Tag Archives: Steely Dan

SUMMER SONGS OF INNOCENCE & EXPERIENCE

by William Blake (1794)

With the sun rolling towards its apogee in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice is fast approaching and with it the first official day of summer! (although the temperature itself had as of late seemed to be insisting upon this season’s arrival for some time now).

In the 2010 documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child by Tamra Davis, the artist and filmmaker, Julian Schnabel says something regarding how summer in New York City is an incredibly lonely season, something about them being “a motherfucker.” Although the film itself is great and certainly recommended-viewing, I couldn’t disagree with Mr. Schnabel’s statement more.

BIG SUN by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1984).

Summer always seems to me to be received as the highlight of the year, when most appear to be attempting to cram in as many experiences as they can (even when these experiences sometimes entail lying prostrate in the heat, or strolling without purpose); all before we return to hunched shoulders, clenched fists in coat pockets, marching through the frost to arrive at Point B directly from Point A. Additionally, I’ve always found that the dichotomy created by both the overwhelming desire for one to take it easy and enjoy themselves, coupled by the urge to get-it-while-you-can, serves to heighten our sense of appreciation and elevate our summer days and nights into the territory of “fun times.”

Therefore, in celebratory anticipation, I present two tracks today that serve as small samples from either end of summer’s broad spectrum:

INNOCENCE

Prominent in my mind during this season is the easy joy to be found in all the summertime cookouts and backyard BBQs. Friends gathered—laughing and enjoying each other’s company—all awaiting for a bite of the undisputed main attraction on the grill at these events: The Hamburger.

…Yes they are, and so, from 1966, here’s Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces with “The Hamburger Song.”

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Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces

This amusing little song (which appropriates the rhymes of children’s hand-clap games, another feature of the summer as you often see little girls in pairs pass the time running through the complicated sequence of gestures that accompany each line) appeared on Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces sole album, Searching For My Love. It was released on the Chess label’s imprint, Checker. New Orleans native Bobby Moore (tenor saxophone) had joined the US Army in his teens and formed the initial line-up of the Rhythm Aces with members of the Fort Benning marching band. However, moving to Montgomery, Alabama in the early ’60s he put together a new group under the same name, featuring his brother, Larry Moore (alto saxophone), Chico Jenkins (vocals, guitar), Marion Sledge (guitar), Joe Frank (bass), Clifford Laws (keyboards), and John Baldwin, Jr. (drums). In 1965, recording what would become the title track of their debut at the renowned Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (FAME) Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama—on the strength of that song alone the group was picked up by Leonard and Marshall Chess. The group would continue to release various singles for the label throughout the decade, and although there are some fine slices of southern soul and R&B, none of them have quite the same sense of delight as “The Hamburger Song.”

EXPERIENCE

On the other side of the gold coin of summer there’s the heat; the sultry nights of grooving, sweating, and exposed skin: in the words of Sandy D. and Danny Zuko, “Summer lovin’ had me a blast.” In the spirit of being a gentleman (and perhaps a bit of the attitude of “if you have to ask, you’ll never know”), I’ll jump straight into our second song: “Touch Me Again” by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie.

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Considered one of the finest drummers of all time, Bernard Purdie made his career as a go-to session drummer, hired to add some physical presence and precision timing to tracks by such artists as James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Steely Dan, Isaac Hayes, and Hall & Oates (and rumored overdubs for early albums by The Beatles). In addition, Purdie served as musical director for Aretha Franklin throughout the early-to-mid seventies, particularly during her Young, Gifted and Black era.

However, “Touch Me Again” comes not from any of his numerous (300+) session works, but from an album that he wrote, produced, and performed himself—the soundtrack to the first major black porn movie (often described as the “black Deep Throat”): Lialeh.

Released in 1973 (while the soundtrack itself would be released the following year), Purdie agreed to score this skin-flick, as it would be the first time he’d be credited as a “writer/composer.” And what an amazing soundtrack did he put together; assembling some top-notch session players such as wind instrumentalists Seldon Powell, Garnett Brown, Arthur Clarke, and Jimmy Owens, bassist Wilbur Bascomb, Ernest Hayes on organ, Horace Ott on Fender Rhodes as well as overseeing the arrangements, and Sandi Hewitt handling the sassy vocals for the lyrics provided by director, Baron Bercovichy.

