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.)

Friday, March 23, 2007


My March 5 Blowfly post got me thinking about the curious phenomena of veteran black performers who lose their black audience, only to have their careers jump-started after being discovered by a new audience of white hipsters.

This is nothing new: after the post-war bebop revolution, jazz lost much of it's black fan base, but gained a new chin-stroking white audience who were relieved that all that primitive African rhythm that made jazz the premier dance music of the early 20th century was being supplanted by harmonic complexities more in line with classical European tradition. And after blues was gradually rejected by black America for newer, hipper styles like r'n'b and soul, the folk-revivalists of the Fifties and Sixties went down South, dug up many old blues cats (some of whom had been retired for years), and brought them to folk festivals, which led to opening slots on Rolling Stones tours, etc.

In recent years, the punk-spawned indie/alternative crowd have revived interest in folks like Blowfly, whose good-naturedly nasty r'n'b is received as a delightful novelty in a gangsta-rap world, instead of an embarrassing anachronism. Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, no less, is releasing Blowfly's latest, a collection of punk parodies. I don't know whose idea this was, but I'm mighty glad it happened.

Blowfly "I Wanna Be Felated" - And you thought The Ramones were already tasteless?

Screamin' Jay Hawkins was a forgotten r'n'b novelty act from the '50s until filmmaker Jim Jarmusch used his classic "I Put A Spell On You" in his mid-Eighties hit film "Stranger Then Paradise." The song, featuring Hawkin's insane opera-trained voice and delirious energy, proved so popular, Hawkins himself starred in another Jarmusch film, "Mystery Train." By the late '80s the Screamin' Jay revival was well underway, and he was his old voodoo witch-doctor shrunken-head-shaking performing self, emerging from a coffin on stage. He too found that his new audience looked a lot different then his old one, even naming one of his comeback albums "Black Music For White People," from whence comes this remake of a blues hit that's really just an excuse for Jay to go absolutely, utterly BONKERS:

Screamin' Jay Hawkins "Strokin'"

Jay died a few years ago, after siring perhaps as many as 65 children! A reunion of his offspring took place at the Hollywood House of Blues - about 35 of his kids showed up. A suitably bizarre post-script to a bizarre life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Remember when Pat Boone released his heavy-metal album "No More Mr. Nice Guy" in 1997? I figured it was a goof, having fun with his wholesome christian image by doing swingin' big-band versions of "'devil's music" classics. I still maintain that his version of "Paradise City" kicks butt over Guns'n'Roses' original.

But now I'm starting to think that that was really just the beginning of a bizarre career shift. What is one to make of this oddity I found on iTunes:

Pat Boone "Everybody Dies" - From '04, a hip-hop (!) single contemplating death's inevitability, whose artwork features Pat lying in a coffin! And I can't find a shred of info about it anywhere.

But his latest album really makes me wonder if he's gone off his rocker: "We Are Family" finds him singing - I swear, I'm not making this up - funk.

And soul. And disco. No, he doesn't have any hidden reserves of grooviness that he's letting out now. His voice has the same bland, white-bread sound it always had. At least his dreamy '50s and '60s hit ballads like "Love Letters in the Sand" had a nice Bing Crosby-like crooner appeal to them. But even that voice, as inappropriate as it would be, is now largely gone. He croaks through each number like your grandpa at karaoke night. Dueting with original soul-men who still sound great makes for a startling contrast:

Pat Boone: "Can't Help Myself" - Yup, the Four Tops classic. He also mugs along the way Kool and the Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, Sam & Dave, KC & The Sunshine Band ("Do a little dance, make a little love"...yeah, very little), and even the Godfather himself ("Papa's Got A Brand New Bag") on what must have been one of his last recordings. What a way to go out.
And did you ever think you would hear Pat Boone singing Junior Walker: "Shotgun! Shoot 'em if they run, now." Pat Boone's gone gangsta!

Friday, March 16, 2007


One of the great things about mashups is it's ability to make me like a song or artist I normally would think much about. Such as Diana Ross and/or The Supremes. Not that I hate her. I just never found her voice that compelling, and oldies radio has pounded her songs into the ground. But Boston's djBC has done a beautiful job of chopping up Ross' "Aint No Mountain High Enough," mixing it with Led Zeppelin (another band I imagine some of you are sick of), and serving up the sublime

"Aint No Misty Mountain High Enough"

It actually uses "Thank You," not "Misty Mountain Hop." Which reminds me: when Ross' husband Arne Naess Jr. died in a climbing accident, some internet wag wrote ''Guess there was a mountain high enough."

Germany's DJ Earlybird also used Ross, mixing her with yet another unavoidable oldie, John Lennon's "Imagine." And I just think it's gorgeous.

DJ Earlybird: "Baby, Imagine Love"

Friday, March 09, 2007

Dylan Hears A Who

Dr Seuss' children's classics performed in the style of Bob Dylan. And that just about says it all:

Dylan Hears A Who

Thanks to solcofn!

Monday, March 05, 2007


I apologize for this weblog's lack of activity lately, but I've been attending to my wife's (successful) surgery and post-surgical needs, so I think that's a pretty good excuse. Unfortunately, since I've been gone I see that has changed it's policy and you have to register with them to access the tuneage, negatively effecting that last post of mine about the Space-Age mashups. But I have some good news for you:

Blowfly's Punk-Rock Party.

Blowfly?! The sixty-something, foul-mouthed, living legend has gone punk? Yessir! Blowfly's been playing the "chitlin circuit" (the black American blues club scene) for ages,
recording X-rated "party records" that were clearly spiritual antecedents to the likes of the 2Live Crew, but more fun and funny, all delivered with a good-natured wink that seems almost innocent compared to his gangsta-thug progeny.

His new album features parodies of punk and rock classics. Some, like the Dead Kennedys-inspired "R. Kelly in Cambodia" (featuring Jello himself guesting) are delivered in 'fly's traditional funk-ay funk-ay style. But uncharacteristic hard-rockin' styles dominate to great effect on tunes like the Ramones take-off "I Wanna Be Fellated." And if that title alone makes you laugh, you're on Blowfly's wicked wavelength.

Blowfly's MySpace page has some songs available.