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Friday, Mar 6, 2009
Calling Danger Mouse!

Ming Xia.


Never heard of her?


You’ve probably had the pleasure of hearing her, via “Things I’ve Seen”, the hit from her band Spooks’ deubt album. But that was almost a decade ago. The follow-up Faster Than You Know didn’t exactly set the world on fire.


Unless she is operating under a different name or I am woefully out of touch (very possible), Ming Xia has been silent. This is unacceptable. The beef some had with her band was that her angelic voice was being wasted alongside second-rate rappers and uninspired music. Not sure I concur, particularly on their first album. But there is no question that within a band or solo, we need more from her.


Danger Mouse: please help her. Help us.



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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009
“Try it one mo’ time,” Tina says after Ike sucks and slurps salaciously into the mic. This was 1969, and according to her memoirs, they were thick in domestic abuse. Looking at Ike and Tina through these lenses, one wonders what kind of leash Ike is tugging.

When is the last time you listened to a song for the first time and said Damn! That’s what I said when I recently heard Tina Turner sing I’ve Been Loving You too Long. The song is vaguely familiar. Otis Redding popularized the song enough for regular radio play in 1965.


“Sock it to me baby,” Tina moans, then shouts at the top of her register. The concluding riffs of this song are chilling and can make any listener stop dead in their tracks. Wikipedia has dissected the track and revealed the lyrics to Ike and Tina’s “provocative, seductive conclusion of the song.” The Wiki article largely refers to live performances where, Tina is “handling the microphone in a raunchy way.” Indeed, the YouTube performances of this song do tend towards the perverse. It isn’t that Tina slides her extended fingers up and down the stiff microphone that makes this performance so perverse. Rather, it is the love and abandon. She is ready to give up each and everything for this man.


“You got what I want,” Ike says in his deep base voice on a microphone from behind. Somehow, his heavy handedness even pours through onto the stage. Noticeably, the Ikettes continue with their sharp moves, despite this song neither having any doo-wop type back-up chants, nor hefty call and response sequences like YOU bend over, lemme see YOU shake it like a tail feather! The band is meticulously on beat and key. It’s just Ike on his bass guitar, roaming the stage and then ever so often materializing over the speakers giving commands. He’s the man!


He grins slyly after spitting each of his lyrics while Tina responds, again grasping the mic and stand as if imitating something intimate. In one scene, Ike nearly chides at the audience after giggling is overheard in response to his feigned crooning. He’s really hamming it up in a way that so starkly contrasts the seriousness that Tina is bringing in the forefront, grunting and moaning like lovemaking. He looks like a dry pimp getting his rocks off. The overall scene betrays any sincerity towards the woman that stands before him abandoning her whole life for his sake. He seems none too gracious for this sacrifice, and that’s what makes the live performance so chilling and perverse.


“Try it one mo’ time,” Tina says after Ike sucks and slurps salaciously into the mic. This was 1969, and according to her memoirs, they were thick in domestic abuse. Ike was tapping that ass on the regular. Interviews from the movie-makers upon the release of her biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, claimed that the film version totally tones down Ike’s abusive talk, insults, beatings and marital rape of Tina.


Looking at Ike and Tina through these lenses, one wonders what kind of leash Ike is tugging. Was their apparent bond really bondage? Was Ike’s mojo so tough that Tina really was A Fool in Love? Was it evidence that they suffered from the Stockholm Syndrome, where captives and captors share a tie through the mutual experience of trauma? Were these live performances part of Ike’s brainwashing of Tina, wrecking her self-esteem right before our eyes? In other performances, Tina has visible bruises and an eyelid or two is swollen shut. Were crowds and teams of screaming fans obvious at the time? Elsewhere, Tina shouts: Here are my lips, you take ‘em, you made them, do as you wish. You use ‘em, abuse em, I’ll be your witch! Ike and Tina’s repertoire is thick with lyrics talking about how his love’s got her chained- anyway he wants her. On a certain level most of their lyrics consisted of this pitiful kind of love, the sort for which one mourns more than celebrates.


I’ve Been Loving You too Long. was originally released on their ’68 Outta Season album, which the website Discogs gives a measly two and a half stars, noting “there’s a lot of very ordinary, rote blues on tap”. Perhaps this is one of those rare instances where anthologies give us a needed break. Therefore, The Soul Anthology has to be one of the greatest releases of modern times. Anthologies are like cherry picking, allowing us to reject and delve into any rhetorical fodder at will. From this perspective, I’ve Been Loving You too Long. is one song better heard than seen.


