The Jewels – Opportunity


The Jewels


Listen – Opportunity MP3″

Greetings all.

How’s it going?
I hope everyone’s digging that Olympics track (though nobody’s saying a word…).
I’m here in Jersey – as always – suffering from the seasonal onslaught of pollen and whatnot, and wondering at the bizarre weather, in which the leaves are turning (and, God help me, falling…) but somehow when I go out back to take out the garbage at 9:00 at night it’s still positively stifling.
What’s up with that?
I’m all set for autumn, with some nice new hoodies, but the atmosphere isn’t cooperating so I’m still wearing shorts every day.
Crazy stuff….
Anyway…today’s selection is an object lesson in how even a seasoned (some might say jaded) collector like myself encounters music in the strangest places.
A while back, on one of those rare Saturday nights when the wife and I weren’t hitting that familiar brick wall that comes at the end of every week with two small children, we were watching the film ‘The Last Days of Disco’ somewhere in the hinterlands of basic cable. I normally wouldn’t have been inclined to sit still for a flick like this, however I had just finished reading Peter Shapiro’s ‘Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco’, and I vaguely remembered enjoying an earlier Whit Stillman film, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. Despite the presence of Chloe Sevigny – an actress who’s charms continue to elude me – I found myself enjoying the film (somewhat).
At one point a group of friends leaves a club that seemed constructed as a fictional Studio 54 proxy, and find their way to a small bar with a jukebox. Not long after they arrived an absolutely fantastic song starts playing, some of them get up and dance and I jetted over to the computer and started a-Googling.
The song – encapsulated in the ones and zeros you are presently pulling down off the interwebs was ‘Opportunity’ by the Jewels.
The name of the group was vaguely familiar (I couldn’t remember why at the time), and I started looking for a copy. I was unable to locate a decent copy at a decent price (at least that night) so I found the track on iTunes and downloaded it, subsequently giving it several listens.
So….flash forward some months (to a few weekends ago, in fact) and DJ’s Prestige and Prime and myself are picking away at a table full of 45s like a pack of hyenas set upon an antelope, and Pres – who’s working the opposite side of the table from me happens to pull a copy of ‘Opportunity’ out of a box and asks me if I know it.
“Hey!” says I, ‘The Jewels ‘Opportunity’! I WANT THAT!!’
I could scarcely believe those word were spilling out of my mouth, and apologized immediately for the horrifying breach in etiquette (digger or otherwise), explaining to Pres that that particular 45 had been on my wantlist for a while. I described the 45 to him, and (very) graciously he let me toss the record on my ‘keeper’ pile (I owe you one pal).
Not long after I got home, I got to work digi-ma-tizing some of the day’s haul, intent on getting the Jewels 45s up onto the blog for your delectation.
That said, the Jewels (originally the Four Jewels) got together in their native Washington, DC in the late 50’s as the Impalas. Via an association with Billy Stewart (cousin of group member Grace Ruffin) they recorded at Bo Diddley’s studio (Bo was living in DC at the time, where he hired Stewart as the pianist in his band) and the results became their first 45 for Checker in 1961.
They went on to record several 45s as the Four Jewels for the Start label, as wel as backing Stewart on his 1962 classic ‘Fat Boy’. They recorded another 45 for Checker before signing with Dimension in 1964 and releasing ‘Opportunity’, their first record as ‘The Jewels’*. The tune was a minor hit that year and the group went on to record a few more 45s for Dimension, as well as a James Brown-produced side for Federal.
In 1965 the Godfather brought the Jewels in as part of the James Brown Revue (which is where I had heard their name before). They recorded a number of sides for Brown, including the ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ “answer” record ‘Papas Left Mama Holdin’ The Bag’.
‘Opportunity’ is a fantastic mix of soulful grit and a girl-group vibe. The arrangement – opening with some deceptively sedate piano chords – combines heavy drums and handclaps for a high level of danceability, and the vocals have an inspired looseness. The record is an explosive invitation for the listener to get out on the floor and sing along.
Props to Whit Stillman (or whoever picked the music for the ‘Last Days of Disco’ soundtrack) because the insertion of the joyous ‘Opportunity’ into the otherwise dry goings on was an inspired choice, momentarily changing the tone of the film drastically (I think deliberately).
Though the tune has been reissued a number of times, I’m not sure where it’s currently available on CD.

