Monthly Archives: February 2012

HIT SQUAD & THE HEADBANGER

When EPMD dropped “Its My Thing”

I said damn I gotta get up in this rap game  —“Da Da DaHHH” by Redman

            This past Friday I had the great privilege of catching the legendary Hit Squad reunion show at the Best Buy Theater right off Time Square. The Hit Squad being one of the premier hip hop crews back in the early ’90s. Although I had gone to the concert to see the Funk DoctaSpock, Reggie Noble, it quickly became apparent that the audience and I were in for a real all-night treat of such prominent Hit Squad associated acts as the solid K-Solo (aka Wolfgang Murder Mouth), the frenetic Das EFX, the animated spitfire Keith Murray, and a reunited Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith—better known as the extraordinary EPMD.

The entire night was seamlessly propelled forward by the incredibly skilled DJ Scratch, and the format was amazing: The acts continuously rotating, overlapping, and serving as each other’s hypeman. Perhaps the most enthusiastic hypeman that evening was surprise guest Method Man, who popped on stage to accompany Redman on their hit “Da Rockwilder” off of their 1999 collaborative album Blackout!. Once the song was over, Meth made his way to the wings where he urged the crowd to cheer on the momentous occasion happening on stage.

The best moment of the night had to be the show-closing performance of EPMD’s 1992 single “Head Banger” off their fourth album, Business Never Personal. Reminiscent to a classic Yo! MTV Raps episode, this performance brought about roughly twenty heads out on stage, all together in a show of true camaraderie that perfectly encapsulated the sentiments of the entire evening.

I could go on for days about each performer—each bringing their all to the stage—but for me personally it was truly amazing to see the always charismatic Redman live on the mic…what can I say? The guy just lights up the room with that mischievous grin of his.

You can watch a bunch more videos from this show over at RapRadar

And click below so you can listen to just one small reason why Redman will always remain one of my favorite rappers of all time, as he does more with a minute-and-fifty-six seconds than most could accomplish on a full-length LP.

Redman live at Best Buy Theater, NYC (2012, Feb 24). Photo courtesy of The Great Zeee

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—————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

——————————————————————————–BOBBY CALERO

Ref:

EPMD, K-Solo, & Redman (2012) (Creators). Toneriggz (Poster) (2012, Feb 24). EPMD, K-Solo & Redman- Head Banger @ Best Buy Theater, NYC [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OwDzpBxumQ&feature=player_embedded

Method Man & Redman (2012) (Creators). Toneriggz (Poster) (2012, Feb 24). Method Man & Redman- Da Rockwilder @ Best Buy Theater, NYC [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfdq1f3KEVI&feature=player_embedded

Noble, R., Sermon, E., Clinton Jr., G., Curry, T. (2001). Diggy Doc [recorded by Redman] On Malpractice [CD] Def Jam. (2001)

Redman (2012) (Creator). Dimar672 (Poster) (2012, Feb 26). Redman- I’ll Bee Dat & Da Goodness [Video] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-uywgdst3I&feature=related

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THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 5: WITH A PURPLE HEART AND A MONKEY ON HIS BACK

To conclude this series I bring you yet another cover, this one by the little known Swamp Dogg, doing a soulful rendition of phenomenal songwriter John Prine’s signature tune about a man who’s “popped his last balloon,”—“Sam Stone (a.k.a. The Great Society Conflict Veteran’s Blues)

Prine was born October 10, 1946, to Bill and Verna Prine, who had left rural western Kentucky for Maywood, Illinois, a working-class suburb of Chicago. Prine had been stationed in Germany while serving with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and afterwards held a job with the U.S. Postal Service. Through his live performances Prine began to be a figure in the Folk Revival scene of Chicago and befriended Kris Kristofferson who helped him secure a recording contract with Atlantic Records (Powers, 2009).

John Prine’s eponymous debut album—on which today’s song first appeared—was released in 1971. The album was received as a critical success and Prine became one of those recording artists cursed with the label of being a “new Dylan.” Years later, he went on to win two Folk Album of the Year Grammies for 1991’s The Missing Years and 2005’s Fair and Square. However, to get a real good sense of what a great storyteller he is, I recommend 1988’s John Prine Live.

