Mr. Gene Chandler
“Listen – You Can’t Hurt Me No More MP3″
Here’s hoping that the middle of this fine summer week (not quite officially, but I’ll take 88 degrees as “summer” if you will) finds you well.
I come to you well rested, having given my brain a well deserved break– however brief – on Sunday/Monday.
Today’s selection is another lesson in fate, chance, the all encompassing reach of the musical Tao and a sort of unified field theory of soul 45s (well, not really, but it sounds deep, doesn’t it?).
I purchased this record years ago, so many that I can’t recall exactly where it came into my possession. The best guess is a record show of some sort, a conclusion I come to via the records nice condition (i.e. I didn’t dig it up in a dusty flea market or garage sale), and my certainty that I did not grab it on Ebay.
What seems likely is that it must have come fairly cheaply, and that I bought it because:
a. I was familiar with the label
b. I knew that it was probably a “soul” side, i.e. of a slightly later vintage than the Duke of Earl era
c. With a title like ‘Everybody Let’s Dance’, it was probably an upbeat selection.
Well, all of the above were true, but nothing about ‘Everybody Let’s Dance’ grabbed me, so, like an ignoramus, I ignored the flipside and filed the 45 away in my Chicago box where it lay, largely forgotten for a long, long time.
Flash forward to a few months ago. I was digging the compilation ‘Curtis Mayfield’s Chicago Soul’, a survey of his work as writer, producer and arranger for Okeh records, the mighty soul powerhouse. Though many of the artists on the comp were familiar to me (Billy Butler, Walter Jackson, the Artistics), there were a few that I had never heard before, one of them being the Opals.
While I can’t tell you much about the Opals, I can assure you that their recording of Mayfield’s ‘You Can’t Hurt Me No More’ – which opens the comp – is a spellbinding bit of girl group harmony melodrama, wrapped around one of the master’s most haunting melodies. For the better part of a week ‘You Can’t Hurt Me No More’ was in heavy rotation on the old iPod, as were several other tunes like Billy Butler and the Chanters ‘Nevertheless’ (covered in this space previously), and Walter Jackson’s ‘Funny, Not Much’.
So…. A couple of months go by and the time arrives (as it always does) for me to climb back into the Funky16Corners record cave for a little bit of selective spelunking so that ye olde bloggspotte might once again play host to the finest in funk and soul sounds, converted – as always – to convenient, downloadable ones and zeros, which here, at the end of a monumental run on sentence, is rather beside the point.
Anyway, in my digging, I always try to grab a handful of sides that I’ve either forgotten about, or didn’t hit me the first time I gave them a spin, and check them out to see if – as is often the case – I should have been paying closer attention.
Well…I pull a bunch of 45s, one of which is ‘Everybody Let’s Dance’ by Gene Chandler.
I place the 45 on the turntable, drop the needle, and… wait for it….’Everybody Let’s Dance’ is as uninspiring as it was so many years ago when I bought it. Then, though I was tempted to move on, I decided to flip it over and check out the b-side. It took a few seconds, but it wasn’t long before the big light bulb went off over my head and I realized that I had heard this song before. A quick look at the label confirmed that I was hearing another version of ‘You Can’t Hurt Me No More’.
Spooky, n’est ce pas?
I suppose when you’re sitting on a veritable mountain of vinyl, the likelihood that a digger might be unaware of a selection or two in his possession is fairly large (and it’s happened before), but the chances that I’d happen upon this very 45 while the other version of this fantastic song was still echoing around in my head were somewhat (considerably) smaller.
It’s as if the fickle finger of fate was guiding your faithful servant.
Probably not as spooky as a voice from the beyond – or an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster – but spooky nonetheless, and an odd enough coincidence to make me wonder about the interconnectedness of all things, or more specifically great soul records.
That said, Gene Chandler (the Woman Handler) is best known to those that know him at all as the ‘Duke of Earl’, but he went on to a serious career as a singer of soul and funk, hitting the charts (R&B and pop) many more times, peaking with ‘Groovy Situation’ in 1970.
He made his way to the Constellation label following the collapse of his previous vinyl home, that being VeeJay records, via his manager (and co-owner of Constellation) ‘Bunky’ Sheppard. Between 1963 and 1966 (when Constellation folded, and he moved to Checker) Chandler recorded 16 45s and several LPs for the label. His first chart success for Constellation was another Mayfield tune ‘Think Nothing About It’ which hit the R&B Top 40 in 1964.
It was that year that the Opals recorded the original version of ‘You Can’t Hurt Me No More’ for Okeh. Chandler recorded his version in 1965, and once again made his way back into the R&B Top 40.
While the arrangement on the Chandler version doesn’t have quite the ethereal quality of the Opals (I heartily encourage you to grab the ‘Chicago Soul’ comp), Chandler’s solo vocal is one of the finest he ever committed to vinyl. It’s filled with raw emotion, abetted in no small part by the ultra-heartbroken lyrics of the song – and the arrangement (by Johnny Pate) , which contrasts classy uptown strings with some understated but effective soul guitar, is a gem.
Chandler’s post-Constellation/pre-Mercury discography may not have sported a great many hits, but did include some very high quality records, including his cover of the Godfather’s ‘There Was a Time’ and ‘From the Teacher to the Preacher’ (a duet with Barbara Acklin, that will no doubt appear here in the future) both on Brunswick.
Fortunately for all concerned, Gene Chandler is still performing today, and much of his best work is available in reissue.
See you on Friday with yet another new mix.