*Not the same ‘Jewels’ the recorded for Imperial

Head over to Iron Leg for some psych-pop


16 Responses to “The Jewels – Opportunity”

  1. chris Says:

    Cool song. I’d also like to comment on your great ability to transfer vinyl to mp3. All these tracks you post sound amazing. All my vinyl rips are horrible.

  2. Seamus Says:

    Another great Soul record!!!

  3. Paul Says:

    The best place to pick up a CD version is _One Kiss Can Lead to Another_, a box-set reissue that has loads of great girl-group stuff. It’s packaged idiosyncratically in a faux-hatbox, so I assume it’s destined to go out of print one of these days.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Great recording and great transfer of sound from vinyl!

  5. Aaron Says:

    Great song! Thanks!!

  6. HeavySoulBruthaDaveB. Says:

    Super Tune!! Thanks so much for the share. I’m actually a big fan of “Last Days Of Disco.” Not sure if I should admit that or not. So, I’ve seen it quite a few times and never really ‘heard’ the song in that scene. Leave it to a real pro to find the gems, of which you surely are my friend. 😉 Dig IT!

    Peace and SOUL,

  7. lightningclap Says:

    Man, I’m sure I’ve heard a cover of this…a reggae tune I think, but can’t find it. Probably issued under a different title. Anyone…Bueller…?

    We should all be happy you can juggle family and blog. If you had 4 like me, there’d prob be no Funky16 at the end of the day.

  8. funky16corners Says:

    I actually liked the movie. I have to be in the right mood for Stillman’s stuff, but when I am, I’ll watch.

    I can assure you, if I had two more kids, there would be no blogging (or much of anything else for that matter). I grew up the oldest of 5. I still have no idea how my parents did it…

  9. Alejandro Says:

    Ahhhhh….Loved the tune.

  10. Sepa Says:

    Such a great song. Thanks alot.

  11. Brent Says:

    That is one great tune. I have it on a mix CD a buddy of mine made for me a few years back and it been a favorite since then. He’s a Whit Stillman fan so I wouldn’t be surprised if that film turned him on to it. While ‘Last Days of Disco’ is fairly dry, I do love the end of the film where everyone in frame just starts dancing to ‘Love Train’ as the subway starts to roll. Great melding of visual and audio. Haven’t seen anything that I thought worked as well as that until I checked out “Children of Men” recently and Lennon’s ‘Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peepa)’ plays for the last few minutes and into the credits. Yeah, thos e two movies couldn’t be further apart, but both do it right.
    Thanks man,

  12. buzz14 » The Jewels - Opportunity Says:

    […] from Zola […]

  13. Allison Says:

    Thanks for another great song! I hope you don’t mind that I shared your knowledge on Last FM… with full credit and a plug! 🙂

  14. funky16corners Says:

    No probs Allison. Thanks for the plug!

  15. jerry amaya Says:

    my older sis bought this back in the day when it was new..I’ve been digging it since then. back in no. calif.

  16. James Solomon Says:

    In a perfect world on just a few of these websites, it would be nice to aknowledge that I wrote some of these songs. When I see Needless To Say or I Wish the World of Hapiness , I see Eddie Holman or Weldon Mc Dougal . Here is what I would like you to do. Review all of the Harthon material that lists me as a co author, and post that on your website. You will start to get the picture. Because there is another view, you have yet to present.. That’s okay, by the end of this year, ,I will be sharing new songs with that same flavor. Songs with a strong lyric tied to strong emotion in the flavor today.


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