Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love Pts 1&2

Example

 

Listen – Super Duper Love Pt1 MP3″

Listen - Super Duper Love Pt2 MP3″

Greetings all.

It’s Thursday night, the end of the week is nigh and I feel like crashing out and snoring for an hour or eight (or nine, or twelve).
I hope you’ve all been digging the Nola Soul mix, especially since Mardi Gras is right around the corner and all that and we can all send our good vibes down that way for a city and its people that’ll be on the mend for some time.
Today’s selection(s) is both halves of a very fine 45, that if you’re a real soulie may be an old fave, and if not may still be vaguely familiar. If you fall into the latter group, you probably first heard the song (but not the record) a few years back, being delivered by the young Joss Stone.
In 2003, Stone, then a 16 year old UK born “prodigy” dropped on the scene with an LP composed largely of soul gold, in which she was aided and abetted by a who’s who of Florida soul, including Little Beaver, Betty Wright and Timmy Thomas. Despite a large helping of PR jive that would have had you believe that Stone had erupted fully formed like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, sui generis, all bare feet, patchwork jeans and dewy sex appeal, what the listener basically ended up with was Mandy Moore with a slightly better class of mix tape.
Though I hesitate to lay the blame for this entirely at Stone’s feet (she was after all only 16), it’s hard not to see her “launch” as anything more than another crass reach for the wallets (and maybe ears) of the “hipsters” (a major pejorative if ever there was one) of the world, especially in light of the fact that she seems to have dropped the ‘vintage soul’ thang like a bad habit in the few years since her debut.
The consumers – led around largely by a suggestibility born out of a chronic inability to know better – were fed another product, not all that different from the assembly line pap that regularly jams up the pop charts, except that this time out the provenance – obscure, but classic soul – was supposed to elevate it. Unfortunately what we ended up with was soul music from a machine in which the ne plus ultra was programmed in not as say Gladys Knight, or Aretha Franklin, but rather Dusty Springfield, i.e. soul music delivered via a system in which the real thing is felt to be too strong a brew, and the listener is then asked to bypass soul, for that which is merely soul-ful.
The truly insidious aspect of it all is that Stone’s LP was put together with just enough of an eye toward “cred” that all of the rockcrit types to whom names like Laura Lee, Betty Wright and maybe (just maybe) Little Beaver and Timmy Thomas might be familiar would be taken aback by this wunderkind and her surprisingly mature taste in soul would then feel compelled to let the world in on their “find”. Those that didn’t have enough background to appreciate the obscurities were provided with yet another bit of hipster-bait, that being the White Stripes cover, removed from its frantic origins and miscast as a nu-soul groover.
So, what does this all have to do with anything?
Well, reflecting on Stone ties into my recent, slow, painful and ongoing reappraisal of Janis Joplin, especially as an interpreter of soul.
I have said some unkind things about Joplin over the years, mainly due to my own purists anger at a success built on covers of classic soul that I felt (and generally still do feel) were by and large inferior to the source material.
However – and this is a big however – while digging out a selection of Howard Tate *covers (those being tunes originally recorded by Tate, all written by Jerry Ragavoy) I found myself listening to Janis Joplin’s studio and live recordings of ‘Get It While You Can’, and I found myself digging her approach to the song very much.
I think the problem is that for years, especially after discovering singers that Joplin had covered, like Erma Franklin and Howard Tate, I resented being fed rocked up “soul” wailing when the real thing was so readily accessible. I grew up enveloped in the “classic rock” (before that term was coined) hegemony, which by its very nature insisted in a way that source material (especially by black artists) be considered somehow archaic and could only be listed to, nay appreciated when redone by rock singers. This was the case in 1964 when the Beatles were selling us/US Arthur Alexander, in 1968 when Joplin was covering Tate and in the early 70’s when the J. Geils Band were digging up/digging on the Marvelows**.
