Tales From The Underground #1
Charles Bradley – The World, (Is Going Up In Flames)
Dipping my musical toe back in the water with this cut from Charles Bradley and The majestic Menahan Street Band who I had the pleasure of seeing live a few months back supporting Lee Fields. Ranking piece of Mod/ernist Soul/Funk from the Daptone stable on the Dunham Label.
Shake It Up & Go #1
(Deon Jackson – Love Takes A Long Time Growing)
Inspired by Saturday night’s function (‘Shake’) this theme features a selection of cuts, (all dancers), spun by themusicologist on the night as well as a few that I had in the rocket box that I didn’t manage to fit in to my ‘set’. Excellent night. Pucker music…good crowd…Great company..ALL good.
First up is a piece of great beauty and authentic sincerity that never fails to move me in every way from Soul singer, (with a capital S), Deon Jackson on the Carla label that says it all for me about a word we have all heard MANY times.
LISTEN TUNE and watch the ride..
(Ernestine Anderson – Keep An Eye On Love)
Cats…apologies for leaving you all ‘hanging’ for this final slice..my excuse is that it has been ‘on me like a rash’ for the last couple of weeks and I haven’t been able to find the time for themusicologist. The Project is taking up most of my time leaving precious little for Mod/ernist musings although the combination of the two has produced the latest addition to the Tribute Tees below. Available in two colours, sizes from Small to XLarge and THREE cuts ‘Dubplate’, ‘Classic’, and ‘Double A’, (American Apparel) see Tribute Tees for further information
Final cut on the Mod/ernist theme..and I’m wrapping it up with this fine piece by extraordinary singer Ernestine Anderson whose long career stretches back to the early 50’s when as a teenager she toured with the, (legendary), Johnny Otis band and then Lionel Hampton’s. Essentially a Jazz singer but I’m sure she could ‘sit down’ on any piece of music with effortless ease. Recorded and released in 1963 it won’t come as a surprise to those who know this cut but for those who don’t know it, (as well as them that do),
Released on New York’s Sue Label (another slice of the Juggy Murray pie), and in the UK on the Mod/ernist’s most cherished Red & Yellow label of the same name. Apparently it didn’t get much play at the time, (according to my sources), but for me this piece is ‘well modern’ and If I had been on the wheels of steel back then it would have been one of themusicologist’s choice plays….what’s ironic is the timing of today’s cut. I have honestly tried my best to ‘Keep an Eye’ but all my efforts have been in vain…
(Barbara Lewis – Hello Stranger)
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a pioneer typographer, photographer, and designer of the modern movement and a master at the Bauhaus in Weimar, may have come closest to defining the Modernist who in his opinion was;
“an idealist and a realist using the language of the poet and the businessman. He thinks in terms of need and function. He is able to analyze his problems, but his fantasy is boundless.”
“The basis of style is the appropriation and reorganisation by the subject of elements in the objective world which would otherwise determine and constrict him. The Mod/ernist combined previously disparate elements to create himself into a metaphor, the appropriateness of which was apparent only to themselves. Like the surrealists they underestimated the ability of the dominant culture to absorb the subversive image and sustain the impact of the anarchic imagination. The magical transformations of the commodities had been mysterious and were often invisible to the neutral observer and no amount of stylistic incantation could possibly effect the oppresive economic mode by which they had been produced”.
Today’s 1963 cut is another Mod/ernist classic but this time courtesy of female vocalist Barbara Lewis..BIG tune on the scene and one of themusicologist’s earliest musical memories. Ranking tune that never fails to hit the spot.
