“Listen – JJ Barnes – Don’t Bring Me Bad News – MP3″
“Listen – James Barnes & the Agents – Good & Funky – MP3″
In the words of Cheech and or Chong, I am bumming, man…
As I’ve referred to several times in this space, the industry in which I am employed (and have been for more than two decades) is in dire straits. This is due to a number of factors, first and foremost mismanagement of the fourth estate by greedy mega-corporations who should have known better, compounded by the current economic shit storm we find ourselves embroiled in.
My fellow employees and I have known that a new round of layoffs was imminent, a fact that pretty much spoiled Thanksgiving for most of us. The axe fell today, and while yours truly was spared yet again (thank you jeebus…), one of my best friends at the paper, a guy that’s been a good buddy for the entire time I’ve been there, and who has seen some very tough times outside of work in the last few years, was given his walking papers, along with 91 other people (just at our location).
This is a cat who is both talented and dedicated to his craft (he’s an artist and writer), and now, after more than a quarter of a century of service to a once proud (and once privately owned*) newspaper, has to start from square one.
I had a tear in my eye when I went to his desk to say goodbye. I’ll miss the probably hundreds of lunch hours spent discussing music, old movies and politics, and the knowledge that in a relatively unpleasant environment, there was always a kindred spirit.
If you are so inclined, say a prayer for this man, and the thousands of other employees in the chain who have lost (or will lose) their jobs this week.
This is the second round of layoffs, following a period of ‘buyouts’, which combined have stripped our paper of well over 200 employees.
When I started out in newspaper production in 1984 – surrounded by older folks that had already seen the industry’s technological basis change once – I never imagined that I would still be at it 24 years later. Nor did I imagine that after that time had elapsed, I would be witnessing the slow (though not so slow these days) death of the industry.
I keep hearing talk of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, while we all hold our breaths waiting for things to finally bottom out, and as a result I’m finding it very hard to remain optimistic.
It was an odd bit of synchronicity that I opened an e-mail from a friend last week and saw that there was going to be a record show at the Asbury Lanes on Sunday. The Funky16Corners fam had nothing terribly important on the agenda, and I hadn’t been digging in a while, so we loaded up the minivan and headed to the seaside.
I’d been through a couple of less than promising tables, before I spotted my man Mike, who always has the heat, and headed over to his crates, sure that I would leave with records in my hand and a much lighter wallet.
I scored some nice stuff – all of which you’ll see here in the coming months – but by far, the most interesting thing I picked up (and didn’t realize it at the time) is the tune I bring you today.
As soon as I saw the red Ric-Tic label, with the name JJ Barnes on it, I knew I had to check it out. When I saw that it was his smoking version of ‘Day Tripper’, it went right on to the keeper pile, and I kept on digging.
Later that evening, when I broke out the digi-ma-tization station, and got to recording, I flipped over said 45 to give the unfamiliar B-side a listen. It wasn’t too long before I realized that the song in question wasn’t quite as unfamiliar as I thought.
About 30 seconds into ‘Don’t Bring Me Bad News’ (prescient title, that…) I realized that what I was hearing was another use of the same backing track that had been used on ‘Good and Funky’ by James Barnes and the Agents. Back when I wrote up that 45, I mentioned that the track had been used on a JJ Barnes 45. I just happened to have gotten the specific 45 incorrect.
Interestingly enough, though the track is largely identical (the opening is edited differently on the two singles), the records manage to be fairly different stylistically. Where the James Barnes & the Agents side is rough and somewhat funky, the JJ Barnes side has a stylish veneer, with femme backing vocals and a smooth lead from the man himself. It’s a great study in contrasts, and evidence that the JJ Barnes 45 is one of the great two-siders to come out of mid-60s Detroit.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back on Friday, hopefully with something a little more upbeat.
*The paper I work at was a family owned business for the first 110 years of its existence. The original owners, eager to expand their non-print media business sold out to a huge international chain about ten years ago. I firmly believe that had we still been locally owned, we would have been in a much better position to weather the current economic downturn. Instead, we’re just another cog in a huge, faltering machine, being sucked down by the bad economic decisions at the top.
PS Remember to tune in this Thursday at 9PM for the Funky16Corners Radio Show on Viva Internet Radio.