What does it mean to rerelease a record? On the face of it, this is a simple question with a simple answer: you take music that has already existed as a commercial product and reintroduce it into the market. But secondary questions crop up immediately. Does a record have to be out of print to be rereleased? If not, what makes the new version significant? Do you need cutting-edge remastering? Bonus tracks? A new essay by a brand-name critic? A limited-edition colored-vinyl pressing housed in a wooden box and accompanied by a poster of the original album art? The record industry has always grappled with this issue—profiting off of music people have already heard has always been as central to its plan as profiting off of new music. And Record Store Day, which will be celebrated this Saturday, April 20th, offers one set of answers, via high-end collectibles designed to draw customers back to brick-and-mortar establishments.
We are in love with this new street art project that has descended upon the Big Apple. Street artist, Jay Shells, has created a series of street signs which include rap lyrics. If that wasn’t enough, he has gone around the City and affixed these signs in the areas mentioned in the lyric. Read more of this post
Like the rest of the music World, we are mourning the loss of Jazz legendDonald Byrd, who died yesterday at the age of 80. While his music will always be with us, his death highlights the loss of a tradition of music education and artistic appreciation. We thank Brooklynite and political activist, Kevin Powell, for sharing this important article by Mark Naison, who is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program. Enjoy. Read more of this post
On Jan. 8, 1968,Otis Redding‘s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” was released on Stax’s Volt label. Co-written by Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper, the single reached No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart in March 1968, where it remained for four weeks. Two Grammys followed, along with the song’s induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Redding never heard the single. On Dec. 10, 1967—just 18 days after the recording session—the 26-year-old singer died in a plane crash in Wisconsin, killing everyone on board except Ben Cauley, the trumpeter in his band.
Mr. Cropper, pianist Booker T. Jones, trumpeter Wayne Jackson and Mr. Cauley recalled how the song was written and recorded, why sounds of surf and gulls were added, and the story behind Redding’s famed whistling. Edited from interviews:
We are happy for all of this year’s Grammy nominees but especially Kanye West, Jay-Z and Frank Ocean, all of whom have been featured on this site. The Grammy Awards may be politically charged at times, but it is still the preeminent award show for music and attracts a global audience and hosts some of the most memorable performances in music history. As such, we are very excited to present this year’s nominees and our predictions. (note: given the extensive list of categories, we will only focus on those categories and awards which we feel are most relevant to the soulhead community)
55th Annual Grammy Awards
February 10, 8pm EST
CBS (check your local listings) Read more of this post
This is a really important read. The consolidation within radio has disproportionately impacted Black radio. Given the shrinking outlets for soul, rhythm&blues and funky music in its various forms, we need to do what we can to support the stations we have left.
Reprinted from Atlanta Daily World:
“Historically, Black radio … fulfilled all functions Black people needed … but now it’s time to take a serious look and right the wrong of the mess we call Black radio today,” says Todd Steven Burroughs, a lecturer in the Communication Studies Department at Morgan State University. Burroughs is demanding that the Federal Communications Commission investigate and intervene in the matter, saying “Black communities once again have been given symbolism instead of substance” and, that “back in the day, African-AmericanDJs not only provided the community with the latest news and information, they played records of Black artists that served as the soundtracks of Black empowerment.” Read more of this post
Shout out to The Soundtrack series for getting the real story out about this to soulheads worldwide. Friend to the site and author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop, Dan Charnas tells the story of how he was one of the men directly responsible for unleashing “Baby Got Back” on the World. This is an informative and hilarious account of Read more of this post
There is no shame in our game. We support the reelection of President Barack Obama. As such, we have put together the following list of tracks, which we feel capture the spirit of this election and will put you in a good mood as you prepare for a looong day waiting for the results.
The Impressions: Keep on Pushin’ -
How can you go wrong with Curtis Mayfield. This track always makes us feel good and reminds us of an era where folks were still fighting for the right to vote.
The mythology and allure of the 1970′s black action films such as Shaft, Uptown Saturday Night and Across 110th Street were consistently implanted in my consciousness as a kid. Such a different dimension to black life, and what better way to be inspired-than through the musical soundtracks of these films.
This particular mix of soul, funk and rare grooves was originally conceived one night as I sat and waited in the car (unusually long) to pick up my girlfriend for dinner. WHUR in Washington, DC was playing some chill jams during their 7pm Quiet Storm program. A few songs came on that made me feel like I was on a “stakeout”, hiding and waiting in the shadows of the night. Almost as if my experience was being “soundtracked”.
Alas, inspiration struck! I decided to make a dj mix that captured that immediate mood of color, complexity, suspicion, optimism and introspection. From that moment, A Funky Stakeout was born. Done several years ago around 2002 or so, this mix was lost in the dusty boxes over several moves (and girlfriends) in my life. A nicely mastered cd was recently discovered amongst other treasures and oddities in my music collection. I am pleased toshare this mix for your enjoyment!
