 Sign of the Lion
07 Saturday Night In Oak Grove, Louisiana
08 As the Crow Flies
 09 Backwoods Preacher Man
10 Black Panther Swamps
11 The Change
12 The Gospel Singer
13 Delta Love
14 Don't Let the Door (Hit You In the Butt)
15 Homemade Ice Cream
16 The Daddy
17 They Caught the Devil and Put Him In Jail In Eudora, Arkansas
18 The Family
19 Making Love Is Good for You
20 Copper Kettle
21 Did Someone Make a Fool Out of You
22 300 Pounds of Hongry

Total time: 1:19:55

both volumes zipped together

the DVD and the CDs are in the same folder/July 2016 archive link
That's a lot, but then so is Tony Joe so I guess I prepared a feast fit for a king. Pull whichever items tickle your tweeters down and let the Swamp Fox funk up your weekend accordingly... I'll return with yet more Friday Night Funk for Saturday Night Brothers soon. And oh yes... the best of 73rd birthday wishes to Tony Joe White, still crawfish after all these years!--J.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Young Funkenstein and the Motor Birthday Affair

Having posted all of once in July, I believe it's time for me to go funk myself. Get off my ass and jam.
There is some discrepancy as to whether the big day was yesterday or is today, but most references cite today as his b'day so I am going with that.
Today's honoree had his first hit -- both kinds -- almost 50 years ago. Then things began to get interesting.
He's engendered a ton of hate and bewilderment in the music business since then, mostly from people who've never tried to get an entourage of 75 dazed people in diapers and outer spacewear onto a bus at 9 o'clock in the morning.
Despite his various detractors, to catalog the cultural and musical innovations for which he is responsible as a central organizing figure would take twenty pages of this blog.
To encapsulate it all, you might say he took what James Brown began in the Sixties, then took a whole ashramful of psychedelics, and then filtered the combination of those two elements through the music in which he was grounded: doo-wop and the vocal group.
This collision of decades -- an equation of Fifties + Sixties = Seventies, if you will -- brought melodic heft and songwriting chops into Funk and gave birth to nearly the whole of modern dance music as we know it.
The foundational, irreplaceable group he founded is the most sampled in the history of all hip-hop, not just in terms of stolen or lifted snippets of their music -- they are the champions of that too -- but in terms of the attitude with which they came, and which infuses so much of modern music and culture in ways few other artists can even dare to claim.
There's been a lot of trouble and burned bridges along the way. But down the line, after we are all gone from this world, that really won't matter. Today's birthday boy -- reaching the milestone 75 today -- started and refined something that will last forever and a half, and in a thousand years no one will remember how he lost the copyrights on it all... only the music will remain.
The music of Parliament/Funkadelic -- and the interplanetarily transformative state of mind it represents -- is as eternally gritty as the ring around your bathtub and as squintingly salty as the hamhock in your cornflakes. It's revolved for 50 years of utter, unprecedented mayhem around George Clinton, born this day in 1941 and somehow still alive after a lifetime of substance abuse that makes Dr. Hunter S. Thompson look like Harry Anslinger.
So today we will set aside all the interper$onal drama$, pull out the Bop Gun and the Flashlight and get down to funky business. For the last two days I have been pinned to the desk with the headphones on, restoring a slice of prime and primal "P" to help celebrate GC's three quarters of a century, and I think I have arrived at something to wiggle your weekend and ensure that your Mothership comes in right on time.
My personal favorite P-Funk record is probably 1978's funkadelaquatic concept opus The Motor Booty Affair, and my favorite tour of lore is the Fall 1978 "Anti-Tour" in which George left all the wigs and full-size, flying spaceships in the warehouse and took the band out on a stripped-down march through 32 cities where the music took center-stage and focus in venues somewhat smaller than the usual airplane hangar.
The two-night engagement at Washington DC's Howard Theater that began November of 1978 is a particularly legendary stop along the way, having circulated in a tape dubbed from the mixing desk for many years.
This tape -- while as potent a P-Funk bootleg as there will ever be -- suffered from a zillion issues, from massive digital clipping in the first half hour to repeating sections to dropouts and skips that happened as a result of a faulty transfer. I fixed all of these issues, manually repairing 150+ clips in just the second track alone and pulling off a really difficult repair in Red Hot Mama that I seriously doubt George himself'd be able to spot.
All in all I think I did this colossus of a tape some justice, even including some bonus cuts -- which I remastered as well -- from the second night at the Howard that came out over 20 years ago on a long out-of-print live compilation. Among these you will find arguably the single greatest version of Maggot Brain ever to pour from the pickups of one Kidd Funkadelic, Mr. Michael Hampton.
I also took the liberty of including the classic boot CD Afrolicious & the Electric Pussy, another blazing set recorded for Dutch radio with the expanded band a month later in Amsterdam.
Anti-Tour + more
Fall 1978

Howard Theatre
Washington, DC
EN sbd remaster

01 Cosmic Slop
02 Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucka)
03 Red Hot Mama
04 Into You
05 Standing On the Verge of Getting It On
06 keyboard interlude incl. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
07 Maggot Brain
08 One Nation Under a Groove
09 Mothership Connection
10 Funk Gettin' Ready to Roll
11 Into You
12 Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucka)
13 keyboard interlude incl. Goody Goody
14 Maggot Brain

Tracks 01-09 11.1.1978
Tracks 10-14 11.2.1978

Total time: 2:17:32
disc break goes after Track 07

George Clinton - vocals & percussion
Rodney "Skeet" Curtis - bass, vocals
Michael Hampton - guitar
Garry Shider - guitar, vocals & percussion
Bernie Worrell - keyboards
Tyrone Lampkin - drums & percussion
Dawn Silva - vocals & percussion
Lynn Mabry - vocals & percussion
Greg Boyer - trombone & percussion
Bennie Cowan - trumpet & percussion
Greg Thomas - saxophones & percussion
Larry Fratangelo - percussion & vocals

Tracks 01-09: master soundboard reel, repaired & remastered by EN July 2016
Tracks 10-14: 1994 Sequel Records CD "Parliament/Funkadelic Live 1976-93," remastered by EN July 2016
Jaap Eden Halle
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

01 James Wesley Jackson intro
02 Cholly (Funk Gettin' Ready to Roll)
03 Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucka)
04 Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples
05 James Wesley Jackson monologue
06 Standing On the Verge of Gettin' It On
07 Mothership Connection
08 Flashlight
09 One Nation Under a Groove

Total time: 55:40

George Clinton - vocals & percussion
Rodney "Skeet" Curtis - bass, vocals
Cordell "Boogie" Mosson - bass & vocals
Michael Hampton - guitar
Garry Shider - guitar, vocals & percussion
Bernie Worrell - keyboards
Tyrone Lampkin - drums & percussion
Dawn Silva - vocals & percussion
Lynn Mabry - vocals & percussion
Greg Boyer - trombone & percussion
Bennie Cowan - trumpet & percussion
Greg Thomas - saxophones & percussion
Larry Fratangelo - percussion & vocals
Mallia Franklin, Jeanette Washington and Debbie Wright - vocals & percussion
James Wesley Jackson - MC

(likely master) FM capture of unknown origin, sourced from the 2002 bootleg CD "Afrolicious & the Electric Pussy" on the Big Fro label (BF-006)

both shows zipped together
.This is 3 hours and 17 minutes of Absolute "P," uncut and slicing through your Friday faze with a drone strike of The Bomb. Pull it down and crank it up -- I'll be back tomorrow with another birthday blast -- and fly your funky mind on into the weekend with George Clinton, 75 today and still landing, often in a life-size UFO, on The One.--J.