musicology #373

Modernist #1

(Bobby Bland – Turn On Your Lovelight)

‘Modernist’ was a word used by some on the London scene in the early 1960’s to describe the ‘new breed’ of young bloods that had emerged out of the post war doldrums in Great Britain and had begun to throw off the shackles imposed on them by the establishment to do their own thing. They weren’t catered for or to so had to create a new set of ‘rules’, (clothes, music and attitude), and as a predominantly youth movement were unknown and unrecognizable, (this was when adolescents/teenagers were not even seen let alone heard), to all but those in the know. The influences of this movement were varied, (and will be gone into in greater detail as the theme unfolds), but as is often the case, (in England anyway), they were fused together by a creative vanguard to bear Englands first and most important youth movement.

Today’s cut is courtesy of a Modernist icon who has featured a few times on themusicologist and whose output was as important as any single artist’s in defining the new genre that became known as Soul. Born in 1930 Robert Calvin Bland begun his career in Memphis in the early 50’s associating with a collective known as the Beale Streeters but it wasn’t until ,1958 (at the dawn of Soul), that his distinctive vocal style begun to make Modernists sit up and take notice. Up until then he was a Blues singer but in ’58 he begun to set himself apart from categorisation with a string of monumental cuts of the highest order. This one is a classic from 1961 the year that his landmark album Two Steps From The Blues hit the streets. Many artists have cited Bobby as a major influence including original Modernist David Bowie who is reported to have said that the album changed his life.

Of note is that Bowie was born in 1947 making him 14 in 1961 and ripe for being at the forefront of a youth movement that peaked in London in 1964, (not sure about anywhere else as I have no background knowledge), and fell soon after when the media packaged it as ‘Mod’. Just like to add that In no way am I disregarding what came after ‘Modernist’, (especially not as far as music is concerned), but for many who were on The vanguard and had been at it since 1961 the infamous Bank Holiday gatherings signalled the end of the movement they cherished. I know that there will be many who disagree with me about the dates and events and I’m sure they can support their views and present them in their own way but certain dates such as ‘The Scene’ opening in August 1963 can not be disputed neither can the release dates of the musicology that supported and drove the movement as I intend to show. Finally I would also like to add that those born before 1946 and after 1948 must have been on the fringes purely as a result of their age and not their appreciation of either the music, attitude or the lifestyle in question.

All that’s left to say is that this one is for all the Lyceum, Town Hall, Tottenham Royal and Streatham Locarno Cats whose memories of being there can never be replaced.

musicology #359

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #26

(Irma Thomas – It’s Too Soon To Know)

Final slice of the Alternative Hustler Soundtrack and it’s come down to the faceoff between Eddie and Bert. Yesterday’s slice heard Fats declare that Eddie was the new king of pool and Bert showed his true colours. Not that he has done much to conceal them but he hints that maybe it was his boys that broke Eddie’s thumbs and if he, (Bert), commands it his heavies will do more than that this time. But our man has learnt some character and is prepared to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to ensure that Sarah’s brings about a Victory over Bert, (who in my opinion represents the establishment).

Bert on the other hand is only really interested in ownership and money, he has said it throughout the film but what he hasn’t said is how much he envies those capable of showing true feelings and who are not chained by the evils of power and money. Classic Capitalist mentality trying to show that it’s wealth, greed and power that makes the world go round and not happiness, love and integrity, (character). I make no bones about it money and power don’t motivate themusicologist and never will. I have bills to pay and, more importantly, mouths to feed and there are some who may, (and do), call that irresponsible and obviously they are entitled to their opinion but integrity/character don’t come cheap and as with most things there is always a price to pay, (for everyone concerned). Fantastic interchange of dialogue and ideology between the antagonist, (Bert), and protaganist, (Eddie), in this scene that deserves mention. How none of the main actors received oscars for their performances is beyond reason and therefore must have been in some sense political.