1. Lou Donaldson – Ode To Billy Joe
2. Billy Brooks – Forty Days
3. Ronnie Laws Tidal Wave
4. Johnnie Guitar Watson – Superman Lover
5. Soul Searchers – If It Ain’t Funky
6. Marvin Gaye – A Funky Space Reincarnation
7. Patti Labelle – Funky Music
8. RAMP – Try Try Try
9. Collage – Do It, Nice and Easy
10. Fatback Band – Keep On Steppin’
11. 24 Carat Black – Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth
12. Sylvia Striplin – You Can’t Turn Me Away
13. The Pointer Sisters – How Long (Chick On The Side)
14. Kool and The Gang – Sugar
15. Ernie Hines – Our Generation
16. Quincy Jones – Summer in The City
17. Ramon Morris – First Come, First Serve
The legacy and success of the Washington, Metro-Area Go-Go scene can largely be traced to the explosion of posters from the Globe Printing Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Between the late seventies to mid-eighties Joseph Cicero, Sr. and his small family-owned operation gave birth to the graphic visual identity of Go-Go’s musical movement. Globe’s posters advertised every upstart band from AM FM, Junkyard Band, Ayre Raid and Hot Cold Sweat to the big legends such as Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited and Chuck Brown (R.I.P.) and the Soul Searchers.
While growing up in Landover, Maryland, a stones throw away from the famous Capital Centre, I noticed my neighborhood light posts were covered each week with these day-glo advertisements. The ubiquitous street corners in most Prince Georges county neighborhoods such as Forrestville, Oxon Hill, Bladensburg and Deanwood and the wall facades of the District became a natural landscape of color and culture. These posters were significant in that they had a specific style, look and feel that became signature to the DC area. Each poster contained bold, exciting hand set typography, opulent color and tailored language to an african-american audience of teens and young adults.
Printed on a thin cardboard paper, these posters were designed to blaze like a supernova for a life span of about 2 weeks maximum, then fade into urban decay. “One could almost hear the music while looking at these posters!” In addition, the crudely handcut halftone photographs of the performing artists worked in a strange way to each poster that “hand made” or “unpolished” appeal. Only the legendary posters made by the artists in San Francisco’s Fillmore psychedelic rock scene of the 1960′s and 70′s, or those of Nashville Tennessee‘s Hatch Show Print Company had a distinct and equally powerful identifying style for their particular region. The subject of this collection of posters is the late Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, whos funeral is this afternoon. We celebrate his legacy in astounding visual form!
1. Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers Live at R.S.V.P Nightclub
Globe Poster Company, Circa Early 1980′s
The R.S.V.P Nightclub was a Southwest, D.C. spot for the older “grown and sexy” late twenty-somethings. Waterside Mall, a government-by-day workers office complex and its surrounding planned community of 1960′s architectural modernity offered a contrast, to this unique music venue. I remember my older uncles and cousins talking about drinking Hennessy during happy hour and then seeing Chuck later at the R.S.V.P. It’s amazing that their original recording album “Chuck Brown Live” was also created here.
2. Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers Live at The Panorama Room
Globe Poster Company, Circa Early 1980′s
Every prominent DC Go-Go band had to do a stint at the famous Panorama Room! This Anacostia ballroom boasted one of the best views of the city from atop a hill. Most of the best Go-Go performances were in Southeast D.C. or in Prince Georges County. Other obscure venues included Cheri’s, Capital City Ballroom (AKA The Black Hole) and the Kentland Fire House. Most bands played wherever they could get bookings, which by virtue, immortalized those venues on paper in glorious fashion.
3. Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers Live at The Masonic Temple
Globe Poster Company, Circa Mid-to-Late 1980′s
I only went twice to the Masonic Temple, once to attend a Puff Daddy college party and the other to See Chuck play. The Prince Hall Masonic Temple was originally founded to provide scholarships and assistance to D.C. high school students and provide care to the homeless. It later developed a reputation as a weekly home for the music of Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers. Often thought of as a “sweatbox”, I do remember someone dropping a stink bomb up in there and half the party cleared out. Chuck’s music truly cranked in this basement spot through the wee hours.
4. Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers Live at Felicity’s Ballroom Globe Poster Company, Circa Early-to-mid 1990′s
By the 1990′s, Globe’s Go-Go posters had evolved into a more type heavy version of their former selves. The hand set letterforms had lost a bit of their raw character. The colors, while still magnificent in their simplicity began to seem a bit mundane in their presentation. Font choices appeared cliche and the photographs of the artists seemed a bit too crisp and digital. Globe was now making the transition into the digital printing era, however the original spirit of the music still communicates through these timeless posters.
LaDonna Adrian Gaines, aka Donna Summer
December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012
Donna Summer passed away quietly on the morning of May 17, 2012. The news of her death however, rang loudly, sorrowfully, all over the globe. TMZ reports that she died after a protracted battle with an undisclosed form of cancer, which added shock to the disbelief, chiefly because Donna Summer personified vibrance. Everything about her was sensational, in the positive sense of that word: voluminous flowing tresses, a wide megawatt smile, toned and shapely figure that served as the perfect canvas for sequined gowns. Early in her career it took the shape of smoldering sensuality captured in songs like “Love To Love You Baby” and images like the shot of her resplendent in white, reclining in the curve of a crescent moon, her long legs on proud display. Later in her career, the undisputed Queen of Disco would continue to wow crowds with her empowerment anthem “She Works Hard For The Money” and win Grammy® Awards in categories you might not expect, like the two she garnered for Best Inspiration Performance (“He’s A Rebel” and “Forgive Me”). Donna Summer accomplished a lot in her five decades as an entertainer that you might not expect. Donna Summer is a shining example of the universality of the soul artist.