“Pretty” Purdie today [photo by Fabrice Bourgelle Pyres]

Track for track this soundtrack lays down a complex but sensuous groove, whether it be on the funky floor burner “Hap’nin’,” or the bawdy ’60s swing of “All Pink On The Inside.” In 2003 the phenomenal reissue label Light In The Attic Records re-released this soundtrack and I highly recommend you pick up a copy. Oh, and “Pretty” Purdie and crew make a cameo as the film opens with them jamming the title-track at a music-club/sex-show. Highly skilled funk and topless gyrations, what more does a music video need?

Well, here’s to a marvelously full summer! Hope it feels good.

————Bobby Calero———————————-

Ref:

Bercovichy, B., & Purdie, B. (1973) (Creator) baaadmutha75 (Poster) (2011, Apr 25) Bernard Purdie – Opening scene from Lialeh (1973) [Video] retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdc0L8B0bC0

Purdie, B. (1973) Touch Me Again [recorded by Bernard Purdie] On Lialeh [Vinyl] Bryan Records (1974). [CD]             Light In The Attic (2003)

Moore, B. (1966) The Hamburger Song [recorded by Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces] On Searching For My Love [Vinyl] Checker (1966)

Sharonmnich (2009) (Creator). sharonmnich (Poster) (2009, Oct. 2) Eenie Meanie Sassaleeny Clapping Songs [Video] retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBVksBh0cLg&feature=player_embedded

THE BOOGNISH IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE BOOGNISH!

Ween’s demon/god mascot, the Boognish

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Aaron Freeman—better known as Gene Ween, who along with compatriot/collaborator/soul-mate Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) form the core for the overwhelmingly talented band Ween—has stated that after a 25 year run, “It’s time to move on. I’m retiring Gene Ween” (Levin, 2012).

“For me it’s a closed book. In life sometimes,

in the universe, you have to close some doors

to have others open. There’s no, ‘Goddamn that

such and such!’ For me, I’d like to think it’s a

door I can close finally” (Levin, 2012).

Although he implied that this break-up was more than amicable, for me this is sad news as for over the past quarter of a century Ween has consistently released some of the most interesting music out there. Due to their eclectic, inclusive, and experimental approach to songwriting, compounded by their absurd sense of humor, this duo has too often been disregarded as a novelty act—as kitsch—despite being obvious virtuoso multi-instrumentalists with a love for every genre of music.

Musical soul mates Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo met in an eighth grade typing class in New Hope, Pennsylvania and in the late eighties began self-releasing their home-recordings as Ween in a series of cassettes with such titles as Axis: Bold as Boognish, Erica Peterson’s Flaming Crib Death, and The Live Brain Wedgie/WAD.

Released on Twin/Tone Records in 1990, their official debut GodWeenSatan: The Oneness would feature one of my favorite tracks, the funk-vamp tribute to Prince, “L.M.L.Y.P.” In a live setting (I’ve been fortunate to catch one of their epic three-hour shows) this nine minutes long song has been known to be extended to upwards of thirty-minutes. To find out what the acronym L.M.L.Y.P. stands for just click the link below:

L.M.L.Y.P

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Like it? Buy it.

In 1992, Ween’s third album, Pure Guava, would produce their highest charting single, “Push th’ Little Daisies” which gained frequent rotation on MTV by being featured on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head. However, it wasn’t until this album’s follow-up—the John Candy dedicated Chocolate and Cheese—that I truly began to appreciate this duo’s “unique brand of drug-damaged, genre-jumping pop” (Eye Weekly, 2007). An album highlight—and perhaps the track most responsible for hooking my psyche into tune with what Ween is all about—is the anxious acoustic song about seeing an ex-girlfriend that once nearly destroyed you: “Baby Bitch.” With lyrics like, “Got fat, got angry, started hating myself,” the title isn’t so much humor as it is just human honesty. In November of 2007, the Village Voice’s Rob Harvilla conducted an interview with Dean Ween in which they discussed how, incredulously, the public and critics alike can dismiss their emotional sincerity, particularly when confronted with something as wrenching and candid as “Baby Bitch.”