So today we have Swamp Dogg taking on one of those great stories, that of the American soldier returning home much worse off than when he left. In the spring of 1971, two members of Congress released a report alleging that 15 percent of U.S. servicemen in Vietnam were addicted to heroin, and by 1973 it was stated that 34 percent of American soldiers in Vietnam had commonly used heroin (Brush, 2002). Prine’s “Sam Stone” personalizes these percentages and presents them with his clever lyrics and a catchy melody. Artists such as Johnny Cash, Al Kooper, and Evan Dando of The Lemonheads have covered the song. However, most memorably, the 1997 masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized closes with the epic song “Cop Shoot Cop…” which references “Sam Stone” repeatedly with the lines “There’s a hole in my arm where all the money goes/Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose.”

Swamp Dogg (Jerry Williams, Jr.) released his version on his third album, 1972’s Cuffed, Collared & Tagged, and makes the most of his soulful moan to convey the song’s pathos. Swamp Dogg, working as a producer and engineer for a few years, first began to display his idiosyncratic take on soul and rock music with 1970’s brilliantly nuts Total Destruction to Your Mind

and followed that up with ’71’s Rat On!

Quite a talented yet oddball character, I highly recommend seeking these records out. While you’re at it, I’d look for the 1969 album Swamp Dogg produced and arranged for Tyrone Thomas, which came out under the moniker of Wolfmoon.

Coming out on Al Bennett’s L.A. based Cream label, 1972’s Cuffed, Collared & Tagged was self-produced at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, and features some prominent area studio musicians tackling originals like his tribute to Sly Stone, “If It Hadn’t Been for Sly,” as well as soul-flavored covers like his rendition of The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”

Well, here it is, the conclusion to my Narcotic Wreck Quintet: Sam Stone

 

Like it? Buy it.

 

Ref:

Brush, P. (2002). HIGHER AND HIGHER: AMERICAN DRUG USE IN VIETNAM. Vietnam Magazine, Vol.15, No. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2012 from http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/central/Brush/American-drug-use-vietnam.htm

 

Powers, L. A. (2009). Prine, John. Musicians & Composers of the 20th Century. Cramer, A. W. (Ed.). Vol. 4. p1145-1147. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. Retrieved February 19, 2012 from Gale Virtual Reference Library

 

Prine, J. (1971). Sam Stone [recorded by Swamp Dogg] On Cuffed, Collared & Tagged [CD] Cream. (1972)

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THE SERPENT TRAVELS ACROSS THE SALT: LUIS ALBERTO SPINETTA, R.I.P.

Luis Alberto Spinetta (January 23, 1950–February 8, 2012)

Today, I interrupt my regularly scheduled post to note the passing of South American rock pioneer Luis Alberto “El Flaco” Spinetta. Spinnetta, aged 62, died on February 8 from lung cancer. Spinetta’s musical career began in 1967 with the fantastic band, Almendra, which was formed in his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Featuring Edelmiro Molinari on guitar, Emilio Del Guercio on bass, Rodolfo García on drums, and Spinetta–as one of the group’s principal songwriters–on guitar and vocals, Almendra helped revolutionize the way local rock music was both perceived and created.

After Almendra dissolved, Spinetta returned from traveling Europe to form a new group—Pescado Rabioso (Rabid Fish)—featuring Black Amaya on drums, and Osvaldo Bocón Frascino on bass.

Pescado Rabioso could be considered more aggressive (as well as progressive) than Spinetta’s earlier music, at least in terms of its socio-political voice, as well as its poetic one; particularly so, at a time when South America was being pressed beneath the boot heels of military dictatorships (typically backed by the C.I.A.). Pescado Rabioso’s 1972 debut, Desatormentándonos (from which today’s song comes) was released with the following poetic text written by Spinetta on the inner sleeve (I’ve attempted to do the translation myself, so it might read a bit more clunky than originally intended):

The people are the magic star.

All we see resembles the river.

Worms of the emperors tremble

in apocalyptic feast.

They have no time to resort to arms.

The star cast them all in an infinite plane.

The hair of the torturers bleeds into my car.

We: desatormentándonos forever.

And with a postscript, which reads:

PS: I love you Beatles.