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009

Feel Good live in 1972 on Soul Train is an awesome performance of an awesome song. I have always dreamt of being a Soul Train dancer, a dream that was shattered when I realized that most artists lip-synch on the show anyway. Yet, with Ike and Tina Turner I knew that the moves would be fierce and worth a click. I lucked out and caught a live show.


The close-ups of Tina clearly show that she could barely open her right eye. It was swollen damn near shut. Once I saw that, a homegirl rolling on the river had a much loftier protrusion, sitting watching the complicated energetic dance moves and precise lyrical steps. I imagined Tina getting away from that abusive man, and he being made to spend the rest of his natural black life looking for every which way to make amends to a whole generation of Soul Train fans who innocently came to see them on stage, and are confronted with a battered woman and a batterer!


Feel Good.


Searching through the YouTube’s ‘related videos’ on the sidebar reveals a host of other famous, infamous and even legendary bits of showmanship, like Marvin Gaye, live and likely ‘under the influence’. Then there was this mysterious video called “SOUL TRAIN LINE - WE THE PEOPLE 1972.” The title was unfamiliar, and boasted of no star act, which heightened my curiosity to see what lie between the lip-synched acts. Besides, I consider Soul Train lines a quintessential aspect of any folk gathering, much like west African dance at weddings, baptisms, and funerals—the drums challenging the dancers challenging each other for a faster, funkier beat. This is the legend of the Soul Train Line, or even popularized line dances like the Electric Slide, all of which can be seen on YouTube these days.


 


Of course, the outfits from this ’72 performance would appear strange to viewers now. One sister had a blond Afro the shone like a halo. Those fly Afros seems to have come back in style in the meantime. Another sister wore, well, I am not sure what she had on, but it covered her from her platforms to neck. Her outfit had lines and circles like an abstract art canvas. Most folks wore such fitted clothes that one could never tell where tops and bottoms began and ended. Then there was some guy, I swear I saw a sissy, twirling his arms as if he was whirling a baton. This Soul Train dancer was leading cheerleading camp.


I am a bonafide soul searcher. I grew up on soul music on the car radio, at home, and in relatives houses. Soul music made home. And we LOVED soul music. Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Patti Labelle, Anita Baker, Stax Records the list is endless.


My aunt Shirley had anything George Benson ever put out; She kept a cupboard of LP’s, but Give Me the Night was usually sitting on the floor resting against the wall near her stereo. I loved looking at the plain looking black man pictured on the cover, wearing a simple pullover and an honest grin. My aunt Johnetta loved her some James Brown, and just as naturally, Prince. She adored JB’s leadership and considered him a maestro. My uncle Wayne had Morris Day and the Time, and still rocks Frankie Beverly and Maze Live! Eugene, a classmate at Oberlin who lived and worked with me in Seoul, could break down all the reasons why even white soul singers like Bobby Caldwell say “Aaih” in place of “I.” Additionally, I hear Fela in the background and imagine my father packing up his albums for his voyage to America; clothes, Gari, addresses and Fela albums all had to accompany him. This Feel Good video has taken me to all those places. This almost slight appearance on Soul Train was a funky kind of soul that I had not heard in a while. Listening too it again, knowing that this sister can barely open her left eye, leads me to soul searching, again.


Who are we to know life so intimately yet take it so carelessly? Who are we to judge the decisions of another when it is clear that their actions are based on self-love? Who are we not to draw those close to use nearer to us, especially when they are in need. Who are we not to empower one another to aspire to do better and to want more happiness out of our lives despite and perhaps in spite of our lots? Don’t it Feel Good the way Tina plucks her shoulders as the bassist strums and heaves. Feel the really good deep base down in your hips. Bend over and let that base get in you. Snap like she do’ er’time Ike tells the man to hit the beat. And what a beat! Stomp, like Tina stomps and know that this feels real good.


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Monday, Feb 9, 2009

On February 9, 1964 the Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show fully launching Beatlemania in America and changing American pop culture forever. It was one of the real milestones of television and the growth of mass culture with more than 74 million viewers watching that single telecast. Unlike in this highly fragmented modern media age, virtually everyone with a television or with access to one watched show and the 1960s as we remember them were born. The Beatles also made their first stadium appearance that week on February 11th, playing before a sold-out crowd of screaming kids at Washington Coliseum.


 


Also this week in pop past, Texas honky-tonker and Grand Old Opry mainstay Ernest Tubb was born (1914) and early rock and roll pioneer Bill Haley died (1981).


 


Ernest Tubb - “Tomorrow Never Comes”


 


Bill Haley - Rip It Up



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