I’ve posted some great live clips here over the years and this is one of the best. This is from the 1985 American Music Awards and I think that’s The Revolution playing with her but I’m not 100% sure.
The Drifters 1963 version of “On Broadway” is a classic as any fule kno, but I also love George Benson’s live version from 1978, probably more so.
The Drifters’ rendition has a melancholy feel as if they didn’t really believe they could make it there, which was probably the case for a black man in early 1960s. Benson, on the other hand, sounds completely convinced that he will be successful, especially the way he shouts “Cause I can play THIS HERE GUITAR!” — which, given that he made his name as a Jazz guitarist, wasn’t just bragging.
While I tend to side more with the world-view of The Drifters version, it’s hard not to get caught up in George Benson’s peppy positivity. Plus, it’s funky as hell.
Download: On Broadway – George Benson (mp3)
Photo: The Lights of Times Square by Andreas Feininger, 1957
It took a while for us Brits to make soul and dance music as good as the Americans. Our efforts were decent but, from Dusty Springfield’s Motown-esque pop to early Britfunk like Hi-Tension and Linx, often suffered from thin production and lacked the warmth and oomph of our Yankee cousins.
As a consequence British soul music didn’t cut the mustard across the Atlantic and the acts which did make it were white and made their records over there. It wasn’t until 1982 that Londoner Junior Giscombe’s debut single “Mama Used To Say” became the first record by a black British soul artist to be a major success on the American R&B charts. In addition to that barrier-breaking he was also the first black Brit to appear on “Soul Train” which is a real badge of honor.
We hadn’t completely cracked the code though. To become an R&B smash in the States the single still needed the help of a punchier American remix which beefed up the original. But we must have learned something because after that America opened its hearts and charts to other Brit soul acts Loose Ends, Sade, and Soul II Soul.
My copy of the single is a 12″ white label promo, bought in a record store I used to frequent which had a lot of review and promo copies of records probably offloaded by music journalists for booze and drug money. It has a sticker on it that says “Special New Mix” which is different to the others I’ve heard so I’ve no idea if it was ever a commercial release.
Download: Mama Used To Say (Special New Mix) – Junior (mp3)
I assumed the “DJ” in this clip wasn’t the same guy talking on the record, but after some internet detective work I discovered that it actually is him — a fellow called Mike Cleveland who formed the group. Would never have put that voice with that face.
Classic tune this of course, so proud that my kids know the words to it. Parenting job done.
This is a great find, Debbie Harry (who looks stunning) singing with avant garde punk-funkers James White & The Blacks at Hurrahs in New York in 1980.
This was a UK hit in 1968 and I thought it was very funny as a kid. I still think it’s funny but now I love it’s big beat even more, it must be the funkiest novelty record ever made. It also makes me wonder if Pigmeat Markham invented Rap.
Download: Here Comes The Judge – Pigmeat Markham (mp3)
Keeping the (unintentional) dance music theme going this week. It’s a toss-up between this and “Lost In Music” for my favourite non-Chic Edwards/Rodgers production. Few records are this sublime and silly at the same time.
“Shack Up” remains a song best known as a Hip-Hop sample and, for people of a certain age, by the 1981 cover version by A Certain Ratio. The 1975 original by Banbarra wasn’t a hit but became a cult favourite in Northern Soul clubs which is where ACR would have heard it.
Not much is known about Banbarra beyond the fact that they were from Washington, DC and this was the only record they released, supposedly due to manager shenanigans. But in this age of knowing everything about every record ever made I like some things remaining a mystery, it makes the record even better.
Download: Shack Up – Banbarra (mp3)