James Brown

James Brown

Most of the post-embryonic kiddies are like, like the 60s girl group the Poni-tails, in that they were “Born Too Late” to know the gospel / blues / R & B Soul Brother sound of the first ten years of this REAL King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and know him solely (and soully) from his “Funk” and / or “Disco” era and that sucks even more than “Disco Sucked and still does! It’s not that he wasn’t still good, it’s just wasn’t as deep as his early stuff and soon became more or less like a Lost Vegas style of show-biz show–short, tight and overly slick, if you get my spin on this spun out soul spinster as he got his nose into some bad white (powder) drugs. Like PCP was NOT P.C.

The 1966 Olympia footage is to tie die for even though tie dyes didn’t yet exist in ’66 which is Okeh because film is all in black and white anyhow. The band is black and the all the teenage Parisites sitting (wtf?) in their seats are waaaaaayyyyy too white, but diggin’ it the best they can and they really can, Can Can. The Frogs were the first Euro-peons to flip their collective wigs over black music when they got to dig Lt. James Reese Europe’s 369th Infantry Band, known for the hell of it as “The Hellfighters,” which if you think about it is a helluva good name for this fighting ragtime band that learned to rag and fight on the streets of Harlem.

Europe hit Europe, France in 1918, hit a strong downbeat and batted his baton down on his big black band, whereupon they launched into a rippin’ ragtime take on W.C. Handy’s ‘ “Memphis Blues.” which was nothin’ like anything much of anybody “Over There” ever had pounding on and in their ear drums before. In 1918, this was Rock ‘n’ Roll.  This got to somadeeze dere Limeys, and a few moruvdeese doughboys from the you-knighted states –but the Frenchys got it, bought it, caught it and sought it inside and out, for the duration of not jest little ol’ WWI, but like forever, so far. Inspired by the music of Harlem’s finest, the allies ragged and raged their way eastward, in front and at the front and soonerooney,  triumphed W.C. Handily over the Heines kickin’ them in the hind end and takin’ a piece of the Rhine, which was like pretty much the Kaiser’s End Zone, but the begin-zone for black music in La Marsellaiseville land.

In the 1967 Olympia Theater show, you can catch the transition from soul to funk (in fronta some female frogs, no less) and his desperate attempt to crossover to the main-scream pop song market in the vein of Frank ‘n Steinnatra and Tony Bent-tit. Though he never crossed even over the double yellow line with the geriatric adulterous mainscream crowd of his era, he did leave some great takes on a precious little pile of cool pop standards. Of course the first “not-my generation” of Rock ‘n’ Rollers almost all did pop standards, live, if not on records. They all came out of a culture where old school pop (NOT Michael Jackson) was the dominant style of music and R ‘n R was the new kid on the (auction) block, especially over the issue of black recording artists / slaves.

When St. James wanted to download some of his royalties from King Sid, it was like Nathan shakin’ in the direction of his pockets so he split from the Cincin-natty-dread King which led to a short stint on the Smash label, which was “Out of Sight,” for about a minute until the lawyers started linin’ up against him, which set him back.   This Smash single did help him hip a lot of young white baby boomers boys and baby boomer babes once this single crossed over onto the white top 40 radio stations.  It was easily the blackest sounding side on the teenage radar in 1964.