Donna Summer reached her zenith at a time when popular music was segregated; the rise of disco represented the convergence of genres that comingled in the clubs and on the streets, but rarely met on the charts. While rock ‘n’ roll and pop were code for “white music” and “R&B” and “soul” were code for “Black music”, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Donna Summer sang—and scored hits—in whatever genre she chose. In 1978, her cover of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” went #1 and earned her a Grammy® nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance. Summer also went #1 with “Hot Stuff”, which earned her a Grammy® Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance. “Last Dance”, from her star turn in the cult classic film Thank God It’s Friday, climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, scored her another Grammy® for Best R&B Vocal Performance, and earned an Academy Award® for its composer, Paul Jabara. “She Works Hard For The Money” brought the plight of women in the workforce to the top of the charts; arguably the first mainstream record to make the case for pay equity plain. Its music video was the first by a black woman recording artist to receive an MTV Video Award nomination—in 1984.
Perhaps her refusal to be categorized as an artist came from Summer experiencing international success as a theater performer and session vocalist in Germany before becoming a household name in the United States. When her rock band Crow failed to get a deal, instead of quitting, she auditioned for Hair in New York City. When Melba Moore got the part, instead of sulking, she took the role in the European production of Hair. The girl from Dorchester, Massachusetts kicked off her career in 1967 in Europe. Eventually becoming fluent in German, Summer appeared in German productions of Showboat and Godspell as well. By the time Summer starred in Thank God It’s Friday, she was a seasoned actor.
While the industry knew this full well, her gift as a songwriter was not often highlighted in the media. Donna Summer wrote a great deal of her own material. She also penned “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” for Barbra Streisand. Her songs have worked their way into contemporary hip hop and R&B as samples (“Freaks of the Industry” by Digital Underground and “Naughty Girl” by Beyonce’ echo “Love To Love You Baby”). The club classic “I Feel Love” was inducted to the Dance Music Hall of Fame along with Summer in 2004.
Donna Summer was more than the Queen of Disco. She was a rock star. A pop icon. A gospel singer. A soul siren. A dance pioneer. A sex symbol, when it meant something, when it took that certain something, to actually be one. The masses were her core audience; a rare feat for any artist to accomplish and sustain without losing their connection to that audience. Before Beyonce’, Rihanna, Kelly Rowland, before Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears, there was Donna Summer. While she is now gone, her voice and music live on. As hard as she worked for the money and the music, with all the barriers as she broke? You better treat her right.
I grew up going to the Capital Center outside of my hometown of Washington, D.C. Back then, getting tickets for shows meant actually going to a physical location or the Capital Center itself to get the ticket. I saw so many shows there including Earth, Wind & Fire’s show that was recorded for parts of their live album Gratitude. In those days, most shows were festival style which means first come first serve. Also, smoking (regular and wacky tabaccy) was pretty much the norm. Once the lights went out, me and my mom, who was in her early 20s at the time, sat back and soaked up all of the…um…environment. Clearly, things were less politically correct back then. I also recall seeing Grandmaster Flash open for Chic, Sister Sledge, E.U. and The Jacksons who killed it with a 15 minute version of “Let Me Show You The Way to Go.” I will never forget those moments or the intermission music which ALWAYS included “Holy Ghost” by The Bar-Kays. The Capital Center was a truly magical place and I am happy that soulhead contributor Adrian Loving is blessing us with this wonderful look back. Enjoy.
Date: April 17, 1987 Time: 8:30 pm Headliner: Doug E. Fresh Supporting Acts: Salt-N-Pepa, Experience Unlimited Ticket Price: $14-$16
Nobody did the mix of Rap and GoGo better than DC. What a unique city to appreciate the indigenous local sound mixed with the popular rap that was sweeping the airwaves on at least 3 radio stations. The Captial Centre (where i graduated High School soon after this show) was the place to be to see all your friends from MD, DC and VA and sport your fresh flatop haircut, two-tone acid washed jeans and GoGo Mickey polo or tshirt. I saved up all week from my Popeyes job to buy a ticket to this event featuring Doug E. Fresh and EU and Salt and Pepa. Classic events like this just don’t even happen anymore!
Date: October 12, 1987 Time: 8:00 pm Headliner: Run DMC Supporting Acts: Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Experience Unlimited Ticket Price: $14-$16
October 1985, I was just old enough to convince my parents to go to The Show with a group of friends without parental escort. It was Run DMC, Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and Experience Unlimited rocking the Cap Centre. I must have posed for at least 10 pictures that night in front of Mr. G’s custom airbrushed photo backdrops with countless homeboys and honeys.
Date: December 29, 1987 Time: 8:30 pm Headliner: Whodini Supporting Acts: Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited, Little Benny & The Masters, Sweet Cookie Ticket Price: $14-$16
This was the show! Whodini at Cap Centre..featuring Kool Moe Dee, Eric B. and Rakim and Rare Essence. I swear that I convinced 2 friends to play hookey from school with me and metro down to Douglas Records on F Street NW to buy tickets. I also bought 2 classic 12″ Vinyls that day too. Props to G Street Express, Dimensions Unlimited and Tiger Flower entertainment promoters for enriching my life back then.
More information about the Capital Center from Wikipedia:
The Capital Centre was an indoor arena located in Landover, Maryland, unincorporated Prince George’s County, Maryland; a suburb of Washington, D.C. Completed in 1973, the arena sat 18,756 for basketball and 18,130 for hockey.