By the time I was a young adult, and becoming aware of – and falling in love with – the original versions of so many of these songs, I experienced a type of internal backlash in which my personal tastes underwent a kind of divestiture, in which rock versions of R&B/soul material were immediately and angrily cast aside in favor of the originals (which in virtually all cases were superior). That I wore this as kind of a badge of pride is a testament not only to my deep and abiding love for soul music, but I now have to admit also somewhat to my own immaturity.
Though I may have taken my Led Zeppelin CDs to the resale counter lo those many years ago, so that I might be alone to meditate upon Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters discs, I know now almost 20 years hence that although I was probably correct in drawing a qualitative line between raw originality and regurgitation, I was ignorant of the fact that that regurgitation is not only the natural way of the world, but a necessary part of the continuum. This is not to say that Jimmy Page ought to have been ripping whole chunks out of Robert Johnson songs and building upon them as if they were his own (the musical equivalent of copying your term paper from the encyclopedia), but rather that borrowing and reinterpretation – in moderation – were going on in the Misissippi Delta in 1935 as much as they were in the UK in 1970, and I probably oughtn’t let myself be so bothered by it all. I’m still in a place where I draw a firm line between the real thing and the imitation, but I’m now able to listen (most of the time anyway) to both.
Which brings us back to Janis.
The main reason that I’ve started to find my way around to Janis Joplin is that over time I’ve been able to do two things. First and foremost, I’ve been able to separate Joplin from the hype that surrounds all dead rock legends, but especially her. Listening to the three LPs that form the core of her discography – divorced from the Mardi Gras beads, ostrich feathers and booze that have been stapled to them for the past three and a half decades – is, if not a revelation, a decidedly new experience. Second, I’ve stopped trying to judge Joplin as a soul singer (which she was not).
Joplin traveled from Port Arthur, Texas to San Francisco in the early days of the freak flag, a folk blues singer. When she got to SanFran, and fell in with Big Brother, the juxtaposition of her wail against that of Sam Andrew’s guitar created one of the signature sounds of the age. Her need to channel Big Mama Thornton collided with the acid zeitgeist, and while the end result may have been impossibly sloppy/chaotic by current standards, it was also a good deal more real than what we are accustomed to.
While Joplin may have been fed material by a variety of sources, she was, by virtue of the willingness, or blindness of the record industry able to bounce wildly between vibes, combining raw freaky rock with blues and yes, even soul. The end result was that over a very short career, in which she was rarely able to keep it together, Joplin managed to combine raw emotion with a powerful and difficult to control instrument, and when these elements intersected she made music with real soul (if not entirely real soul music, if you get what I mean). This is not to say that her discography isn’t rife with screamy overkill – which Joplin’s audience seemed to want from her and she was more than willing to provide – but that I’ve come to the point where I realize that it clearly isn’t all that way.
Listening to Janis Joplin work it out on ‘Get It While You Can’, you hear not a crass attempt to cash in on authenticity, but rather an honest attempt to bring something new to a great song. The bottom line is, that as an interpreter of soul material Joplin was real, and Joss Stone is not.
Where all this rumination leads us is to both sides of Sugar Billy’s 1974 original recording of ‘Super Duper Love’. A supremely funky slice of soul, sounding a few years earlier (or rawer) than the 1974 copyright would suggest. Not much is known about Sugar Billy/Willie Garner other than he seems to have hailed from Detroit, where he laid down a couple of funky scorchers for Dave Hamilton on the New Day label in 1971. He recorded an entire albums worth of material for the FastTrack label in 1974, and then promptly disappeared.
I love the groove on this tune, and I felt it necessary to include both parts if only to get a little more of that sweet guitar playing (anyone know who that is??).
Either way, it’s a fantastic record, gritty, soulful and unlike the cover, entirely too strong a quaff for college girls to vibe on while tagging potential suitors with body glitter.
Have a great weekend.
Peace
Larry