(Gene Chandler – You Threw A Lucky Punch)
After two days of rest themusicologist is coming down the home straight for the Mod/ernist theme this week so I’ve decided to fly by the seat of my pants , (so to speak), and lay down some cuts that might not have been played in the critical years, (1961-1963), but I’m sure would have been if known about. As the theme has unfolded and due in part to the dialogue I feel like I am tuning in to the pace of the music that moved the crowd. As Tony Blue said ‘Shout & Shimmy’ was too fast whereas all the commentators have, (independantly), identified some of the key sounds and what has emerged is that they are all of a certain tempo. No surprise really as my own experience of the various scenes that I have been privliged to have been involved in over the years have all marched to one special beat, (whatever that may be), seems like the ‘biggest’ cuts of the theme so far are all what I would call Mid Tempo…or to put it another way…the ‘Perfect Beat’. Not too fast or too slow but just the right pace to make your feet move without forcing them to. The Cats know the beat of which I speak….the one that would ‘raise the dead’ and compel them to throw whatever ‘shapes’ were in their bones. Of course there are some whose sense of timing and natural rhythm is a joy to behold but even their best is brought out by the same beat that seems to catch all of our dancing feet and moves us onto the floor. Today’s cut is, (for me), in that groove and is also the original to the Mary Wells cut ‘You Beat Me To The Punch’, (musicology #376), sung by none other than the ‘Duke Of Earl’ himself, Gene Chandler whose name, (or if not name then certainly his musical contribution), should be known to Mod/ernists everywhere. Recorded for and released on the Vee Jay label in the magic year 1962.
(The Drifters – Up On The Roof)
Modernist / Mod / Mods..for me the label is not the issue it’s the philosophy..the ideology that’s important and how it evolved to influence almost every ‘trend’ that followed. That’s what fascinates me. The narrative of the early sixties is well documented from almost every angle other than the ‘street’ perspective in part because the voice of the people is not one that is often heard. As Johnny Spencer said ‘by 1965 the essence and meaning was gutted from the original movement because it was a genuine threat to the staus quo’. For sure the consumer revolution had been managed as far back as the early part of the 20th Century but ‘Mod/ernist’ was never part of the equation because it came up from the street where the establishment had no control or initial interest other than in how to ‘capitalize’.
By the time I was born in 1968 the control was being fought for and for a moment the chance was there to bring down the system but by then the momentum was with the bourgouise intellectuals who when it came down to it didn’t realise that in the words of Martin Luther King there would be ‘No victory without sacrifice’. As the 70’s rolled on everything had been commoditized and the moment passed, (much to the relief of the establishment), who then went on, (in the 80’s), to destroy the working class by giving us ‘something’ to lose in the way of our own property which, of course, wasn’t ours anyway as it belonged to the banks that had sold us into debt slavery.
Interpret my musings how you will but I know how it was to live through these times with a narrative of Mod/ernist as the guiding principle which is after all an Attitude rather than merely a fashion trend. In my opinion part of why the lifestyle of Mod/ernist has been, (and continues to be), so enduring is the underlying principle at the heart of it which is to follow your own path and, (as much as you can), decide for yourself what to do, wear, listen to, watch, read, learn etc.
Today’s 1962 cut by the Drifters is so well known that it is easy to dismiss it as nothing more than pop but if you listen to the words it speaks the language of pure Mod/ernist, the cats who met, walked, talked and lived together metaphorically
“Up On The Roof..way up where the air was fresh and sweet and away from the hustling crowd and all the Rat Race noise down below…….right smack dab in the middle of town..”
(Chris Kenner – Land Of 1000 Dances)
Sliding out of the Jamaican selection into one from New Orleans featuring a Cat who is perhaps best known to Mod/ernists for his 1961 cut ‘I Like It Like That’.
Popularised by Wilson Pickett in 1966 this, the 1963 original, speaks volumes for what distinquished the Mod/ernist from the Mods. Hold this quote from an ‘information panel’ on the subject by musicologist Johnny Spencer, (he of the magnificent project)
“By 1964 the Mods had arrived and it was all over for the Modernists, the faces that had piloted this new paradigm of liberty for British youth, a liberation that was carried in the mind from generation to generation. Mods, generally the younger siblings of the Modernists, could not claim the originality of their predecessors, although they shared many of their preferences, smart clothes, Soul music etc, they came to a ready made situation, the territory had been won, what they chose to do was enjoy it. They were more casual and this led to a lack of vigilance, a dropping of the guard, and soon the media and corporate interests were in there, bleeding, filleting and gutting this new market and threat to the status quo. Masses of newer converts, ‘tickets’, were soon sold the concept of Mod: an outfit, pop idols and an attitude, it was small wonder that by 1965 the entire movement was dead, and with the age of the ‘Skinhead’, who also shared a subtle common bond with an emerging, oppressed black culture, the first real and enduring anti-fashion movement started”.
Today’s cut is based on a spiritual entitled ‘Children Go Where I Send You’, further evidence of the debt owed to the Gospel tradition by the new music emerging out of the urban experience of big cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Detroit and Memphis where migration had a major impact. Recorded for and released on the fabulous Minit label which had already scored with Mod/ernists by releasing cuts like the above mentioned ‘I Like It Like That’, Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’ and Benny Spellman’s ‘Fortune Teller’, (To name but Three)..written by Chris Kenner and Fats Domino.
(Folks Brothers – Oh Carolina)
Today I’m rolling with another quote from early Mod/ernist Patrick Uden..who as far as I’m concerned has much of value to say on the subject.
“You have no idea how dreary it was. It was really dreary. And then what happened was that the first group of 15 year olds born after the war emerged into a world where they had some money to spend. And at the same time the British economy was being turned around, (other countries had been more fortunate following the war), It was going from what’s called a ‘command economy’ to a ‘demand economy’. This meant that things started to appear that people could buy and there were certainly imports starting to come in. Some of them were ‘grey imports like Levi’s coming through the PX stores in American bases and moving into the black market via, you know, the East End markets and that sort of thing. So very slowly, and then quite rapidly, this purchasing power began to affect what was available. And this blossomed into a kind of early spring, if you like. I’m talking now around 1961/2, and that’s when it started, although you can trace the movement, in terms of things like music and so on, back into the 50’swith the interest in Modern Jazz and those sorts of things. But popular Modernism began to emerge around 1961 and I think that’s the real source of it.”
Reflecting on this and other snippets of knowledge from those who were there at the time crystalises in my mind that the most important and enduring aspect of the nameless thing moved out of the shadows in late 1961 and flowered for almost three years before being rinsed by the establishment for many years to come. All the ‘movements’ that I have had the pleasure to be involved in, (Casual/Rare Groove and ‘House’), lasted for the same duration so I conclude that it’s the nature of such things that the vanguard move on to pastures new once the herd pitches in. Maybe that sounds, and is, elitist but I make no excuse for it. The Elite govern and in some cases dictate all aspects of society and in such matters as trends this is no different. I’m not a supporter of Elitism but in my mind there’s no denying that it doesn’t have the power to exert strong influence on the shifting sands change.
Today’s cut, (courtesy of my uncle), is one that was on the vanguard of the change from what’s known as ‘Shuffle’ to ‘Ska’ a piece produced by ‘The Voice Of The People’…Cecil Bustamante Campbell a.k.a Prince Buster who is as responsible as anyone for Jamaican music shaking off it’s colonial/imperial heritage to stand on it’s own as an authentic language for ‘sufferers’ everywhere. Recorded, (according to Steve Barrow who has it on good authority from Owen Gray..thanks Steve), probably late 1961 but released on BlueBeat in the UK in 1962 if memory serves me right. Not only the year of Jamaican Independence but also the year that Mod arrived. Unique in that it was the first recording to feature Rasta ambassador Count Ossie. DEFINATELY played on the scene back in the day on release making it one of the first Jamaican crossover records to have a universal appeal.
(James Brown – Shout & Shimmy)
First up I want to thank The Countess, Steve Barrow and Tony Blue for their quality input on this theme so far. One of the most valuable things that has emerged as a result, (and cemented my belief), is the key year which seems for all three of them, (independently), to be 1962?. As a student in the history of music, society and the cultures that emerged on the strength of it the dialogue has gone a long way to nailing what I have thought for a while.
As previously mentioned/discussed here themusicologist ‘files’ music on the year it was released and over the years I have come to a conclusion that 1962 was the pivotal year as far as Mod and Soul were concerned..not Modernist or MODS they came before and after and as a result of this theme I’m sure of that now so next week I’ll be laying down a 1962 Selection to help ground my theory in musical evidence. Not just the music of America by the way as Jamaica’s independence was ‘granted’ in that year too so obviously the winds of change were not a Local phenomenon. I could go on but I’ll save it for next week.
Today’s cut is from another Mod/ernist legend, The hardest working man in Show Business, (but certainly not the Godfather of Soul), none other than James Brown and the foundation stones on which he built his well deserved reputation…the Famous Flames with a piece from, you guessed it 1962. I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t there but I’m assuming this would have been played in and around the Capital during the summer of that year?
A 45 on the King label
(Jackie Wilson – Lonely Teardrops)
Part of the method of inquiry adopted here on this theme is to get a better idea of, (as TonyBlue said in the comments), what, who, where, why and how the nameless thing evolved from the depths of the young Urbanite experience and as far as I am concerned, (and have already stated), the music is the key to unlocking the period. Not only the music of America but also from the island of Jamaica. One conclusion is that in each of the places of note there was a genuine sense of shaking off the chains of Imperial/colonialism and the Slave/Master mentality that had ruled around the world for longer than living memory. Not just in terms of skin colour but also the ‘Class’ system which in England at least was deeply entrenched like nowhere else in the world.
A Cat named Patrick Uden makes a great point on the nameless thing, (we’ll be hearing more from him later), and it’s this
“To be a Mod/ernist you had to come from a culture where Modernism didn’t exist and therefore that made you different and England at that time was ancient it…was falling to pieces. I mean it was awful. You have no idea how miserable and Grey Britain was. The first Habitat shop opened, I think in 1962 in Chelsea and was a complete revelation”
For me the point here is that all over Europe and America the ‘Modern’ had been part of the language since the early part of the century from music in America through to architecture and design in Europe so under those conditions there was nowhere else for a youth movement to be different other than England and especially London until a group of young-bloods emerged to drag Britain kicking and screaming into ‘today’ which according to a Philosopher who I rate highly is the stomping ‘ground’ of the proletariat, one of three ‘classes’ he defines. The other two being the Arisocrat, (who lives in and on the past) and the Bourgoise who looks to and lives in tomorrow. A great observation which for me is spot on.
Today’s slice is courtesy of a member of the elite..Jackie Wilson who somehow managed to shine even under the conditions forced on him by his ‘Master’ Nat Tarnapol. It’s true Jackie was humiliated by recording some awful p(o)op between but as we all know cream rises to the very top of the bottle and in matters musical Jackie delivered some of the best Soul ever made. Hold this 1958 cut to hear what I mean…ignore the terrible backing on this cut and listen to Jackie soar whilst standing on the vanguard of the transition from Rock & Roll into Soul. Again I would just like to add that the cuts upto and including this one are not in any way ‘Rare’ but in the context of ‘Mod/ernist’ there’s no denying that when released they were as fresh as spring daisys.
(The Impressions – Say It’s Alright)
I was going to end this theme tomorrow but on reflection there’s too much music yet to be featured and such is the quality of the dialogue from the commentators I’m letting it run for another week.
A large part of the debate has been the use of the word ‘Modernist’ and whether it was in fact used by anyone at the time? with that in mind hold this quote from the book ‘Soul Stylists’ compiled by Paolo Hewitt which is full of anectodes from Cats who claim, (and I see no reason to believe they are lying), to have participated in the ‘nameless thing’ of the early 1960’s.
“The bands from our youth club in Hastings were dressed like The Shadows on the cover of their first album; very neat red jackets, dark ties and white shirts. Then I spotted these strangely dressed guys from another school. They had short Italian haircuts and they wore bum freezer jackets with cut away collars and half belts on the back, narrow ties, tapered trousers with slits up the sides and side laced winklepickers. I went up to one of them and asked;
“Why are you dressed like that?” and he spoke the immortal words;
“Because I’m a Modernist”
The cat’s name is Lloyd Johnson and no date is mentioned but from the sounds of the ‘clobber’ it’s likely to have been before 1964
From themusicologist’s perspective what is beyond doubt are the release dates of the music contained on the theme which is obviously, (in almost all cases), not subjective and delivers insight into the most important aspect of any ‘scene’..the music and today’s cut is, in my mind, one of the greatest pieces of mod/ernist musicology of the period from quite possibly the driving force behind the winds of change none other than Curtis Mayfield who has featured heavily on themusiciologist over the last few years but also in my life since babe in arms.
hold this next quote on today’s cut from a book on the legend by author Peter Burns.
“Recorded in August 1963 the horn arrangement, a suggestion of Mayfield’s, took it’s inspiration from a Bobby Bland single but the idea for the song itself had come from a conversation between Curtis and Fred, (Cash, member of ‘the holy trinity’), one night when the Impressions were on tour in Nashville. Mayfield was effusively expounding some ideas and future plans and Cash was interjecting from time to time and concurred with “Right” and “Well that’s allright”, suddenly Curtis had a hook line ‘Say It’s Alright’. They cut this historic track at Universal studios in Chicago just two months after Curtis’s hit production of Major Lance’s ‘The Monkey Time’ which was still riding high on the charts. All the vital elements came together and this modern classic brought The Impressions back even stronger than before”.
Released on ABC-Paramount and arranged by Johnny Pate
“Say It’s alright, (it’s alright), say it’s alright, (it’s alright),
It’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright wooohh it’s alright,
We’re gonna move it slow, when lights are low,
When you move it slow it sounds like a moan and it’s alright wooohh it’s alright
Now listen to the beat, trying to catch your feet,
You got Soul and everybody know that it’s alright wooohhh it’s alright,
When you wake up early in the morning feeling sad like so many of us do,
Hum a little Soul make life your goal and surely something’s gotta come to you,
And say it’s alright, say it’s alright…it’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright woohhh it’s alright,
Now everybody clap your hands give yourself a chance,
You got Soul and everybody know that it’s alright wooohh it’s alright,
Some day I’ll find me a woman who will love and treat me real nice,
Then my roams? gotta go and my love she will know from morning noon and night,
And she’s gotta say it’s alright..say it’s alright,
It’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright woohhh it’s alright,
Now everybody clap your hands, now give yourself a chance…you got Soul now baby..”
(Mary Wells – You Beat Me To The Punch)
As the the theme moves into the second half I would just like to add that as far as the music is concerned I am resisting the urge top throw down obscure cuts from the period in question purely because the chances of them being played back in the day were almost non existent. The fact is that the rare pieces that have come to light over the last 20 years would NOT have been available to the cats who were exposing the music of America and even Jamaica in and around London’s clubs and venues. Not even Guy Stevens or Sammy Samwell would have had access to pieces on such labels as One-Derful, Butane, Witch, Cortland, Sar and the like so as much as I would LOVE to expose them here It’s not my intention to impress anyone with the lesser known cuts rather it’s to lay down pieces that were actually played in places like The ‘Ly, Scene, Disc, Flamingo, Disc, Tottenham Royal, Streatham Locarno etc so if that’s a dissapointment to some then, (in the words of Lord Creator), ‘Such Is Life’…..
With that in mind today’s slice of the Modernist pie is another classic from the Tamla Motown stable that shook up some of the London venues mentioned above. A response to Gene Chandler’s majestic ‘You Threw A Lucky Punch’ from yet another ‘Mod/ernist’ Icon Mary Wells who went on to feature heavily between 1962-1964 and along with The Marvelettes blazed the trail for the inclusion of the ladies in the male dominated world of Modernist musicology.
(Major Lance – The Monkey Time)
Following yesterday’s dynamic duo of, (an extract from), Johnny Spencer’s excellent ‘Mod/ernist’ critique combined with the equally inspirational Miracles cut I would like to continue by quoting from a piece by Dick Hebdige who wrote a paper, (presumably for a thesis), in 1974 called ‘Style Of The Mods’. The majority of it, (as the title suggests), involves ‘Mods’ which is a different subject but obviously connected.