In 1993, the air carrier USAir purchased the naming rights for the building and the arena became known as USAir Arena. After the airline rebranded itself in 1996, the name changed to US Airways Arena. The arena reverted to its original name of Capital Centre after the airline dropped its naming rights and its primary tenants moved to the MCI Center (now named the Verizon Center) in downtown Washington. Most TV and Radio crews broadcasting from the venue referred to it by its nickname “Cap Centre”. The venue’s name is also sometimes misspelled as Capital Center, Capitol Center, Capitol Center Arena or Capital Center Arena.
The arena has hosted many concerts, by famous artists, spanning many different genres. The arena was home to several Toys for Tots concerts in the late 70′s and early 80′s. The last time that Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin sang in concert together was at the arena. The arena was outfitted with a sophisticated in-house video system, technology not yet common in most 1970s-era arenas. As a result, a number of videos and concert recordings, many of them bootlegged, have been released over the years.
The first two volumes of KISS’ retrospective DVD series Kissology included bonus discs of late-1970s shows videotaped at the arena.
Concert videos by Van Halen (a popular bootleg recorded on October 12, 1982) and Blue Öyster Cult on December 27, 1976 (“Live 1976″ DVD) and on the Some Enchanted Evening Legacy Edition CD) from the arena have also been released.
AC/DC played two shows at the arena on December 20-21, 1981, several tracks from these shows are included in their DVD set, Plug Me In. A recording of The New Barbarians’ concert on May 5, 1979, during the band’s only concert tour ever, was released as Buried Alive: Live in Maryland.
The Rolling Stones played three sold-out shows at the arena on December 7-9, 1981. Their 1982 live album “Still Life” (American Concert 1981), included three songs taken from the Largo concerts, “Let Me Go” (December 8), “Twenty Flight Rock” and “Going to a Go-Go” (December 9).
The cult video documentary short Heavy Metal Parking Lot was shot by Jeff Krulik and John Heyn on May 31, 1986, in the arena’s parking lot, comically documenting thousands of heavy metal fans as they partied before a Judas Priest concert (with special guests Dokken). (The parking lot itself was divided into four sections, with patriotic emblems, to aid patrons in remembering where they parked after an event: Liberty Bell, Capitol, Eagle and Stars and Stripes.)
Grateful Dead released two shows from their many at the arena; Dick’s Picks Volume 20 recorded on September 25, 1976 and Terrapin Station (Limited Edition) recorded on March 15, 1990 which was their bassist Phil Lesh’s 50th Birthday.
The Smashing Pumpkins played their last concert, with late touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, at the arena.
The arena also hosted family friendly events, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, Circus America and Ice Capades, as well as numerous graduation ceremonies for high schools in Prince George’s County.
Due to their overwhelming popularity in the African-American sections of Maryland and Washington D.C., Parliament-Funkadelic performed numerous sold out shows at the venue.
The venue was demolished in 2002.
Here are a few videos we found from this era to give you a sense of what it was like to be at the Capital Center. Rare Essence – Live at the Capital Center
We love this timely and well written piece by friend of the site, Dan Charnas.
It’s apt to commemorate the life and work of Adam Yauch under the auspices of SPIN.
The Beastie Boys, after all, were the first rap act to grace the cover of SPIN Magazine in the 1980s. It was a controversial milestone. SPIN set the tempo for a new American generation, and was one of the first mainstream publications to give respectful ink to hip-hop acts like Run-D.M.C. But it was the white rappers, the Beasties, who became a core representation of SPIN’s concept of cool — in part because they were deemed more accessible to SPIN’s readership; but also because they mirrored, in some honest ways, the curiosity and openness of those same readers.
Let us honor Adam Yauch, then, with a lesson: Cool comes from courage.
Yauch was not just a member of the Beastie Boys. He was part of a larger crew, a loose community of kids from the boroughs and suburbs of New York who converged on downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s and — in so doing — created a culture and a moment that presaged the next 30 years. Much of what we are, we owe to Yauch and those kids.
Yauch and his initial partners — Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond, and Kate Schellenbach — were city kids by birth, not by choice, in a time when being a city kid carried greater risk, but also afforded greater freedom. Much of lower Manhattan had been abandoned, leaving cavernous warehouses and theaters open for use as decrepit playgrounds. In these spaces, the floors great petri dishes of beer and bodily fluids, punk rock grew. These spots also received ambassadors from uptown, guys like “Fab 5″ Freddy Brathwaite and Michael Holman, who brought DJs and MCs downtown just as this thing called “hip-hop” received its name.
Yauch and his generation cross-pollinated punk, hip-hop, metal, and new wave — from the Roxy to the Mudd Club, from Save the Robots to the Latin Quarter — jaywalking across cultural boundaries without a roadmap, and perhaps most importantly, without self-consciousness. You can mark the veterans of this time because they have an unmistakable down-to-earth, eclectic, cosmopolitan air about them: Black folks who can recall a Clash concert in loving detail and white kids who were among the first to see Afrika Bambaataa get down on the wheels of steel.