* I’m especially digging versions of ‘Stop’ by the James Gang and Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills 

**Though in most of these cases, as with the cast majority of the UK R&Beat bands that introduced the sounds of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker to a white audience that was largely ignorant of those artists, the covering was done out of reverence, not calculation.

About these ads

23 Responses to “Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love Pts 1&2”

  1. Dinesh Allirajah Says:

    Larry, a resounding amen to that, and that’s without getting started on the entire Simply Red catalogue, or – Jeeesus! – the fact that Cher’s version of It’s In His Kiss means that Betty Everett’s, vibes break in the middle and all, is now consigned to the shadows. I first read about Joss Stone in a review by Charles Shaar Murray, whose book Crosstown Traffic about Hendrix was something of a sacred text to me in the 1990s when I was trying to convince everyone about the blues, jazz and funk content in Jimi’s music. So the Deep Soul credentials he posted onto Stone’s early work got me interested – obviously until I heard her. As you say, what seems to have happened is that a bunch of critics have had their record collections flattered and wanted us to know about it – a bit like Christopher Hitchens and his pro-war stance. Pity the music itself got caught in the crossfire, but thanks for pointing us back to the source.

  2. JRoot Says:

    Great writing about Janis Joplin. I had a similar experience of displeasure with Janis Joplin based almost exclusively on the “oh-my-god Janis Joplin was SO soulful and awesome” hippie kids I grew up with in Eugene, OR. My reaction to their overbearing embrace was to eschew her music (ditto Led Zeppelin, ditto Grateful Dead). In the intervening decades, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Janis’ core discography fairly closely in headphones on commutes, and I’ve been pleased. It’s not the same as listening to Erma Franklin, but it doesn’t have to be. And liking one does not mean disrespecting the other. I haven’t been quite as successful in rehabilitating Led Zeppelin or the Grateful Dead, but that’s not to say I’ll quit trying. I just won’t try very hard. If I have to try, it’s probably not worth it.

  3. Ray Lawton Says:

    Very interesting stuff about Janis Joplin. I still think Cheap Thrills is one
    of the best albums ever – from the thrilling Combination Of The Two to
    the splendid version of Summertime -a stone classic. Soul ? maybe not -
    but great nevertheless.Hopefully we can all keep our ears open to quality
    and not let bias reject music out of hand.
    By the way thanks for your excellent website and MP3s.

  4. Jeff Says:

    I must confess that the J. Geils covers of the early to mid-70s were my introduction to some of that classic R&B. And I must confess that I still am only now learning about some of the original artists. Late to the party as usual, but better late then never. You are right that J. Geils’ covers were done out of respect for the originals.

  5. Vincent Says:

    That was some very good insight about Joplin. And don’t forget her reading of Garnet Mimms’ “Cry Baby”, which not so oddly enough was done with better results by Natalie Cole on her 1978 live album. That’s one you might want to reassess as well. Joss Stone on the other hand is relatively good at what she does in my opinion, given the countless Adult Alternative acts out there trying to jump on some deep soul revival bandwagon. And she did have some real heavyweights on her side as you mentioned. Since I am one of the many who have never heard the original Super Duper, I am looking forward to it now. Thank you once again. And just for the record, I myself pulled out that very same James Gang record the other day. The jam in the middle is pretty funky.

  6. Dinesh Allirajah Says:

    I’d take gutsy and reverential soul made over as rock (like Joplin and the Stones, but The Small Faces would be my personal template) above the dials-turned-down, checkbox-ticking dinner party soul of which Joss Stone is but one contemporary example. And it’s true that part of the problem is the way we allow ourselves to listen to the hype – would I be more sympathetic to Corinne Bailey Rae now if I hadn’t been listening out for a young British Billie Holiday in the first place?

  7. mike Says:

    I think I’m still in the internal-backlash-white-R&B-cover phase. Only in the last few years have I heard the original “I Do,” “You’re No Good,” “I Know I’m Losing You,” “Tainted Love,” etc…and all I can think is: how could the covers be so devoid of energy and spirit? (I do like Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” but that’s because of the videogame-style production and Marc Almond’s vocals.) Your blog is a big part of this re-evaluation.

  8. Alejandro Says:

    I have to disagree in some respect about guys like The Beatles. These people were not just imitators, they truly loved the music and were playing it out of pure respect and awe. They worked the music as very young men and that was the starting point of something alltogether grander. There was a feeling of true discovery by these bands. And in some respect , some of the Beatles Motown covers are better than the originals. Examples? You really got a hold on me.

  9. funky16corners Says:

    Alejandro
    I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I wasn’t blaming the Beatles (in fact I know they loved the artists they covered, especially folks like Arthur Alexander), but suggesting that the audience (in which I was including myself) was hearing funk and soul largely second-hand, via covers by rock artists.
    Larry

  10. Rundfunk Says:

    [...] dan Joss Stones’ uitvoering, check: Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love Pt 1 of de volledige post hier. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI [...]

  11. Billy K Says:

    A really well-written, thoughtful rumination. Kudos as usual, Mr. Grogan. I grew up simliarly immersed in “Classic Rock,” and I myself am still in “backblash” mode. I frankly hope I never come around to the likes of Joplin.

    But God Bless J. Geils Band. My Dad and Uncles loved them, and I grew up loving “I Do.” Imagine my shock and joy when I discovered the (superior) original.

  12. What is Fufu Stew? « Fufu Stew Says:

    [...] cd. It’s easy and cheap enough to get another, y’know? I have to allude to Mr. Grogan’s post from last week by saying that this song pretty much puts the whole story of Janis Joplin into [...]