“All youth styles are threatened with the eventual neutralisation of any oppositional meaning. Mods were particularly susceptible to this combination of limited acceptance and full blooded commercial exploitation. According to George Melly the progenitors of this style appear to have been a group of working class dandies, possibly descended from the devotees of the Italianate style known through the rag trade world as ‘modern’ who were dedicated to clothes and lived in London. Only gradually and with popularisation did this group accumulate other distinctive identity symbols, (The Scooter, Pills and music). By 1963, the all night R&B clubs held this group firmly to Soho and Central London”.
In my personal experience the ‘Modernist’ of the early 1960’s steadfastedly refuses to align themselves with the ‘Mod’ movement that followed even though between 1962-1965, they shared many of the same clubs, dancehalls, venues and of course music. The ‘Modernist’ was not all all interested in imitation and therefore the music had to be Authentic. Be it Modern Jazz, Early Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Blues or the sounds of Jamaica that were beginning to be heard in and around London’s clubs at the time so NO English band imitating R&B would ever have been taken seriously. An exception may have been Georgie Fame’s Blue Fames who were BIG downstairs at the Flamingo but NEVER groups like The Animals, The Who, The Stones, Small Faces etc..they would be considered MOD bands.
Today’s slice of modernist musicology is courtesy of Major Lance whose vocal sound helped revitalise the sound of Black America. Mainly it must be said down to one man…Curtis Mayfield who in 1963 was at the forefront of the OKeh label’s re-emergance as a serious force to be reckoned with. This cut I know for a fact was a firm favourite downstairs at THE club for hip cats of the time ‘The Scene’ , (located in Ham Yard Soho). Arranged by Johnny Pate and produced by Carl Davis
Hold this quote on the cut from Robert Pruter’s definitive book on the subject ‘Chicago Soul’.
“On May 8th 1963, Lance went into the studio again and made what has to be considered recording history. He did three songs; ‘Monkey Time’, ‘Please Don’t Say No More’ and ‘Mama Didn’t Know’, the latter an answer to Curtis Mayfield’s Jan Bradley hit, (or the much more obscure Fascinations cut), from earlier in the year ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’. Monkey time was paired with ‘Mama Didn’t Know’ for Lance’s second release on OKeh, and the record became a monster hit during the summer and early fall, eventually selling more than a million copies. ‘Monkey Time’, featuring the classic brassy sound that distinguished later OKeh hits, launched the OKeh label and popularized a dance of the same name.”
(Tony Clarke – The Entertainer)
Focus and discipline are certainly two attributes hard to come by for themusicologist in these turbulent times. Lucky for me I have music as guide, companion, and trusted friend. Might sound strange but often feels like a dialogue between me and the sounds…anyway, enough of the butterfly mind and back to the theme.
This cut was recorded the year that ‘mod’ had well and truly arrived, (some would even say finished), ‘tickets’ were everywhere and leading up to, (and certainly beyond), the bank holiday tear ups the ‘originals’ were moving on. Elsewhere kids up and down the country were ‘aving it large’, (for the first time), as ‘mod’ was spoonfed to the nation and beyond. Modernists on the other hand turned their back and looked for something else to direct their trend setting and creative energies into. Which is not to say that some of the vanguards didn’t stick with it and join in the ‘fun’. Maybe for them it wasn’t neccesarily about ‘being first’ it was also about ‘being there’, as perpetrators of ‘the new breed’ to take advantage of the opportunities that had arisen out of them revolutionary ‘times’. I think it was the philosopher Hegel who wrote/said that Ideas are the prime movers of history and not social or economic forces and for themusicologist, ‘Mod’ was and to some extent still is an idea.
The musicology is courtesy of a cat named Tony Clarke who recorded this Mod classic for one of the other Big mod labels, Chess. Unfortunately I have been having problems hooking up my Turntable to the computer so It will have to be the CD remaster until I can replace it with the 45. hope you understand.