You know some of their names: Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, the men who brought you Def Jam and everything that flowed through it — from LL Cool J to Kanye West. Some of them are more obscure, but no less crucial: Like Dante Ross, the friend of the Beasties who went on to shepherd acts like De La Soul, Brand Nubian, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard; or Peter Dougherty, a kid who taped punk and rap concerts for a living until he got a gig at MTV and launched the channel’s first rap show, Yo! MTV Raps; or Cey Adams, another friend and graffiti artist who ended up doing some of the most recognizable cover art and branding for the hip-hop generation; or Glen E. Freidman, whose photography first linked hip-hop and skater culture; or Def Jam employees Faith Newman and Lisa Cortes (Newman later signed a rapper named Nas, and Cortes became a producer of Oscar-winning films). These were the folks who, in many ways, not only made hip-hop possible, but made it possible for black artists and musicians to remain at the forefront of the genre, rather than the story ending with white co-optation. We don’t hear the word “Elvis” uttered in the same breath as “Beastie Boys.” The integrity of Yauch and his peers had a lot to do with that. Full Article.
Ok folks, we are alllll for being open about sexuality but this is a bit much, don’t you think? In this song, R&B soul singer, Brian McKnight talks about teaching a women how to use her female anatomy more effectively assuming, of course, that her past lovers couldn’t satisfy her as well as Bri could. Ok ok, we get the typical male braggadocio here, but are a bit disappointed in what appears to be a songwriter copping out. In addition, he mentions that she may not have known about one bodily function in particular….squirting! Wow… Really bruh? No disrespect intended Brian, but you can do better. Having begun your career with gospel sensation Take 6 20+ years ago, this brother has written some blockbuster love songs and to me, this tarnishes his image. It’s just unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong, very suggestive lyrics are nothing new but I really appreciate some of the classic love songs that talked about the act, but didn’t necessarily stoop to the level of outright vulgarity. Songs like Major Harris‘ “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” or Teddy Pendergrass‘ “Close the Door” clearly spelled out the singer’s intentions in a very adult manner. Even more risqué songwriters like Prince pushed the limits in songs like “Do Me Baby” but somehow it felt more artistic, especially lyrically. These artists told tales of seduction that made you think and in some cases, gave you instructions.
Fast forward to the 90′s style of more over the top, less nuanced lyrics and you have no-brainer classics like Silk’s “Freak Me” or R. Kelly‘s “Bump & Grind”. Sure, we…um…”danced” to these songs too, but it was not without wanting some of “that old thang back.” Even songs like 112′s ‘Candy Rain’ could have been misconstrued into something pretty XXX-rated but it wasn’t right in your face (no pun intended LOL!). Songs used to inspire passion and emotional connection. Nowadays, all we are left with many times are crudely (and lazily) written songs that lack the depth that we deserve and need.
Brian did mention in the video below that he had been talking to some friends and really wanted to do something for adults, an adult mixtape. Well, I am an adult, and quite frankly, I’m not too excited to hear a mixtape which features a song about women squirting. That said, the accompanying track did have some potential and showcases some strong melodies, which is great. We are hoping that someone close to him taps him on the shoulder and makes this turn out the right way.
So for this, I have to say BOOOOOO! THUMBS DOWN! Go back to the drawing board.
We are Prince addicts. Period. As such, we are constantly on the lookout for anything related to him, his music, related artists. Pretty much anything. So, when we came across Wax Poetics’ 50th issue celebrating the career of Prince, our knees became week. Sure, we already know the stories, having read several Prince biographies and also, well, having lived it in real time. However, our aforementioned addiction could not keep us away. One incredibly thorough piece of work was this article written (and reposted by permission) by Miles Marshall Lewis. Enjoy.
WARNING – This article is long, which is perfect for a nice Sunday read.
by Miles Marshall Lewis
The DJ at Le Réservoir spins nothing but 1980s vinyl loaded with LinnDrum beats and synthesizers for Parisians packing the smallish dance floor, but nobody minds. The NPG Party is the only fête in town where gorgeous French women gladly fall into step with the mechanized drum programming on Sheila E. rare grooves like “Too Sexy” and “Shortberry Strawcake.” The infectious blend of funk-rock, new wave, and R&B music once known as the Minneapolis Sound prepares everyone for tonight’s main event: Rad, featuring saxophonist Eric Leeds.
You see, Rad is an alumna of the New Power Generation, class of 2004. And Leeds famously spent years in the Revolution during the mid-’80s. Both groups have flanked Prince, architect of the Minneapolis Sound, stretching back over two decades (the Revolution from 1983–86; various lineups of the NPG from 1990 to now). So Rad—born Rose Ann Dimalanta—will be preaching to the converted this springtime Sunday night, having played keyboards in the NPG once upon a time.
Rad, a petite forty-year-old Filipina in a sleeveless sequined top with white slacks, stands center stage behind her bank of synths at the stroke of nine. Fronting a five-piece band, she powers through many original funk numbers from her own records for over an hour before dipping into the catalog of the man whose genius has been the purple elephant in the room through her whole show.
“Mutiny! I said I’m taking over,” Rad sings, atop James Brownish staccato horn blasts from Eric Leeds. “You gotta give up this ship. You should’ve been a little more hip.”
Tall, lanky, and bespectacled, suited in all black, fifty-seven-year-old Leeds eyes trombonist Greg Boyer (another NPG alum) as a quick signal before blowing the house down. Leeds approximates his own original solo from “Mutiny,” recorded back in late 1984 for the eponymously titled album of Prince protégé band the Family.
