Billy Preston – Outta Space

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Mr. Billy Preston

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Listen -Billy Preston – Outta Space – MP3″

Greetings all.

How’s things in your corner of the blog-o-mos-phere?
Things here are pretty groovy, though by the time you read this I’ll be on a table somewhere getting yet another kidney related procedure (outpatient and only – heh “only” – uncomfortable) and wondering if the groundhog that moved in under our deck has been apprehended yet. Not the way I’d choose to spend a Friday, but in the grand scheme of things not all that tragic and I ought to be back in the saddle (as it were) on Saturday.
Not too long ago me and some of my on-line compadres were having a chat about the basic quality of a particular funk 45 that also happened to have been a HUGE chart hit. The convo followed the usual collector/digger blueprint in that a good portion of the people were sick to death of it, a few – like myself – rode hard for it and some on the fringe got their pants wet soapboxing about how anything so popular couldn’t possibly be good.
It was during that exchange that a number of other records that were – if not as popular – significantly more popular than the kind of rarified wax that usually pads the boxes of your average funk 45 DJ, were discussed, and lined up against the first record (which was the AWB’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’). One of the records listed was today’s selection, ‘Outta Space’ by the mighty Billy Preston.
In addition to being the proud owner of what might have been the wildest afro in the history of “the natural”, Mr. Preston – who sadly shook off this mortal coil back in ought-six – was a keyboard wizard and vocalist extradordinaire. Starting with his earliest Hammond material (especially the Northern fave ‘Billy’s Bag’ on Vee-Jay), his work with the Beatles, on through his funky hits of the early 70s, and his mellower (and very successful) stuff like his 1980 duet with Syreeta Wright ‘With You I’m Born Again’, Preston laid down a very solid body of work.
Of course, this being Funky16Corners, his Hammond stuff has gotten the most shine hereabouts.
However…and I’ve given this a lot of though in the last couple of years, I would be remiss if I didn’t step up to the pulpit to preach a little bit about ‘Outta Space’.
First and foremost, no matter how popular this record was in its day, there is no denying (by any sane person) that ‘Outta Space’ is as solid a piece of keyboard funk ever produced by Billy Preston (or anyone else). The clavinet is one of the signature sounds of the funk movement (YOWWWWWW!!!), and ‘Outta Space’ is built on 100% certified clavinet DNA.
The song has a very solid dancefloor beat, with that little rhythmic kick at the end of each bar that suggests some kind of funky twist on a conga line.
There’s a video on Youtube with Preston working ‘Outta Space’ with his band, Billy on the Hammond and someone else on the clavinet and they are tearing it the fuck UP!
I mean honestly….
There’s probably a major treatise to be written on the artistic value of funk 45s balanced against their obscurity. There’s a basic issue of, one man’s obscure is another man’s obvious, but once you get beyond a certain level, where you’re dealing with things that almost no one has heard, that the rarity fetishists, the label coverers and the Secret Squirrelistas would have you believe that the relic they dug out of some long forgotten basement is the ne plus ultra of all things funky. However my friends; as someone with experience, and a discerning ear, I can assure you that many of these records, despite their lofty provenance, suck out loud. Of course so do a lot of popular records, but the scale swings both ways.
Many is the time that I’ve finally gotten to check out a copy of a storied funk (or soul) 45, dropped the needle and found myself decidedly underwhelmed. I have also gone into detail in this very space, time and time again of the power coming out of the kind of records at which most seasoned collectors would roll their eyes and guffaw dismissively. I don’t have the time to waste on that kind of shite and I will go ahead and assume you don’t either.
A true follower of the funk, one with an honest feel for music – as opposed to an obsession with the encyclopaedia of ephemeral back alleys – will put on a record like ‘Outta Space’, and start to move, taken away by the power of a real, solid record.
That’s what this is.
Real.
Solid.
Funk.

I can promise you this my friends: the next time I find myself behind the decks, whipping the funk 45 love on the masses, I will be dropping ‘Outta Space’*, and so help me Jeebus if it doesn’t fill the assembled multitudes with the spirit of all things good and funky, I will resign my commission in the army of the funk.
This is my promise to you.

NOTE: Don’t forget to fall by Viva Internet Radio Tonight at 9PMEST for the latest edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Show. You can always check out the show (and many pastshows) in the archive.

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Peace

Larry

*Yes, I have it on 45, but happened to pull out the LP first, thus the picture above…

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11 Responses to “Billy Preston – Outta Space”

  1. Tony C Says:

    Great post Larry,I’m sure most of the F16C blog followers will agree with your sentiments entirely!!
    Outta Space,One for the Moon Mix?
    Goodluck with the Op.
    Tony.

  2. planet mondo Says:

    Outta Space is an all out stormer – there’s a live clip on youtube which even outfunks the single

    Struttin’ and Creature Feature are cut along similar lines too

    And check this for a double funk whammy Ray Charles and Billy P doing Agent Double O Soul..check the legs, he’s hot a dancer as he was a musician..

  3. Duncan Walls Says:

    I can truly attest to the power of Billy Preston’s funk material such as Out of Space ( WIll It Go Round In Curcles especially, too) as I used it quite extensively in my prime DJ days in the mid-70s straight through to the nineties. It ALWAYS worked, even when it was new and fairly overplayed.

    The video reminds me of when I first saw (and got the chance to meet) Billy Preston bcak in 1964 (or 65?..it’s a LITTLE hazy) playing with Ray Charles. He had just come off a european tour playing with Little Richard (as his second ) where he met some long-haired boys from Liverpool, I guess. (If I had only known then what I know now, what I would have liked to ask him!). Anyway, this was a college spring weekend concert at RIT (my Dad was the school’s booking agent) in Rochester, NY with the dry comedian Jackie Vernon (remember him? with the clicker and fake slide show?) opening up. Well, Vernon threw a hissy fit because the band was going to poplay for30 minutes before Ray hit the stage (Ray was in his heroin period…I went backstage and he was VERY scary). Vernon was over excited (unlike his stage persona) because there was going to be too much time between his performance and Ray’s set and wanted to go on just before Ray so the crowd would remember him, too. Geeeez! Nobody remebers that guy now.
    Sooo, the band agrees to play a 40 minute set before Jackie Vernon’s set , take a break and come back and play with Ray for his set. Must have been par for the course for some of these guys and time not too distant from the old TOBA circuit.
    Well, they come out and Billyis fronting the band (20+ pieces along with David ‘Fathead’ Newman and God knows who else of stellar quality…they were GOOD, even for my young teenage ass & ears! Billy did a lot of singing & playing (must have been from his VeeJay & Capitol catalog) AND dancing like in the video (only a little more spry because he was younger) playing the piano during one number on one side of the stage and the organ on the next number on the other side of the stage and sometimes playing both in the same song dancing across the stage mid-song. He was AMAZING! I went back stage afte their ste and got his autograph in the Ray Charles program (gone in the mists of history unfortunately) and years later realized who it was.

    I remember well that concert because Ray’s current tune was ‘Here We Go Again’ which has remained one of my all time Ray tunes and I will never forget seeing him do it with Billy Preston playing that great gospel organ behind Ray, alomg with The Raelets and the band.

  4. funky16corners Says:

    Duncan
    Thanks for that great story. I forgot about the Ray Charles connection. Billy was also in the house band on Shindig for a while as well.
    L

  5. alenadro Says:

    I have to admit I had never heard Outta Space before…I love it!

  6. Kathleen Seidel Says:

    That is indeed a wicked funky tune. I loved it when it was first released, and I loved it when it showed up in the soundtrack to Muppets from Space. Thanks to that soundtrack, Outta Space has helped many children to find the funk.

    I’m with you on the business of underrated hits and overrated rarities. Often, a song becomes popular *because* it is good!

  7. Stu Says:

    Love it, love it, love it.

    Just been catching up with goings on F16C and IL stylee, and what a hoard of fantastic tunes to be checked out!

    Hadn’t heard this one before, believe it or not. Absolutely blinding, funky goodness!

    Thanks Larry!

    Stu, Glasgow, Scotland

  8. Stu Says:

    Meant to say; the Average White Band are fantastic by the way! The funkiest thing outta Scotland by miles.

    They owe a hell of a lot to the J.B.’s, but, having seen them live, I have to say that they really can play and funk for real!

    The first couple of albums are classics! :)

  9. Ben the Harpman Says:

    Hey F16C,

    First time commenter, longtime listener. I love the site and all the history, contexts, etc. Billy Preston will forever be one of the baddest mofo’s on organ ever next to Jimmy Smith for me. Preston’s work here and with Ray Charles on “Here We Go Again” or on Sam Cooke’s “Little Red Rooster” are some great cuts. Plus, Preston’s work as a bandleader on all of Miss Aretha’s Fillmore Concerts with King Curtis is some of the best live recorded music ever. keep bringin’ the funk and soul

  10. simonofthebollocks Says:

    Hey F16C

    sorry if this unrelated – i’m trying to track down a tune.. all i remember is the lyric ‘i turned you on now i can’t turn you off…’ – sounded like The Meters – any ideas? cheers

    simonofthebollocks@gmail.com

  11. Gunnar Says:

    Hi Larry,

    Great piece on Billy Preston, thanks. Just one thing: the other dude in the video plays a electric piano and not a clavinet.

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