            After Pescado Rabioso split up, Spinetta continued recording up until the present day with various bands, as well as solo projects, having a musical career that has spanned nearly 5 decades. he died in his home, surrounded by his children Dante, Valentino, Catarina and Vera (BBC, 2012).

From Desatormentándonos, and featuring some sinuous Hammond organ playing by guest Elvio Lado, here’s Pescado Rabioso’s psychedelic epic: “Serpiente (viaja por la sal).”

————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

Below are the lyrics, translated by my father, Julio, who is the primary reason I know anything about this music.

The Serpent (travels across the salt)

In the light of the warm day

The serpent travels across the salt

No one demands that she leave

The serpent travels on and on

And in the new day

Timeless lips…

Clouds arrive

Bearing messages…

And doors, doors, doors

Day of lilacs…

You’ll speak

The serpent across the salt

No one demands that she leave

The serpent travels

And in the new day

Of dusk

Clouds will arrive

Bearing messages

In the clear water of the sun

All mourn

Goodness gone

In the body

Some will see

That the serpent travels

Across the salt

And dusk travels

Travels like time

And clouds will come

Bearing messages

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If you’d like to hear more of Spinetta’s music you should check out the excellent playlist created by Academy Records for East Village Radio and here’s a link to a list of the songs they played.

And I’ll see you all back here real soon for (finally) my conclusion to “The Narcotic Wreck Quintet.”

Luis Alberto Spinetta (January 23, 1950–February 8, 2012) R.I.P.

————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

BBC. (2012, February 9). Argentine rock musician Luis Alberto Spinetta dies. BBC. Retrieved February 17 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16959657

Spinetta, L.A. (1972) Serpiente (viaja por la sal) (recorded by Pescado Rabioso) On Desatormentandonos [CD] Microfon. (1972). Sony Bmg Europe. (2003)

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY: THE FEMININE CRESCENDO ON RECORD

GUSTAV KLIMT: “Danae” (1907)

Hello all, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that are betrothed, as well as to those who fear they are dying alone! Well, between graduate school, work, an internship, learning to drive, two Chihuahuas, a wife, and The Walking Dead, I am pretty busy at the moment. So today’s post is going to be only a quickie. I’ve got two songs for you today that are guaranteed to make you and your sweetheart blush, and will never be less than awkward to listen to in front of your momma.

First up is a song from the French pervert genius, Serge Gainsbourg, accompanied in a duet with the stunning Jane Birkin. This song was banned from radio in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy, Poland, and Portugal, banned before 11pm in France, and denounced by the Vatican. Supposedly, the Vatican excommunicated the record executive who released this song in Italy, to which Gainsbourg responded by calling the Pope “our greatest PR man.” What could have caused all this? Well it was the pleasurable gasps and moans of Miss Birkin achieving orgasm towards the end of the record. It has always been rumored that the two lovers were actually going at it in the studio while recording this.

Well, here it is from sensual 1969, “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus”…“I Love You… Nor Do I.”   Enjoy!

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Up second, is a song that attempts to scratch the same itch but does so at a different speed and a decade earlier. Released in 1958, I know nothing about who John & Jackie were, and most likely they were a creation for the rockabilly craze. Well, whoever they are, Jackie sure seems to be having a good time on this record; here’s their rockabilly duet, “Little Girl.”

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Well, I hope these two tunes put you in the mood, and that you get somebody to mood with!

—————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

Gainsbourg, S. (1969). Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus. [recorded by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg] On Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg [CD] Fontana (1969). LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. (2010)

Maltais, G. (1958). Little Girl. [recorded by John & Jackie] On Rockin Bones: 1950s Punk & Rockabilly [CD] Aladdin. (1958). Rhino (2006)

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THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 4: I NEED A FIX, ’CAUSE I’M GOING DOWN

Happiness is a Warm Gun by AWartinger

The John Lennon composition “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” off of The Beatles 1968 release “The White Album” remains one of his most dynamic, both in terms of musical structure and lyricism. Long rumored to address Lennon’s heroin habit, the song is certainly concerned with much more than just that: a hyper-sexual ode to his developing relationship with Yoko Ono; a comment upon the Guns & Ammo culture; and a display of the poetic depth and pleasure of language a skilled writer can achieve, as is evident in the song’s fragmented, imagist lyrics. However, for the purposes of my little quintet of songs, the narcotic aspect is the lens I’ve chosen to view the song through today.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono in 1968