Known intimately by the dancing crowd at Le Réservoir, the Family is most familiar to the general public for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a ballad brought to the top of worldwide charts by Sinéad O’Connor in 1990. Nominally an R&B quintet, the Family stands tall in Prince lore for introducing live horns into the one-man-band’s musical output. The Family secretly features Prince undercover on every instrument except Eric Leeds’s saxophone and flute. The group was predictably short-lived, but not before inspiring Prince to create another pseudo band with himself secretly playing every instrument except Leeds’s sax and flute.
That band was the jazz-fusion outfit Madhouse. Drummer Billy Johnson strikes the opening fill to “Six,” and the crowd goes wild. At the lip of the stage, a dredlocked fan starts acting out with a French brunette, throwing up goofy Egyptian hieroglyphic hand gestures and shimmying around. Because if you paid twenty-five euros to see Eric Leeds play an intimate Parisian nightclub, Madhouse’s “Six” is the song you’ve been waiting all night long to hear. Sax and keyboard variations on one sinuous musical riff center “Six” in a funky, rhythmic groove; “Six” reached number five on Billboard’s Black Singles Chart in early 1987, the age of Beverly Hills Cop’s hit instrumental, “Axel F.”
Madhouse, for the relatively few paying attention, was one of those riddles wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that Churchill talked about. Every piece of the group’s cover art—two albums, three singles—featured only twenty-one-year-old Maneca Lightner, credited as the “Madhouse cover girl,” dressed in sexy polka-dotted outfits with a Yorkshire terrier. Lightner, it so happens, was dating Prince casually at the time. Warner Bros. Records released the band’s first album, 8, through Prince’s Paisley Park Records label on January 21, 1987, and the album credits made no mention of the band members. Those same credits claimed that 8 was recorded at Madhouse Studios in Pittsburgh, a studio that doesn’t exist.
The riddle-mystery-enigma went even deeper. Minnesota’s Star Tribune reviewed 8 the day after its release and presented Madhouse as the brainchild of Atlanta keyboardist Austra Chanel. The group, according to an official bio from publicist Howard Bloom, consisted of Chanel, drummer John Lewis, bassist Bill Lewis, and Eric Leeds. As you might gather by now, neither Chanel nor the Lewis brothers existed either, but nationwide newspapers and magazines began echoing the misinformation.
Warner Bros. delivered Madhouse’s 16 album on November 18, just ten months after 8, with bass player Levi Seacer Jr. and keyboardist Matt Fink added to the lineup, real-life musicians from Prince’s recent touring band for his Sign o’ the Times album. Stranger still, that two-month European tour featured Madhouse as the opening act with a slightly different lineup, essentially the 16 assemblage but with longtime Prince associate Dale Alexander on drums.
Prince was already infamous for this kind of playful deception. By 1987, he was notorious for writing effortless hit singles for others using flimsy pseudonyms. Nobody believed Christopher (of the Bangles’ “Manic Monday”) or Alexander Nevermind (Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls”) composed anything. Beginning with the Time and continuing with Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheila E., the Family, and Jill Jones, Prince was also legendary for writing and playing most everything on his protégés’ records. Madhouse marked the last time in Prince’s career that he ever would. (Subsequent Paisley Park acts—the Three O’Clock, Dale Bozzio, Tony LeMans, Taja Sevelle, Good Question, Carmen Electra—were, for better or worse, largely left to their own devices.) Never again would Prince go to such absurd lengths to pretend he had nothing to do with an act he wrote and played almost everything for.
Fans collect near the soundboard of Le Réservoir after the show, where Rad stands behind a table posing for photos, selling CDs, and autographing them. To the side is Eric Leeds, with his own display of solo albums: his début Times Squared, Things Left Unsaid, Now & Again. No Madhouse. Read more of this post
Although I did not grow up when Dr. Martin Luther King was still alive, I benefitted greatly from his non-violent movement and achievements as a powerful orator and community leader. Like many, I heard Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech throughout my years in school.
Growing up in a predominantly Black city ensured that I would see a image of Dr. King in every classroom and on the fans of every church. On this day, the day he was killed, let’s all try to take a moment of silence for this incredible leader who made an indelible impact on our lives and our future. Thank you Dr. King.
On April 4, 1968, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior was assassinated.
On April 3, King spoke to an audience at Bishop Charles J. Mason Temple making one of his many famous speeches saying, “But it really doesn’t matter with me now,” he declared, “because I’ve been to the mountaintop [and] I’ve seen the Promised Land.” He continued, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
He was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A white segregationist, James Earl Ray, was later convicted of the crime.
After her husband’s death, Coretta Scott King established the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change (also known as the King Center) to promote Kingian concepts of nonviolent struggle.
She also led the successful effort to honor her husband with a federally mandated King national holiday, which was first celebrated in 1986 Additionally, she and the King siblings successfully pursued a civil case in 1999 – King Family versus Jowers and Other Unknown Co-Conspirators (full transcript) – in which the jury concluded that King was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.
Here are a couple songs that instantly come to mind when thinking about Dr. King:
Sam Cooke – A Change Gonna Come
U2 – In the Name of Love
Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions – We’re a Winner
Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions – Keep on Pushin
We are so pleased to repost (by permission) this incredibly well-written article by Thembisa Mshaka, critically acclaimed author and music industry veteran. She recently wrote Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [Entertainment] Business, a thorough manual for anyone thinking or dreaming of getting into the entertainment business.
