Right guys, wrong LP.
Kenny Scoggins bottom left, Lloyd Pinchback bottom right.
I hope you’re all reveling in the mellow magic of the latest edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast. If so, you’re probably in the mood for something a little more upbeat.
Today’s selection is an object lesson in context, or more importantly the value of a really solid drummer.
If you aren’t familiar with the group the Soul Searchers, or more specifically with the song ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’, once the band steps back to give the drummer some the sounds jumping from your earbuds onto your brain ought to start some bells ringing.
My first exposure to the Soul Searchers, at least as a name, was via the mergence of the the band’s leader Chuck Brown as a leading light of the Go Go scene in Washington, DC. It was only some years later that I started to pick up Soul Searchers 45s in the field.
It was a few years after that, upon picking up a copy of a compilation (the name of which escapes me now) of OG records sampled by hip hoppers, that I first encountered ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’. I’m sitting there, doing something or other with the CD playing in the background, when after a few minutes of a song that I didn’t recognize at all, a drum break started that caused my ears to perk up instantly.
It was one of those
“HEYYYYYY…WAIT A MINUTE!”
moments where you’re processing something incredibly familiar, but can’t quite put your finger on where you know it from.
So, I grab the CD booklet, find my way to the Soul Searchers entry and just as I read up to the pertinent details, it hit me.
Oh shit! These were the drums that producer Frank Farian chopped no less than three times for use on Milli Vanilli records. Then I read on and realized that they had also been sampled by PM Dawn for ‘Set Adrift on Memory Bliss’ (a slightly more subtle bit of sample-age) and my feelings of revulsion were scaled back a bit (just a bit mind you..).
Then I gave the Soul Searchers OG several more listens and realized that no matter how badly fouled these wondrous drums had been by lipsynching Eurotrash, placed back in their original, far jazzier context, the power of the drummer was amplified considerably.
The Soul Searchers had been formed in the late 60’s by Chuck Brown, a journeyman guitarist and vocalist who had played in several DC-area bands like Los Latinos and the Earls of Rhythm. Their first single was a smoking cover of James Brown’s ‘There Was a Time’ for the And-Ray label (a 45 that I’ve been hunting for years with no success). They were signed to Sussex in 1972 and went on to record two excellent LPs – We the People (1972) and Salt of the Earth (1974) – for the label.
Though Brown is the undisputed leader of the band, the credit for ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’ belongs to two members in particular; flute/sax player Lloyd Pinchback (who wrote the song) and drummer Kenny Scoggins, who laid down that sweet, sweet, SHWEEET break.
Both of the Sussex Lps have a jazzy underpinning, but ‘Salt of the Earth’ really takes it to another level, with the band adding a serious dose of swing to their funky grooves, with ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’ being the finest example thereof. The cool thing is – at least for me – is that what we have here is an equation where the quality of the song surrounding the break is equal to that of the break itself (this really ought to be worked out on a chalkboard), resulting in a record of exceedingly high quality. It’s almost like one of those old Raymond Loewy designs where an item has both a practical use (that oft sampled break) and is also a thing of beauty (the song itself). This of course cannot be said of every bit of sample-bait.
There’s of course the matter of the break itself, in which Kenny Scoggins demonstrates that nothing – no machine, no computer, no way, no how – can beat a serious drummer who is deep inside the pocket. I dare you to listen to the beat he’s laying down without starting to move.
A few years after ‘Salt of the Earth’, Brown (already well into his 40’s) and the Soul Searchers helped give birth to Go Go with their ‘Bustin’ Loose’ LP. Brown is still working it out today.
List of records sampling ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’ (via Sample FAQ):
2 Live Crew’s “Ghetto Bass II”
3rd Bass’s “Oval Office”
Antoinette’s “Unfinished Business”
Antoinette’s “Watch the Gangstress Boogie”
Black Rock & Ron’s “Out of My Head”
Conscious Daughters’s “Princess of Poetry”
Cutty Ranks’s “The Stopper”
DJ Mark the 45 King’s “Roach Clip”
Eazy-E’s “Gimme That Nutt”
Eric B and Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul”
Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid in Full”
Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid in Full”
Fear of a Black Planet’s “I’m Just a Human”
Frost’s “Family Affair”
Get the Fist Movement’s “Get the Fist”
Geto Boys’s “Scarface”
Ice Cube’s “Jackin’ for Beats”
Insane Poetry’s “Angel of Death”
Kris Kross’s “Methods of Dropping Mental”
LL Cool J’s “Jack the Ripper”
Masters at Work’s “Jus’ a Lil’ Dope”
Mekon’s “Phatty’s Lunch Box”
Milli Vanilli’s “All or Nothing”
Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it on the Rain”
Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True”
Moby’s “First Cool Hive”
Nice & Smooth’s “Down the Line”
PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”
Raw Fusion’s “Hang Time”
Run-DMC’s “Run’s House”
S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.’s “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day”
Scarface’s “Mr. Scarface Pt 3 – The Final Chapter – He’s Dead”
Style’s “Just a Little Something”
Sweet T’s “I Got the Feelin”
The Grouch’s “Too Much On It”
Twin Hype’s “Nothin’ Could Save Ya”
PS Anyone know who Ashley was?