This is a set of soul and funk tunes that Mr. Weatherall span on many an occasion, songs that I hold super close and dear. Most of them treading a fine line between euphoria and melancholia. All of them dealing with drugs, altered states of mind, either fucking sky high or crashing, hard. Stoned, psychedelic, maybe not so elegantly wasted. Stoked with gris-gris, and sharp social commentary. Eldridge Cleaver`s Soul On Ice. Calls for transcendence, freedom from a current reality. Of habits, heartbreak, and other associated “baggage”. All of which I can personally relate to.
When I first found Funkadelic, I thought that they were just totally deranged. I mean, was there anybody else out there quite like them? There’s an early clip of the band “testifying”, on Soul Train, or a Soul Train-like TV show, where George Clinton’s in purple dungarees, sporting a mohawk, and rolling around, in “rapture”, on the floor.
“Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” they chant here, on Andrew`s selection, from those 1993 Kiss FM broadcasts, surrounded by a warped wall of effects and distortion, Eddie Hazel`s very singular guitar droning like Jimi Hendrix shredding The Star Spangled Banner. The organ vamp is the sole vestige of anything like traditional R&B left intact.
“The kingdom of Heaven is within.”
Well, we know that god is love, and it took me forever to realize that you can`t love anybody `til you learn to love yourself – otherwise you’ll only torture, bully, and drive away those dearest to you with your self-doubt and hate.
By the mid-90s I`d been forced to give up the gear, and was seriously seeking, trying to find, that transcendence, without the short-cuts, through music alone. I`d start everyday with Maggot Brain, and you know, I’m of a generation that thought the Jesus And Mary Chain invented feedback. There’s something about the noise that poor Eddie makes, thats so life-affirming. Full of pain, it`s a scream fighting to be free. It plugs me in, charges me up, makes me feel stronger.
From the Black Notebooks comes Blood, Sweat & Tears` I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know. A blues, a sort of secular gospel. A late night lonely drinker, kept company by nostalgia and regret. Finally turned triumphant by a big brass section. Almost everything in those notebooks could be classified or considered “soul”. They contain music across genres that captures unique, special, moments of artists engaged in expressions of raw emotion. There’s something pure and honest about the songs Andrew selected. They are grounded in a very human ache – taken together they’re the stuff of a Youtube vigil where you wake up on the floor, the bottle next to you empty.
Isaac Hayes` symphonic deconstruction / reconstruction of Bacharach And David`s Walk On By was one of the pieces of The Music That Made Screamadelica. Opulent, indulgent, extravagant, epic, and way over the top, it broke new ground back in 1969, as it definitely demonstrated that funk and soul didn’t have to be limited to 2 to 3 minute songs. It opened up all sorts of possibilities and feels like a “fuck you”, a two-fingered salute, to the status quo. The album, Hot Buttered Soul, was sampled by folks such as Tricky and Massive Attack, and its ambitious arrangements were a clear influence on Primal Scream – just listen to those flutes. Its mix of acid guitar and orchestral strings must surely have also had an impact on Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Vannier`s similarly seminal, Histoire De Melody Nelson. It sounds to me that the seemingly sex-obsessed Hayes set out to record the perfect love-making score, as its 12 minutes come to a mad, crazy, Hammond B3 climax.
Chairman Of The Board’s Skin I’m In was another album that Bobby Gillespie was apparently obsessed with around the the recording of Primal Scream`s own era-defining LP. I bought a battered copy, from Reckless on Islington`s Upper Street, when I was busy sobering up and reinventing myself. Broadening my musical horizons beyond Balearic beats and teutonic trance. The mantra of Life & Death In G & A sums up the spiraling hedonism of 1990 / 1991 as I span out of control (1).
“If it feels good, it`s alright!”
Fuck the consequences.
Sly Stone-penned, it`s a great grinding groove, timbales and cowbells, guttural wah-wah growl, and assisted by guest appearances from Funkadelic`s Eddie Hazel and Billy “Bass” Nelson. If you start at the track, Morning Glory, it becomes a soaring, ascending, suite that’s the aural equivalent of couple of quick lines of Peruvian personality enhancer.
Andrew played Bobby Womack`s Across 110th Street on Kiss, but I first saw the song name-checked by the Chemical, then still the Dust, Brothers – I think in Jockey Slut. The magazine used to run a column called something like “Do Us A Tape”. I didn’t actually get to own a copy on vinyl until Quentin Tarantino put it on the Jackie Brown soundtrack, in 1997 (2). Tethered to a terrific, hypnotic guitar line just tumbles in free fall, the words, once more score my own shenanigans – that film that screened in my head. “I knew there was a better way”, “You don’t what you’ll do until you’re put under pressure”…The line “Pushers won’t let the junkie go free”, never, never, never fails to send a shiver down my spine. It honestly ruins me, and I’m not exactly sure why, but obviously I need therapy. Perhaps it`s the knowledge that I`m both predator and prey. That there’s no one else to blame but me.
William Bell swaps his standard Stax 6-string for a Coral Electric Sitar on Fifty Dollar Habit – a tune from the riot on wheels that was the Screamadelica Tour Bus. Man, I scoured every second-hand record store for this, for so, so long. Are the backing girls really singing “Skag” in harmony?
Home Is Where The Hatred Is dates back to that infamous Christmas Eve Kiss FM session where Andrew was joined (and led astray?) by Bobby G. Nobody sung this joint like Gil Scott-Heron – who wrote, and lived, its searing, stark confessional – but it was Esther Phillips who had the hit. When Esther explains, “Where the needle marks try to heal my broken heart”, I’m at it again. Catching my breath, welling up, something in my eye.
Despite being a tried and tested old school “Ultimate” break and beat, Johnny Jenkins` bottleneck blues rattle through Dr. John`s Walk On Gilded Splinters is something that I`ll always associate with Andrew (3). Raising some righteous voodoo, to repel ghosts, and any other fucker who fancied a pop, it was a call-to-arms for caners and crazies. Yeah, sure, we filled our brains with poison, you better believe it, as if doing so was a Balearic Beat rite of passage, Acid House’s red badge of courage. Thinking in our youth, that we were indestructible, immortal even. Trying to cheat death by staring it straight in the face. Trying to convince ourselves, and everyone else, that we were special (4).
Curtis Mayfield`s Think, from the Superfly flick, is another beauty from The Scream`s tour bus, something that Andrew admitted on air had made him cry when he`d dug it out.
Then to close, The Delfonics pose the question, Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time? To which the answer is, of course, yes. This time, every time. Yes.
(1) I think G & A refers to the song`s chords.
(2) The score also contains The Delfonics` Didn`t I Blow Your Mind This Time, which is another piece of Music That Made Screamadelica.
(3) Beck, and even Oasis, sampled it.
(4) Trust me when I tell ya, that no one who caned it came out unscathed. Everyone paid a price. Still I shouldn’t have screamed and shouted “Bring it on!”, if I was gonna cry about it afterward.
Funkadelic – Free Your Ass And Your Mind Will Follow
Blood Sweat & Tears – I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
Isaac Hayes – Walk On By
Chairman Of The Board – Life & Death In G&A
Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street
William Bell – Fifty Dollar Habit
Esther Phillips – Home Is Where The Hatred Is
Johnny Jenkins – Walk On Gilded Splinters
Curtis Mayfield – Think
The Delfonics – Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time?