When we saw this commercial, we were disappointed and shocked for a myriad of reasons. We think back to previous ad fails like M.C. Hammer’s KFC commercials and wander what the thought process was behind the conception and execution of these spots, which puts the Burger King brand and the reigning Queen of Hip Hop Soul in a very bad light in our book. We cannot overemphasize our love for Mary, her music and past positive contributions, but this is not a good look.
Burger King is touting its new menu with celebrity ads featuring late night host Jay Leno, actor and director Salma Hayek, soccer icon David Beckham, and Mary J. Blige, the Grammy(r) winning Queen of Hip Hop Soul. The campaign centers around several new items including: a strawberry-banana smoothie, a garden fresh chicken salad, fried chicken strips, and a 3-cheese (again fried) chicken wrap with lettuce.
I’m posting all three spots here so you can watch them and then, I will break down 5 ways Mary got played, and how Burger King missed the mark.
Here’s Mary’s (it was blocked on YouTube but we found it anyway):
Leno and Black friend:
Salma’s commercial, which is in Spanish:
And smooth operator Beckham:
Top 5 Ways Mary Gets The Short End of the Chicken Strip
1. Attitude: of all the endorsers, Mary is the only one who is rude, terse, and invasive. She interrupts the store manager with a sound-check type mic squeal–from ATOP a restaurant table. Leno, Salma and Beckham have sweet, fun dispositions–and are ALL at the counter, like normal people. Mary appears out of nowwhere, mad for no reason, over the contents of a chicken wrap, which she proceeds to outline in a song where she’s not so much singing as belting.
2. Selling the unhealthiest item of them all: The statistics around heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension are downright catastrophic for African Americans, especially Black women, who relate directly to Mary. Unlike Leno and Hayek, who get to sell choices that include a smoothie and a salad, she is selling one product: the fried chicken wrap. This is not just stereotypical. It is the use of her well-constructed and hard-won brand to sell Burger King’s least healthy offering to her core audience. I almost wish there was a “please eat responsibly” tag at the end like alcohol ads have. I understand that chicken needs to be advertised like any other product, and that African Americans will do it, from known stars like MC Hammer for KFC to working actors like the Popeye’s pitchwoman. This one-note execution misses a huge opportunity for Mary to offer (or exercise) choice, which is more problematic than the selling of chicken in general.
3. Use/Misuse/(Abuse?) of Talent: Salma Hayek gets to showcase her versatility as an actor; humorous, sultry, even nerdy. Leno gets to be his snarky self, but remains in control throughout his spot, down to literally driving through the location while his Magical Negro holds his meal.
(Oh you didn’t get the memo? Magical Negroes don’t need food; they have their consciences to sustain them and the members of the dominant group they accommodate).
David Beckham doesn’t have to use his talent as an athlete at all! No soccer gear, no kicking a ball at the counter. He gets to be gorgeous and hypnotic for men and women alike. Mary? She has to sing her way through the commercial after busting in on it.
She doesn’t get to be her witty, honest, wise-beyond-her-years, confident self. She doesn’t even get to perform before a throng of an audience in the location’s parking lot block-party style. She’s got a crowd of about five halfway enjoying the song–because it’s terrible. Where was the well-crafted song about this product, written and or produced by anyone from Pharrell to Stevie Wonder? This whole scene flies directly in the face of Blige’s power and appeal. Speaking of power and appeal:
4. Poor positioning: this ad makes Mary look out of place, uncool, desperate. Attributes I would have been hard pressed to associate with her until now. You mean to tell me that wide, gray Jay Leno looks cooler than MJB, the *only* woman who can say she’s sung with Biggieand Bono, in this campaign?
Mary J. Blige has been a great pitchwoman in several categories: beauty (Carol’s Daughter), automotive (Chevy), and telecom (T-Mobile). All very stylish, elegant representations of a woman who knows and respects herself–and demands as much from the world. All with great uses of her own recorded music; no tired awkward jingles. This commercial feels like something an artist does to get back in the game–but she’s already at the top of hers.
As someone who has written commercial campaigns and done shoots with Beyonce’, Lauryn Hill, and Queen Latifah, I can’t see any of them positioning themselves similarly in a commercial at the heights of their careers and brand value to a corporation. This is not to say they were not pitchwomen: Latifah voiced Pizza Hut commercials and is a Cover Girl. Lauryn Hill wore Levi’s throughout her world tour for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Beyonce’ shook her booty for Pepsi and DirecTV. But all of these moves had a context and ultimately made them look good–or at least like they were in control. Artists at this level shut down creative like this at script phase. This move by Mary has me scratching and shaking my head.
5. Not A Good (Style) Look: A 20-year veteran of music, Mary J. Blige is well beyond style missteps. She has set innumerable style trends, from combat boots in the ’90s to blond wigs in the new millennium. She gave women permission to flaunt their tattoos, bare a gold-capped tooth, uncover facial scars–and still be beautiful.
She made round-the way girls feel like high fashion shades and luxurious apparel was their birthright.
So why–and I want to be diplomatic here because I adore and am inspired by Mary–why is Mary calling to mind wardrobe from the musical Grease in 2012? I honestly thought this was a spoof when I saw it for the first time, largely because of her wardrobe and hair. Mary is a maven, posing at the intersection of street and couture. Except in this commercial.
These observations raise a larger issue: the tone-deaf representation of Black women in advertising. The perpetuation of the stank, sassy, abrasive but entertaining ‘soul sista’ doesn’t reflect who Black women really are: women concerned about their health; parents making food choices for their children; consumers who spend with brands that understand and connect authentically with them. Had Mary outlined the choices from the menu and chosen the chicken wrap from the drive-through in her Maybach, then hummed with joy at the taste of it, I might not be so salty.
Burger King and Mary J. Blige missed a grand opportunity for an #AdWIN here.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves last weekend at the EMP Pop Conference held at our alma mater, NYU’s Kimmel Center. We saw loads of folks we knew and several we wanted to meet. And while we didn’t get the chance to check out the lunch session about Prince, we are fortunate that they did publish an article related to the presentation of Columbia University doctoral candidate Zaheer Ali. So check out this abstract of his paper and interesting related article on artists that were influenced by the Prince sound.
“MPLS (Minneapolis): As Site and Sound”
By his 1982 release 1999, Prince had consolidated all the sonic elements that would come to be known as the “Minneapolis sound”—a genre-bending mix of thick layered R&B horn synths, funk bass lines and “chicken scratch” guitar, New Wave electronic rhythms, and searing rock guitar solos. With the success of his 1984 follow up album and film Purple Rain, and the proliferation of his productions through protégé acts like The Time, Apollonia 6, and Sheila E., the Minneapolis sound began to inspire a range of productions by non-Minneapolis-based artists like Flint, Michigan’s Ready for the World and New York’s Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam. Yet, for Prince—the most successful artist to be identified with the Minneapolis sound and arguably its pioneer—Minneapolis figured as more than a sound, but as a site of production, one to which he has been fiercely loyal. Against the advice of industry insiders, Prince built his recording studio complex Paisley Park in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen; and while he spent time recording in Los Angeles or New York, he reflects ambivalence to those locales in songs like “Big White Mansion” and “Dream Factory.”
This paper examines the historical emergence of Minneapolis as both a musical subgenre and as a place—a site of music production and an imaginary represented in the music of Prince. The story of the Minneapolis sound is partly the story of local music scenes, fostered by local-based radio programmers, venues that catered to local acts, and a healthy rivalry among local bands; but it is also the story of the geographic isolation and insulation of a relatively small population of black culture workers with limited access to the kinds of black urbanity that were more easily accessible in larger cities. The paper will close by pondering the state of Minneapolis–as site and sound–and look at recent attempts to preserve the local integrity of its musical culture.
Two Paper Presentation: Prince, bizarrely, apart from a few things here and there, has never been the subject of the sort of sustained academic or crticial inquiry bestowed on artists of comparable musical and cultural importance. Our presentations seek to join the nascent wave of Prince scholarship in correcting this oversight by exploring Prince’s music in light of the conference themes and in so doing model new approaches to him and his work.
In the mid-1980s, if you tuned in to radio, especially black radio, within the hour you would be hard pressed to not hear a song featuring synthesized horns, funk bass lines, choppy rhythm guitar, New Wave-inspired electronic rhythms, and/or even searing guitar solos. All these sonic elements were brought to the forefront of rhythm and blues thanks in large part to Prince, whose 1982 release 1999 had consolidated these elements into what would come to be known as the “Minneapolis sound.” With the success of his 1984 follow up album and film Purple Rain, and the proliferation of Prince’s productions through protégé acts like The Time, Apollonia 6, and Sheila E., the Minneapolis sound began to inspire a range of productions by other Prince associates and non-Minneapolis-based artists as well, such as Flint, Michigan’s Ready for the World and even New York’s Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam, as record companies scrambled to capitalize on the latest trend. In order to understand exactly what the Minneapolis sound is, it is best to review some songs that exemplify the style. Since Prince’s publishing company has aggressively policed youtube and other internet sites for unlicensed broadcasting of his music, it is fairly difficult to find archival video clips of his music that have longevity online. (My co-panelist, Matt Thomas will explore Prince’s changing relationship to the internet.) As such, here are ten songs by artists other than Prince who incorporated the Minneapolis sound into their work. What better way to illustrate the impact and reach the sound had anyway?
1. The Pointer Sisters, “Automatic” (1984)
Besides sharing the same title as a song on Prince’s 1999 album released two years earlier, the Pointer Sisters’s “Automatic” also shares some key elements of the Minneapolis sound and style: synth horns and electronic drums contrasted by choppy rhythm guitar. Further, the lead female vocal sung in her lower register delivered with robotic cadence references not only the kind of afro-futurism represented in Prince’s work, but the way he too chose in contrast to sing most of his work (his first three albums) in his falsetto. Prince’s “Lavaux,” from his 2010 release “20Ten” seemingly references the melody of the Pointer Sister’s “Automatic,” bringing the Minneapolis sound references full circle.
2. Teena Marie, “Lovergirl” (1984)
Teena Marie opened for Prince during his “Dirty Mind” tour in 1980; and she was a long-time musical companion of Prince-rival Rick James, for whom Prince had opened earlier during James’s “Fire It Up Tour.” Already a trailblazer in her own right, Marie’s “Lovergirl” exhibited both the synths and electric guitar associated with the Minneapolis sound (the song’s opening echoes the drum openings of both “1999” and “Automatic”), and would go on to become her biggest pop hit. As a white artist successful in R&B, she also represented the same kind of challenges to racial stereotypes in music that Prince was attempting with his multi-racial band.