Although they certainly never seemed to develop a habit horrific enough to warrant a memoir exclusively dedicated to the subject, Lennon and Yoko have both admitted to having a shared heroin addiction, which they attempted to kick together. A year after “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” Lennon recorded his second non-Beatles single, the harrowing “Cold Turkey,” which related the physical experience of withdrawal, and features a lacerating guitar riff played by Eric Clapton.

In a 2007 interview Ono stated that she believes they were able to overcome their addiction because of both their trepidation in using the drug intravenously and the fact that their dealer frequently cut his product down into a much more diluted form. “Luckily we never injected because both of us were totally scared about needles. So that probably saved us and the other thing that saved us was our connection was not very good.  But that saved us actually” (Revoir, 2007).

Numerous and notable artists such as U2, Tori Amos, and frequent guitarist for Tom Waits, Marc Ribot have covered “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” over the years. My favorite cover, however, is the big band rendition performed by trumpet player Bobby Bryant on his 1969 album for Pacific Jazz Records, Earth Dance. Bryant’s orchestration heightens the dramatic tension already inherent in Lennon’s song and his jazz sensibilities make excellent use of its frequent shifts in time signature.

Check it out for yourself:

Like it? Buy it.

Happiness Is a Warm Gun” by Bobby Bryant

Acoustic Bass – John Duke

Baritone Saxophone – Pete Christlieb

Bass [Fender] – Wilton Felder

Congas – Bob Norris, Chino Valdes

Drums – Carl Lott

Engineer – Dino Lappas

French Horn – David Duke

Harmonica – Don Bailey

Piano – Joe Sample

Producer – Wayne Henderson

Saxophone – Herman Riley

Tenor Saxophone – Ernie Watts

Trombone – Bill Tole, George Bohanon, John Ewing

Trombone [Bass] – Mike Wimberly

Trumpet – Bobby Bryant, Buddy Childers, Freddie Hill, Paul Hubinon

Tuba – Don Waldrop

               Earth Dance features as well a version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that is definitely worth checking out. And if you’re one of those people who, through some deficiency in your upbringing, are unfamiliar with The Beatles or are under the delusion that you actually do not like them, do your poor, neutered soul a favor and pick up “The White Album.”

Well, stay tuned for the conclusion of The Narcotic Wreck Quintet!

———————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

Lennon-McCartney. (1968). Happiness Is a Warm Gun. [recorded by Bobby Bryant] On Earth Dance [CD] Pacific Jazz Records. (1969). PSP Co Ltd. (2011)

Revoir, P. (2007, June 11). John and Yoko were saved from heroin addiction by greedy drug dealer. The Daily Mail. Retrieved February 11, 2012 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-461071/John-Yoko-saved-heroin-addiction-greedy-drug-dealer.html#ixzz1m7a1Od6g

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THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 3: I SLEEP WITH THE SUN AND I RISE WITH THE MOON

At the age of fifteen or so, my cousin Paul and I took a trip to Miami to visit my “cool” uncle Raul. Other than learning that my uncle had recently secretly (at least in terms of my cousin and I being the only family members privy to the information at that time) been married to a Russian woman named Yelena that he insisted on calling “Svet,” and the incident where the Mexican day laborer in plaster splattered overalls attempted to give me his cheap, black & white pornographic magazine in a beach-front hotel’s public restroom, the most memorable aspect of this trip was receiving daily from my uncle an assigned cultural education. It was through these “assignments” that I first saw Apocalypse NowFrancis Ford Coppola’s 1979 existential nightmare masterpiece and riff on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. I also recall watching the 1988 film Little Nikita starring Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix, concerning Soviet sleeper-agents in San Diego. On another occasion my uncle demonstrated the finer points of shoplifting books. I walked from the store that day with a weathered copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, but to the best of my recollection I in fact paid for it.

Along with these lessons, each morning my uncle would give me three cassettes to listen to on my bulky, black Walkman while my cousin and I lounged on the beach waiting for him to get out of work. My cousin had very recently recuperated from major surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and had spent the past few months in bed whacked out on painkillers and watching reruns of The Cosby Show (at the time you needed only to change the channel once and you could watch numerous episodes in a row) and so he really wasn’t up for much more than lounging on the sand. The beach was located behind the hotel where my uncle was employed at the desk, so we were never really all that far from his supervision.

Of all those albums on cassette my uncle assigned me, three have always remained in my memory: The Who’s first live album, Live at Leeds, recorded February 14th, 1970; The Clash’s outstanding 1979 double-album, London Calling; and the album from which today’s song comes from, Raw Sienna by British blues-rock group Savoy Brown. Raw Sienna, released in 1969, was Savoy Brown’s fifth album and was in fact their third album of that year. It would also be their final album featuring lead vocalist Chris Youlden. Shortly thereafter, guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens, and drummer Roger Earl also left the group and went on to form Foghat, which cemented their fame through their 1975 hit single “Slow Ride” (Shahso, 2012).

Featuring some fantastic guitar work within the blues-rock-boogie architecture of the song by founding member Kim Simmonds, and fun brass accents arranged by Terry Noonan, here’s “Needle and Spoon” reminding you that “If you’re married you can divorce your wife/But when married to ‘H’ then you’re married for life.”

——————————————————————————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

———————————————Bobby Calero

Ref:

Shasho, R. (2012, January 22). EXCLUSIVE: British Blues Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown –CD Review: ‘Voodoo Moon.’ Examiners. Retrieved February 8, 2012 from http://www.examiner.com/classic-rock-music-in-st-petersburg/exclusive-british-blues-kim-simmonds-of-savoy-brown-cd-review-voodoo-moon-review

Youlden, C. (1969). Needle and Spoon. [recorded by Savoy Brown] On Raw Sienna. [CD] Parrot Records. (1969) Bgo. (2005)

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THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 2: WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU TO SEE ME THROUGH?

"The Genius"

Unfortunately, many of my generation grew up with Ray Charles as “the other blind, black guy” that wasn’t Stevie Wonder, and as the man hocking Diet Pepsi during commercial breaks while watching say, The Cosby Show, or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As I grew up in a Coca-Cola household, the man lost points right there. So it was not until a few years ago that I gave him a true listen, and oh boy can this guy’s voice make you quiver, shake, and melt all in one song! Couple that with his extraordinary talent for composition and you begin to really appreciate that Ray Charles existed in a world of sound, and that the music he shared was coming from a place deep down inside.

Most are familiar with the biographical facts of Charles’ life through the entertaining—if somewhat caricatural—2004 film, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, and so I don’t really feel the need to go into all that. Before moving on to song #2 of my planned 5 part series, I will point out that Ray Charles was an admitted drug addict since the age of 16.

In 1978 writer Greil Marcus joined The Band’s guitarist, Robbie Robertson, and Martin Scorsese in the filmmaker’s home in the Hollywood hills. The purpose of this visit was to discuss The Last Waltz, an amazing documentary Scorsese had made of The Band’s farewell concert held on Thanksgiving night of 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. What follows is an excerpt from the resulting article printed in the magazine New West:

Scorsese pulls out a Ray Charles album; the song he wants us to hear is “What Would I Do Without You,” from 1957. It’s a slow, tragic blues ballad; there’s the assumption of a happy ending, or at least of resolution, in the lyrics, but not in Ray Charles’s singing. “Leave out a few Billie Holiday tunes, and there’s more heroin in that music than in anything you’ll ever hear,” Robertson says. “Heroin does something to your throat, it makes the voice thicker. Listen.” We do; the title of the song takes on a new, acrid meaning. “We used to do it,” Robertson says, “‘What Would I Do Without You,’ after we left Ronnie, when it was just the five of us, before Bob, before Big Pink. But we couldn’t get away with it. The song was too down, it was death. That’s what it is. People would just sit there, or they’d leave” (Marcus, 2010).

I believe that this serves as a sufficient enough preamble to this song. So, originally released as the flipside to “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” and compiled two years later on Ray Charles’ album Yes Indeed!!, here’s “What Would I Do Without You.”

————————————————————————————————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

Ray Charles – vocal/piano

Joshua Willis – trumpet

Joe Bridgewater – trumpet

Don Wilkerson – tenor saxophone

Cecil Payne – baritone saxophone

Paul West – bass

Panoma Francis – drums

——————————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

Charles, R. (1956). What Would I Do Without You [recorded by Ray Charles] On Yes Indeed! [CD] Atlantic. (1958). Rhino. (2008)

Marcus, G. (2010). Bob Dylan Writings 1968-2010. U. S.: Public Affairs

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THE NARCOTIC WRECK QUINTET—PART 1: FEEL LIKE A FIGHTING ROOSTER, FEEL BETTER THAN I EVER FELT

            Victoria Spivey was born on October 15, 1906, in Houston, Texas, and died at the age of 69 on October 3rd, 1976 in New York City. She was one of eight children born to part-time musician and flagman for the railroad, Grant Spivey, and nurse, Addie Smith Spivey; they themselves both being the children of ex-slaves. After Victoria’s father was killed in an accident, it became financially necessary for her to utilize her musical talents for more than mere entertainment and pocket money, and so as a young teenager she and a brother began playing regularly in local bordellos and music halls. Throughout the 1920s, she would also occasionally perform alongside “Father of the Texas Blues,” the incredible Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Moving to St. Louis in 1926, Spivey signed to the Okeh label, and recorded her signature hit “Black Snake Blues.” Over the next two years she would record roughly once a month, often accompanied by Jazz greats like Lonnie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Clarence Williams. Moving to Chicago as the record business collapsed along with all other industry during the Depression of the 1930s, Spivey expanded her career by playing vaudeville musical revues, such as the Hellzapoppin’ Revue in New York City, and she even appeared as “Missy Rose” in director King Vidor’s first sound film, Hallelujah!

Retiring from the stage in 1952—becoming an organist for a church in Brooklyn—Spivey would return to her career in the ’50s and ’60s during the folk and blues revival of that era, and she would even set up her own record label.

—In fact, if any of you ever wondered who’s that woman seated at a piano alongside a baby-faced Bob Dylan on the back cover of his 1970 album New Morning, it’s Ms. Spivey herself! In March 1962 (just a few days prior to the release of his eponymous debut) Dylan contributed harmonica and back-up vocals for Spivey Records’ Three Kings And The Queen, which featured Roosevelt Sykes, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, and “The Queen” Victoria Spivey. In a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Dylan said of the experience: “I think one of the best records that I’ve ever been a part of was the record made with Big Joe Williams and Victoria Spivey. Now that’s a record that I hear from time to time and I don’t mind listening to it. It amazes me that I was there and had done that.”—

Whether it be a song that was concerned with the circumstances of hard-living or one about the bawdy delights of intercourse, Spivey would write them with a sly intelligence, hip attitude, and deliver them in her distinctive “tiger moan.” A fine example is “Dope Head Blues” recorded on October 28, 1927 in New York City. With a fine and insightful wit this song tackles the paranoia and “top-of-the-world” delusions that come with drug addiction (which was brilliantly expressed by Christian Bale’s performance as has-been boxer Dicky Eklund in a film I just saw yesterday—David O. Russell’s The Fighter).

Perfectly put over by Lonnie Johnson’s drowsy, bumbling guitar work, here’s Victoria Spivey with “Dope Head Blues.”

Like it? Buy it.

Dope Head Blues

Just give me one more sniff of, another sniff of that dope

Just give me one more sniff of, another sniff of that dope

I’ll catch a cow like a cowboy, and throw a bull without a rope

Doggone, I’ve got more money than Henry Ford or John D. ever had

Doggone, got more money than Henry Ford or John D. ever had

I bit a dog last Monday and forty doggone dogs went mad

Feel like a fighting rooster, feeling better than I ever felt

Feel like a fighting rooster, feel better than I ever felt

Got double pneumonia and still I think I got the best health

Say, Sam

Go get my airplane and drive it up to my door

Aw, Sam, go get my airplane and drive it to my door

I think I’ll fly to London, these monkey men makes mama sore

The president sent for me, the Prince of Wales is on my trail

The president sent for me, the Prince of Wales is on my trail

They worry me so much, I’ll take another sniff and put them both in jail

——————————————–Bobby Calero

Ref:

Commire, A. (Ed.) (2002). Spivey, Victoria (1906–1976). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. pps. 655-657. Detroit: Yorkin Publications. Retrieved February 6th, 2012 from http://go.galegroup.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX2591308746&v=2.1&u=cuny_queens&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w

Spivey, V. (1927). Dope Head Blues. [recorded by Victoria Spivey & Lonnie Johnson] On Victoria Spivey Volume 1: 1926-1927. [CD] Okeh. (1927). Document. (2000)

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SOUNDTRACK TO THE CITY OF HUDSON, NY

Warren Street, Hudson, NY

I spent the week leading up to New Year’s in the charming city of Hudson, N.Y. Hudson lies adjacent to the east bank of the Hudson River along the west border of Columbia County, and as you stroll along Warren Street past the numerous stores set up within historical Federal, Italianate, and Queen Anne buildings you begin to feel that you stepped onto the Main Street set of “The Wonder Years;” albeit a much more racially diverse Wonder Years than the one Kevin Arnold inhabited. While walking with a friend, he stated, “It feels like I’m walking in America.” And with its warm community and aesthetics it certainly does feel like “America.”

Well, while there I heard two songs that immediately clicked with me. The first, I heard while drinking my third deliciously dark Crossroads Black Rock Stout at the cozy bookstore, Spotty Dog Books & Ale, which is situated within the C.H. Evans firehouse, built in 1889.

The song “Stalkin‘” is from Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarist Duane Eddy’s 1958 debut album, Have ‘Twangy’ Guitar Will Travel. As the title alludes, Duane made a name for himself on the signature “twang” technique of his guitar playing, which was cooked-up by Duane and his producer/writing partner, the brilliantly idiosyncratic Lee Hazelwood (who perhaps is most famous for his duets with Nancy Sinatra, which produced hits like “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and “Some Velvet Morning”). “Eddy obtained his trademark sound by picking on the low strings of a Chet Atkins-model Gretsch 6120 hollowbody guitar, turning up the tremolo and running the signal through an echo chamber” (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 2010). This album features numerous talent, such as saxophonist Steve Douglas, who would go on to work as part of Phil Spector’s Wrecking Crew, as well as play on The Beach BoysPet Sounds, and Bob Dylan’s Street Legal.

Duane Eddy’s music was all about attitude and atmosphere; it’s reminiscent to me of director David Lynch’s attempts to reveal the horror and lust that lurks behind a hot-rods and Hardy Boys façade. The song “Stalkin” in particular perfectly encompasses my juvenile beliefs of what it would be like to encounter a mysterious woman…and I guess in a way I still believe it would sound exactly like this.

——————-(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

The second song that just hooked me I heard a few days later while a bunch of us were eating thick and juicy burgers at the local, farm-fresh diner, Grazin’. I ordered “The Cowboy”: grass-fed burger topped with an over easy pastured egg, cheddar cheese, and country ham—yes please! While finishing it all off with a shake a familiar melody played so sweet we all could not help but sing along. Off of the Chicago-based soul quartet The Chi-Lites’ 1971 album (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People, single “Have You Seen Her” is one of those perfect songs that, although it conveys such a wistful sentiment, just feels so damn good to sing along to. Co-written by lead vocalist Eugene Record along with Brunswick Records’ artist Barbara Acklin, here’s the 70s doo-wop soul classic:

——————————————————————(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

So if you have a little time, give these a spin and take a trip up to Hudson—it feels good.

————————-Bobby Calero

Ref:

Hazelwood, L. (1958). Stalkin’ [Recorded by Duane Eddy] On Have ‘Twangy’ Guitar Will Travel [CD] Jamie Records. (1958). Jamie/Guyden. (1999)

Record, E. & Acklin, B. (1971). Have You Seen Her [Recorded by The Chi-Lites] On (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People [CD]. Brunswick Records (1971). Edsel Records UK. (2004)

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (2010). Duane Eddy Biography. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 1st, 2012 from http://rockhall.com/inductees/duane-eddy/bio/

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