“‘Our stuff is mostly autobiographical,’ [Dean] says, calling

in from his fishing spot on Long Beach Island. ‘People don’t

get that at all. Not just some records—all of them. Aaron

[Gene Ween] has written a lot of beautiful love songs. Some

of our best songs are some of his love songs. And it’s funny,

for the first few records, to hear people say that we do spot-on

parodies of love songs. We can’t write a fuckin’ love song? It

has to be making fun of a love song? It can’t just be judged for

what it is? How come we have that tag stuck to us? Because we

switch styles of music, we’re not afraid to play around?

“Consider “Baby Bitch,” from 1994’s beloved

breakthrough Chocolate and Cheese. It’s a willowy, somber,

acoustic kiss-off. Sample lyrics: ‘Baby baby baby bitch/I’m

better now, please fuck off.’ Dean thinks it gets a bad rap.

‘I remember what it was about—it’s about a breakup. I

remember how hard it was on him, and how well he was

able to articulate his pain or whatever in that song. I think

that was the first time I can really remember reading that

sort of thing about us, like, ‘Oh, it’s a parody of some kind

of Bob Dylan breakup song.’ Like, what the fuck are you

talkin’ about?” (Harvilla, 2007).

Chocolate and Cheese

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Like it? Buy it.

Another highlight off Chocolate and Cheeseis the R&B Soul number, “Freedom of ’76” for which Spike Jonze directed the following video:

On May 2, 2000, Ween would release their 7th album, and one that I consider just brilliant through-and-through: White Pepper. Check out their brilliant jazz inflected (in the vein of Steely Dan) “Pandy Fackler.”

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Like it? Buy it.

The album’s single, the slice of pop-perfection that is “Even If You Don’t” would be released as a video directed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park and The Book of Mormon fame). Just listen to Dean’s sweet guitar shredding!

It seems that in light of Gene’s announcement that 2007’s La Cucaracha will be Ween’s last LP release. One track off this album that seems to jut out from the rest is the Dean Ween penned irate anthem “With My Own Bare Hands.”

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“When I’m really, really, really inspired to write is when I’m really fuckin’ pissed off” said Dean Ween, “When I met my wife, she was aspiring to be a teacher—we’ve been together 17 years, we’ve been married 11 years. She had just gotten out of college, and she had to get her teaching credentials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then she went and got her master’s degree. And then I ended up having to pay off these student loans—and then, just about the time it was all said and done, we had a baby and she quit and, like, never worked again. Meanwhile, I’m paying off these student loans. I was really pissed off at her, so I wrote that song, and that”s where that verse [She’s gonna be my cock professor, studyin’ my dick/She’s gonna get her master’s degree in fuckin’ me] comes from (Harvilla, 2007).

La Cucaracha closes with the group [plus smooth-jazz saxophonist David Sanborn) thanking a friend for having them at their lovely party, and I’d like to say the same to them:

We Had The Best Time At Your Party

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Like it? Buy it.

—————-Bobby Calero————–

Ref:

Eye Weekly. (2007, Oct. 25). Ween interview. Eye Weekly. Retrieved from http://bilton.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/ween-interview-eye-weekly-102507/

Harvilla, R. (2007, Nov. 6). Sincerely Yours. Village Voice. Retrieved from http://www.villagevoice.com/content/printVersion/211814/

Levin, D. (2012, May 29). Aaron Freeman Closes the Book on Ween. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/aaron-freeman-closes-the-book-on-ween-20120529

Ween, G. & Ween, D. (1989). L.M.L.Y.P. [Recorded by Ween] On GodWeenSatan: The Oneness [CD] Twin/Tone Records (1990).

Ween, G. & Ween, D. (1994). Baby Bitch [Recorded by Ween] On Chocolate and Cheese [CD] Elektra (1994).

Ween, G. & Ween, D. (2000). Pandy Fackler [Recorded by Ween] On White Pepper [CD] Elektra (2000).

Ween, G. & Ween, D. (2007). With My Own Bare Hands [Recorded by Ween] On La Cucaracha [CD] Rounder Records (2007).

Ween, G., Ween, D., & Spike Jonze (1994). (Creators). ilikepie37 (Poster) (2009, Jul. 26). Ween – Freedom of ’76. Retrieved May 31, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_vsJuxYGwg

Ween, G., Ween, D., Parker, T., & Stone, M. (2000). (Creators). rebirthday (Poster) 2006, Mar. 25) Ween – Even If You Don’t. Retrieved May 31, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yarfOFdopQ0