Friday, March 30, 2007


No discussion of black veterans and the white kids who love them is complete without mentioning Andre Williams, the former r'n'b star left homeless by drug addiction who reinvented himself in the '90s as a punk-rockin' pimp daddy. More recent songs like "Pussy Stank" ("...but so do marijuana!") and today's selection are bursting with good-humored nastiness not possible in his early days.

Andre Williams and the Countdowns "Let Me Put It In" - found this on a peer-to-peer; it's labeled "live 1998" but I can't find a live album matching this description - was this ever officially released? If not, it should be - it's a scorcher.

And then there's Sun Ra, the jazz-man from outer space. I could write a book about him. Actually, someone already has - it's called "Space is the Place" and it's highly recommended, full of glimpses into Ra's bizarre world, e.g. he told a reporter in the '70s "Have you seen 'Star Wars'? It's very authentic," or when asked if he was disappointed that the Voyager spacecraft carrying recordings of Earth sounds didn't include any of his music, he replied, "No, the Space Brothers know what my music sounds like - they sent me here."

Starting in the '40s, Sun Ra played big-band music for black dances, using only black performers - he didn't think white folks could really feel the soul of jazz. But as his electronic future-jazz progressed, black dancers left behind the increasingly strange sounds of Ra's Arkestra for r'n'b and soul. Eventually the '60s brought a new audience to Ra - the largely-white psychedelic and avant-garde crowd. Ra's career was saved, but he felt betrayed - he was trying to save the black nation and they were leaving him. Eventually, he stopped calling himself black, claiming that he had no race, and ended up performing with white artists like John Cage and Paul Bley. Towards the end of his life and career in the '90s, he was opening for Sonic Youth.

Sun Ra & His Arkestra: "Nuclear War" - a hilarious/disturbing 12" single (eventually included on this album) released in 1982 that someone thought was gonna be a hit. It certainly should have been. Does it get any better then: "When they push that button, you can kiss your ass goodbye...Watcha gonna do...without your ass?" Play this for anyone, and watch them instantly become a Sun Ra fan. Or instantly disown you. (Either way, you're better off.)


mrG said...

My favourite part of Nuclear War is very oddly omitted by every cover I have ever heard, and I wonder if it is maybe because they feel that in these PC "Just Agree To The War" times it an avant garde shocker enough to say "Motherfucker" on stage.

Because for me the real meaning and force of the song isn't in the line "Kiss your ass, good-bye good-bye", it is in the impeccably precise way they render the following lines with unbelievable percussion discipline that truly evokes what you'd see and feel:

Ra sings "first comes the HEAT"
the band choruses "first comes the heat"
Ra: "then comes tHE BLAAAST!!!"
Band: "then comes the BLAAAAAAASSSST!!!!!!"

It is the Guernica of Jazz.

Mr Fab said...

Well said! The covers I've heard (e.g. Brian Ritchie of Violent Femmes fame) seem to play up the camp/novelty aspect. But Ra was dead serious - he most certianly did not think of his philosophy and outlandish art as a goof.