  13. Hooray, back in business!!! « Fufu Stew Says:

    [...] that is Howard Tate. I just learned about him through eMusic and of course, Larry (Notice the Janis Joplin reference again). Well to make a long story even longer, I want to share this new mix with you. [...]

  14. Dave Says:

    Sugar-Billy was a great man. In the later years he worked hard as a brick and stone layer in Memphis, TN. He was a family man, very modest and a symbol of goodness for young people to look up to. His wife Ruby is also a great person. She and he made the perfect couple.

    Thanks Joss for bringing back the joy of music back to Sugar Billy (a.k.a. Willie Garner). I still remember the day his eyes lit up and the expression of excitement on his face when he told me you were recording Super-Duper Love.

    Sugar Billy has many other songs, some of which I was able to find on the internet. I recommend to anyone who might be interested to seek them out and enjoy.

  15. Dave J. Says:

    Larry, been away for a while unfortunately so only catching up on your February (March… April .. and yep, May) vinyl treasures now. Some F16 groupie i am, eh?!

    First introduction to this sublime groove myself was Joss Stone upon its initial release (being from Ireland myself it was on regular rotation on MTV Europe)and was all giddy with joy that quite possibly the commercial music industry wasn’t in such of a mess (as regards soul music) these days, than maybe we’d all been lead to suffer through. But yeah… sophomore slump’s a b*tch, Jo’.

    If you love this cut so much I’m sure you’ve been bathed with the delights of Aretha’s cover of The Young Rascal’s transcendental “Groovin’” (from the Lady Soul LP). Dude, if you or anyone who digs Sugar Billy’s cut ain’t heard this i highly recommend checking it out. Much more mellow a tune obviously but that same recognisably kickin’ bass groove and tanfastic guitar line and to boot, you’ve got well… Madame Siren herself in her prime. Watch those rocks, kids!

  16. St. Rock Says:

    On the album sleeve (Sugar Billy – “Super Duper Love”, Fast Track Records, 1975) these are the credits for the guitarists:
    Lead Guitar: Sugar Billy
    Rhythm Guitar: Guy Paterson
    Bass Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Percussion: Frank Bryant

    If you still wanna know now you do,

    -Steen

  17. Knox Says:

    Hey,

    Just want to say a massive THANK YOU for this. I just sent the below mail to a friend, and then after a few searches (I was sure I wasn;t imaging things!) I found this. Thank you also for the MP3s of the original – so amazing to listen to. I think I will now go the way of checking out some original soul, funk etc, as well as some of the artists you’ve mentioned who’ve ‘reinterpreted’ (or just plain covered) original stuff (eg, although I have a Janis Joplin album at home, I’ve listened to very little of her stuff).

    Thanks once again.

    Knox x

    ps – the mail to my friend:

    “I’m possibly just hearing things, but…
    Body: I was listening to some Aretha Franklin on YouTube just now, and heard her singing ‘Groovin’

    and it just made think of something else. It was the part that starts ‘I can’t imagine anything that’s better’ – the third line. Then I realised. It was this:

    Joss Stone’s Super Duper Love. Now, is this a well documented fact, and I’m just beng typically slow, ‘last to know’ sort of thing; or has she just totally ripped the melody of that song, and no-one’s noticed?

    Answers on a postcard.

    w xx “

  18. devil dick Says:

    too funy, i was going to post this 45 new years morning and googled it and you are the very 1st thing that comes up! Of course you did this one already! You are the Master!
    Cheers & Happy New Year!
    DD

  19. funky16corners Says:

    Hey T! Happy New Year to you guys too!
    I guess it’s a testament to how long I’ve been at this that I pop up at the top of a bunch of soul and funk related Google searches. I’m a regular Obi Wan Ke-Soul 45…
    L

  20. devil dick Says:

    i’m not worthy!!!
    Keep schooling me!
    Hope you don’t mind i linked you up (& fixed the link!)
    Cheers!

  21. funky16corners Says:

    Of course I don’t mind! Carry on!
    L

  22. Friday Recycling: Lorraine Ellison - Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) « Funky16Corners Says:

    [...] and I hope you dig it. Though this piece includes some unkind words for Janis Joplin, see this post from a little further down the line for a reappraisal of [...]

  23. kenneth willis Says:

    I was under hiawath records with leonard jones produces sugar billy.he made some money bought a taxi cab co in fla or ga.

Comments are closed.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers

%d bloggers like this: