“Listen – Tramp MP3″
Here’s hoping that everyone had an outstanding weekend (the kind where you manage to stay out of jail, etc…) and that the idea of returning to work for another week of indentured servitude – or the 21st Century equivalent – hasn’t got you biting your nails to the quick, pulling your hair out in chunks or some such other self damaging nervous response (no matter how appropriate) to having to work for a living.
For those of us in the Funky16Corners household, the weekend was long (not in a good way), tiring, cold etc, much like I imagine it was for just about everyone else. The short list of things that deserve celebration include the fact that my family has arrived back home from a visit with the in-laws (wonderful people who just happen to live many hours away), I finished an excellent book (starting yet another almost immediately), and I finally gave in and joined the world of the laptopped.
You can expect to see me glomming up the local wi-fi hotspots (though it seems that you can now stride onto the interwebs wirelessly not only at the $5.00 a cup coffee spots but also at the local, low budget artery clogging superstore (that being McDonalds) as well. Not being a big fan of greasy, non-nourishing crap, I’ll probably opt for the rich mans java and scones (though it’s a lot more likely I’ll be doing most of my cyberspacing from the dining room table, with a cup of delicious, cheap, homebrew).
If you find any weird typing mistakes – aside from my normal “stylistic” syntax abuse – you can attribute it to the fact that I still haven’t gotten used to the laptop keypad, which bedevils me and my oversize mitts. Every time I reach for the space bar, I send the cursor veering wildly around the screen as I am also brushing against the touchpad, the directional keys and the various wires sprouting from every side of the laptop.
Vive le technologie!!
Anyhoo, I don’t supposed you clicked by to hear me rhapsodize about the new acquisition, so I guess I better get down to brass tacks – or some such – and start rapping about something musical.
This time out, I had to decide between a couple of longtime faves – as I usually do – so I basically flipped a figurative coin and decided on ‘Tramp’ by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.
Now yesterday, while I was waiting for the wife and kids to arrive home I decided to pop in one of my favorite concert films of all time, that being ‘Monterey Pop’, and listen to the commentary track which featured D.A. Pennebaker (the filmmaker) and Lou Adler (one of the co-producers of the original event). There were only a couple of minor insider revelations, but it was worth it to hear the reminiscences of those two, especially since they approached the festival from two completely different perspectives.
The highlight of the film was of course the performance of Otis Redding, backed by Booker T & the MGs and the Barkays. Some time ago – in the early stages of the Funky16Corners Blog (probably back in the Blogger days) I related the story of the record that turned me into a certifiable soul fan, that being the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey Pop. The b-side of that LP was the entire Otis Redding set, and I don’t think I’d be breaking any new ground by telling you that it is one of the truly great live soul recordings of all time. Absolute dynamite from beginning to end, putting Redding’s tragic death but a few months later into stark perspective for the earth-shaking tragedy it was. The day I finally flipped that disc over and gave the Redding set a listen was one of those “Road to Damascus” moments for me, in which my musical life – which was already fairly rich and somewhat advanced even at 16 (thanks entirely to my father) – was forever changed. It was a mind-blower and a record that I would re-listen to countless times over the next few years (playing it for many a friend).
In many ways, I feel about Otis Redding the way I feel about James Brown, Miles Davis or John Coltrane. He was a giant, possessed of a rare talent. Unlike most of those other artists, Redding had only about six years of recording to get his message across, passing into the void just as he was about to cross over to a much larger audience (of which he was certainly deserving). I’m not ashamed to say that every time I watch Otis lay into ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ in ‘Monterey Pop’ I am quite literally moved to tears. This has little to do with the idea of his early death, and everything to do with the tangible feeling of pure soul (in all of its permutations – big and little ‘S’) and the tidal wave of emotion that he was able to express. Redding’s dynamic range as a vocalist, abetted by the musicians behind him at Monterey delivers – in ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ – an example of absolute soul perfection (one of many that he left behind).
If Otis was the king of Stax, Carla Thomas – daughter of the mighty Rufus, he of the dog walking, funky chickens etc) was, if not the queen (the title she was given on her duets LP with Redding – certainly the princess. I have no idea how they came to lay down a cover of Lowell Fulsom’s ‘Tramp’ (though God knows that it was covered, legitimately and otherwise countless times, more on that in a minute).
The record – which is a killer, among the finest to come out on the Stax imprint – opens up with some of that good, whomping Al Jackson drum action (heavy on the bass garcon, don’t skimp on the boomp-a-chock-chock-boomp…) with Carla dropping by to lay into the sartorial elegance (or lack thereof) of Mr. Redding, including the fact that he’s “country” i.e. “straight from the Georgia woods”, to which Otis replies, firmly, ‘That’s good!” (and it was….).
This goes on for several verses, with Otis holding his own, clearly having convinced himself (and trying to convince Carla) that although he hasn’t got Continental clothes, or a fat bank roll, he is a lover (as was his mama, papa and on up the family tree) and that’s all that really matters.
It’s a funny record, with solid helping of that mid-60’s Stax proto funk, that being the vibe in which the song may not be identifiable by the basement dwelling crate diggers of the world as “funk” (“Worst breakbeat EVER!!!), but it is most certainly funky, and that’s good enough for me brother.
I made reference a few lines back about the outbreak or ‘Tramp’ covers (outright and surreptitious), and the Otis and Carla version was clearly the blueprint (template) from which perhaps the greatest ‘Tramp’ rip-off of all time was created. I speak of ‘Champ’ by the Mohawks, which lifts the Stax horn riffs lock stock and barrel, creating a version of the song (a cover in everything but name) that replaces Otis and Carla with Alan Hawkshaw’s Hammond. In most cases this would be a very poor substitute indeed, but strangely enough it works on the Mohawks 45, a disc released in several countries and forever since a favorite of Hammond hounds, beat lovers and makers (and lovemakers), and the record collectorati. If you are not in possession of a copy (and you should), start digging, or pick up one of the comps in which it is featured.
As for the Otis and Carla (my apologies for the crackles), all of that stuff has been reissued and is completely essential. Get a little Memphis in your life buddy.