The director Robert Rosen had integrity/character but ultimately it was shipwrecked on the rocks of so called ‘Democracy’ and he lost it. Which is not a judgement or criticism, (of Robert Rosen), more of an observation. For more insight into the facts of life it’s worth taking another listen to a slice featured earlier on this theme; Memphis Slim’s ‘Mother Earth’ (musicology #352)

Tough call the final cut..couple of options but going with my gut feeling it has to be this one from Irma Thomas with a slice of pure unaldultarated heart wrenching Soul, (with a capital S), A cover of the song made popular first by the Orioles and then by the irrepressible Dinah Washington a singer who set the standards for every female singer that followed. Rare to find a Dinah song covered that even comes close to her version but for themusicologist this one does. Also as far as I’m concerned it’s fitting that the final call belongs to a female in tribute to the character played by Piper Laurie and the answer, (posthumously), is a resounding Yes. Recorded and released in 1961 for and on the Minit label. Produced, (I imagine), by Allen Toussaint.

musicology #358

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #25

(John Coltrane – India)

Penultimate slice of the Hustler ‘alternative’ finds our man having finally reached the peak of his game. No alcohol or bravado..just one man and his craft. Have to give George C Scott a special mention for his contribution on this scene..full of menace and vitriol as he tries one more time to ‘boss’ the kid...

The cut is a second one from mind blowing virtuoso John Coltrane whose command of the language is out of this world. Again let me state that I’m not a big fan of the genre but more than once when the ‘Trane has spoke themusicologist listens. For me it’s like he’s reaching beyond the boundries of tonality to deliver authentic spirit and even though I’m trying, words can’t do the Cat justice.

Recorded for Impulse in 1961 at New York’s Village Vanguard..another live performance that I would ‘give me right arm’ to have been present at and ably supported by Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, Reggie Workman and Ahmed Abdul-Malik. What has it got to do with The Hustler and themusicologist? in a word..synchronicity.

musicology #357

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #24

(The Twistin’ Kings – Congo Twist Pt1)

Martin Luther King was quoted to have said

“No Victory without Sacrifice”

Well Sarah has made the Ultimate sacrifice and took her life..I think it was the philosopher Schopenhauer who said/wrote that suicide was a cowardly act and not one of bravery and much as I check for some of his philosophy as far as this act was concerned he was wrong. Sarah took her life for more reasons than one…Eddie. She sacrificed her body to Bert and in the process her heart to Eddie. Some might call that selfish but again they would be wrong. If you know the film, (and if not I hope the dialogue has provided some insight), you may agree that Eddie’s salvation was uppermost in Sarah’s heart and mind. ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson wasn’t cut out for the world in which he found himself…he thought he was but in reality he wasn’t. As Bert said “You’ve got to be hard Eddie” where what we meant to say is “You’ve got to be heartless Eddie” and he is right. There’s no room for ‘weakhearts’ in an environment like that you’ve got to be a killer and grind your opponent into the dust and when they plead for mercy you have to twist the knife harder and further and take no prisoners…and as far as I have read it, Eddie isn’t that kind of person. He just loves to play Pool. A few scenes ago when Eddie asked Sarah whether she thought he was a loser, (as Bert never stopped telling him), Sarah answered that he was a Winner because of the love and passion and childlike joy he got out of playing Pool at the top of his game. He retained the child and that is what made him a winner. Bert on the other hand for all his money and material possesions was twisted, crippled and alone and Sarah knew that. She is the film’s hero not Eddie and in this scene we hear him clarify that. All too late. Remember “No Victory without Sacrifice . If you want something chances are you have to make sacrifices…and very few of us are genuinely willing/able to do that….anyway enough of the philosophy and back to the action.

Eddie’s back at Ames Pool room, the place where it all began to unravel and he’s looking to take Fats on again. But this time he has a lot more to say…

Today’s music is an early Motown, (1961?) instrumental cut by a collective known here as ‘The Twistin Kings’. Who were they? I can only hazard a guess that it’s the same band who backed almost all the Motown artists from 1959 right through. None other than what became known, (after The Soul Brothers), as The Funk Brothers. Far too many Cats were a part of this collective to namecheck here but if they are listening they know who they are so I won’t even begin to list them

musicology #356

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #23

(Bobby Bland – St James Infirmary)

Leaving it all to the dialogue and Bobby Bland today..(both from 1961). So you’ll just have to take a listen for yourself if you want to know what’s occured.

musicology #355

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #22

(Dee Clark – Raindrops)

As yesterday’s slice of musicology pronounced…themusicologist is ‘A Little Busy’ at the moment so i’ll keep it brief. The dialogue today says it all. Eddie’s done his conkers and still hasn’t learnt any ‘character’, Bert still hasn’t learnt any compassion and Sarah, (who comes down to the arena unnoticed), learns that maybe Eddie is not the man of her ‘dreams’. Heart wrenching….

The music is courtesy of the majestic Delectus ‘Dee’ Clark whose voice is how I have always imagined an angels would sound. Yet another BIG mod/ernist dancehall classic, (and eary musicologist memory) from the dawn of a new era, (1961), and yet another on the Vee Jay label which between the years 1960 – 1962 did as much as any label to direct the new sound. Unfortunately that wasn’t backed up by artist renumeration and even though the record sold TWO million copies and hit #2 on the ‘Pop’ charts it signalled the end rather than the beginning for Dee who never scored another hit and ended up absolutely ‘pot-less’ in a Welfare motel in the 1980’s….Tragic.

But his memory lives on and the music he made is as good as it gets…So even though he is no longer with us…Dee this one’s in honour of you..

musicology #350

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #17

(Betty James – I’m A Little Mixed Up)

So Eddie has taken Bert up on his offer and is planning a trip to Kentucky to get back on the Hustling trail. He takes Sarah out to a fancy restuarant to break her the news that he’s going away for a few days and it doesn’t go down too well. We pick up this soul searching piece of quality dialogue after they have returned to the apartment.

Today’s cut must have been made for this scene. A 1961 cut again from the Chess Records vaults but this time a slice of the emerging sound that fused Rhythm, Blues and Soul. Featuring a little known female singer by the name of Betty James. Big early Mod/ernist cut that had London’s young, (and not so young), Cats throwing tight shapes at clubs like the ‘Whiskey’, The Scene, The ‘Disc’ and The Marquee, (to name but four), from late at night until the early hours.

musicology #348

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #15

(Etta James & Harvey Fuqua – My Heart Cries)

Today’s dialogue is especially poignant in as much as it offers an insight into not only the two characters, (Eddie & Sarah), but also a fundamental difference in the sexes. Don’t forget that this is 1961 and the dawn of a new era in the dialogue between man and woman. Sarah makes it as clear as crystal how she feels about Eddie leaving no ambiguity and he, (in time honoured fashion), tries to sidestep the issue but she reiterates her feelings and lets him know in no uncertain terms what she wants to hear him say.

The music is a beautiful piece of Soul from two great singers both of whom have already featured on themusicologist, Etta James and, (her husband at the time), Harvey Fuqua with yet another slice of the Chess records pie, (as influential as any label in the development of what is now known as ‘Urban’ music). Recorded and released in, yep you guessed it, 1961 and featured on Etta’s fantastic album ‘At Last’. Arranged by musicologist Riley Hampton.

musicology #346

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #13

(Howlin’ Wolf – Down In The Bottom)

Today’s dialogue is from the scene where ‘the kid’ hustles in the ‘wrong kind of place’ disregarding Bert’s ominous warning. If you’ve seen the film you may remember it as the bit where he comes unstuck. For me this is where the film really begins to deal with the human condition in post modern society.

The music is courtesy of one of the greatest Rhythm & Blues practitioners to have ever graced the Earth, stage and studio the inimitable Chester Burnett otherwise known as ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ with a 1961 cut released on the Chess Label. Also featuring Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Willie Dixon, (Producer and Songwriter), on bass, Memphis Slim?, piano and Sam ‘Shuffle Master’ Lay on drums…Rhythm and Blues at it’s finest.

musicology #344

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #11

(John Coltrane – Spiritual)

Today’s dialogue features Eddie and Sarah almost at each other’s throats. As mentioned yesterday the way Eddie spat Charlie out has left it’s mark on Sarah who has hit the bottle again to try and numb the pain. Alcohol is a problem for Eddie too but not in the same way. For him it’s ‘fuel’ but for Sarah it’s ‘medicine’. I don’t get the impression that he thinks of his consumption as a problem, (the film portrays their reliance on alcohol completely differently), but is all too quick to conclude that for her it is. Anyway in this scene Sarah’s drunk, (it was he who got her back on the bottle at the end of the previous scene), Eddie isn’t and words are spoken, culminating in Eddie giving her a hard slap. Sarah comes back with a scathing response, (one of the best lines of dialogue in the film for me), and Fast Eddie leaves.

Todays’ cut is from a Cat, (with a capital C), whose musical prescence and command of the language is as good as it gets. Must admit that ‘Jazz’ from this period is not generally one of my musical passions but on more than one occasion the ‘Trane has blown my mind with his melodic originality and ability to communicate the message…..The piece also features Eric Dolphy, Reggie Workman, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones.

Garvin Bushell, Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Jimmy Garrison were on the session which was recorded in 1961, (live), at New York’s famed ‘Vanguard Village’ but I don’t know enough about the players or the instruments to discern whether they were involved on this particular Jam. (Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder for Impulse).

musicology #339

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #6

(Sam Cooke – Cupid)

The Kid has been rolled over by Fats who showed him that not only does he who laugh last laughs longest but also that action speaks louder than words. Talent alone can get you ‘there’ but is not enough to keep you there, that takes character which comes only with experience. I doubt Eddie had been chewed up and spat out like that before…collapsing in a heap on the floor that a few hours ago he was parading around on like a king. That’s a long way to fall from “I’m the best there is” to begging Fats to play him for his last ‘bottle’…

One of the many things I like about this film is how it deals with some of the raw sides of human nature. There Isn’t a ‘nice’ character anywhere to be found, they are all Corrupt, Twisted and Crippled in some way, (like we all are), and when I watched it recently it was a touch painful to be honest..as I said at the start of the theme as a youngblood growing up on London’s mean streets themusicologist identified with the Fast Eddie character and although I was only young, still I saw and was involved in enough ‘experiences’ to gain some of the ‘Character’ that the film deals with. I was always in disagreement with the ‘respect your elders just because they are older than you’ ideology and found it hard, (especially with authority), to accept. I was young and foolish, (and happy..doo doo doo do do do do !!), and was brought up to value actions over words. The man to watch is the one who says nothing not the one who is shouting and gesticulating about what is going to be done at some future date. I was taught that by both the males and the environment that influenced my early life and it has often provided insight during some of my less salubrious moments. Anyway I’m rambling a bit so I’ll get back on the track..where was I…

Oh yeah, Eddie has taken a beating from Fats and after a short sleep in a hotel room abandons his partner Charlie and heads for the Bus Station. From across the room he spots a lone female and makes a move…Hustler style? I don’t know..I have always believed that people are like magnets and some we are drawn to while others repel us. Made more sense when a few years back I read a lot about Frequency and how every living entity has one. Naturally harmony would draw us to those who are ‘playing our tune’ so that together we could make sweet music. What draws the bee to the pollen, the horse to water and the man to the woman..frequency, so with that in mind, (as far as I’m concerned at least), ‘our man’ Eddie is drawn to this woman and he ‘makes a play’.

Sarah, played by Piper Laurie, (real name Rosetta Jacobs), sees it coming and makes it plain that she’s not interested in his advances. She answers him but doesn’t leave him any room in which to manoeuvre so he gets his ‘nut’ down, (sleeps), for a while and when he wakes she’s gone.

Todays cut is one of the great songs sung by one of the greatest singers of all time…Sam Cooke and even though we all know the tune inside out it still kicks arse..tough tune that I could never tire of. Make no mistake this piece epitomises Soul, a genre that wouldn’t have been the same without ‘The Lion’ blazing trails. I have been listening ALL day to music from 1960 and 1961 waiting for the right slice and as soon as I reached this one, (six hours later !!), it struck the right note..so here it is. Eddie doesn’t know it yet but ‘The arrow’ has flown straight into his heart.

musicology #337

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #4

(Jimmy Smith Trio – Jimmy’s Blues)

Fats has taken up the challenge from the young pretender and the battle hots up..first Fats on top and then for a while Eddie hits a winning streak which sees him reach his inital target of “Ten grand in one night” but rather than call it a night the kid fancies that “this table is mine” and in his naivite he gives his opponent the opportunity to carry on playing “Until Minnesota Fats says it’s over”.

I say naivite but in my experience ‘etiquette’ can and does play it’s part in ‘the game’ and offering the loser the chance to win his money back is, (or was in the games I played), accepted as an unwritten rule. Unless of course the Hustle is your business and then there are no unwritten rules.

During the contest George C. Scott enters the fray as Minnesota’s backer and we hear him ‘pipe up’ for the first time after watching Eddie and Fats going toe to toe for  hours but as we, (and Eddie) are soon to find out “the Race is not for the swift but for who can endure it”

The music is yet another slice of the 1961 pie but today it’s courtesy of Hammond Organ supremo ‘The Incredible’ Jimmy Smith and Trio freaturing Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums…borrowed from a Blue Note session called ‘Straight Life’, (recorded by Rudy Van Gelder).

musicology #335

AlternativeSoundtrack4 #2

(Ray Charles – A Bit Of Soul)

So…after rinsing some ‘Joes’ for a few bucks it’s time for Fast Eddie Felson to step up to the plate..The Cathedral known as Ames’s Pool Room. But before the action starts allow me to fill you in with a little bit of information relating to the Film:

Directed by Robert Rossen, (who also co-wrote the screenplay), the story was adapted from a 1959 novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis. I always interperated it is as a tale of character and morality rather than a film about pool and hustling. All the, (major), players in the film are displayed in terms of their moral fibre so it was of interest when I discovered that the director Robert Rossen ‘betrayed’ people a few years after being blacklisted as a result of the scandalous HUAC Hollywood witch hunt of the late 40’s and early 50’s when Cold War, Anti Communist ideology was beginning to be strategically placed into society. Rossen was actually a member of the Communist party during his early years and a Socialist too, (which are far from being the same), but it was the ‘Politics Of Fear’ laced with ‘Game Theory’ rules played out by Government propoganda that was the real issue.

Anyway to have named names and ‘grassed’ Cats up because of not being able to work in the film industry must have been a bitter pill to swallow for an idealist, (Socialism being an ideal after all), who had grown up in New York’s tough lower East Side in the early part of the 20th Century. ‘Grassing’ for many years was considered as low as you could go, even lower than ‘dipping’ which is saying something. Rossen originally claimed the 5th ammendment and refused to co-operate but could’nt hold out and eventually in 1953 named over 50 as Communists. In his own words

“I don’t think, after two years of thinking, that any one individual can indulge himself in the luxury of personal morality or pit it against what I feel today very strongly is the security and safety of this nation.”

So there it is in his own words…’Morality’ one of the human essences we use to justify our actions. John F Kennedy was quoted to have said, (around the time in question),

“A man does what he must regardless of personal consequences and that is the essence of all human morality”

I’m making absolutely no judgement on Robert Rossen but I’m imagining he did on himself and I believe the Hustler was an attempt to make some sense out of questions of morality and character. It’s not a film about winning and losing for me it’s more about the price paid.

Today’s piece of musicology is courtesy of a Cat who needs no introduction…none other than the great Ray Charles Robinson with a 1961 instrumental slice on the Atlantic Label.

musicology #143

SpectrumOfLove #3

(Maxine Brown – Heaven In Your Arms)

we’ve heard two from the fellas and now its time for the ladies to step into the arena…and who better than Miss Maxine Brown, Soul singer supreme, who’s delicious voice could charm the birds straight out of the trees….

for themusicologist Maxine Brown is one of the greatest Soul singers never, (commercially), known, (and there are MANY), ..her phrasing and timing is perfection. as witnessed on this piece of early, (1961), Big Apple flavoured Soul from the NoMar label. it’s not the first time Maxine has featured on themusicologist, having already laid one, (musicology #39), down on an earlier duets theme with Wand label mate Chuck Jackson but this time she’s centre stage.

musicology #98

sixartist, sixtune, sixweekspecial #21

(Jerry Butler&Curtis Mayfield – Find Yourself Another Girl)

round 3 of the Curtis Mayfield selection.as well as hard hitting lyricist and social commentator Curtis’s love songs are beyond compare. a genuine poet whose ability to tap into affairs of the heart deserves mention.

singing lead on this is original Impressions lead singer Jerry ‘The Ice Man’ Butler whose nickname is reported to have come from a performance where the p.a cut out and rather than stop Jerry continued to sing, (that and the way in which he performed emotion drenched soul scorchers without breaking sweat)

it was Jerry that insisted on Curtis replacing Phil Upchurch when he left Jerry’s touring band in 1961 to chase fame on the back of his Mod/R&B classic ‘You Can’t Sit Down’

Curtis was only sixteen at the time which is amazing considering the songs he went on to write over the following two years. this is one of those foundation soul cuts from that year..Curtis not only co-wrote it but it’s also him harmonizing and playing guitar.

musicology at it’s finest from two of Soul’s vanguards in perfect harmony

musicology #80

sixartist,sixtune,sixweekspecial Sam Cooke Bonus #3

(Sam Cooke – Nobody Wants You When You’re Down & Out)

I know there are many out there who will be relating to and feeling this. no doubt that globally things are ‘coming on top’ for the man on the street and while the rich get richer “the little that the poor man got it shall be taken away”

‘Boom And Bust’ baby…crash and burn .. my advice….fiddle this one while Rome burns.

song written by Jimmy Cox, recorded for Sam’s 1961 album ‘My Kind Of Blues”
(Hugo & Luigi production)