I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about rock n’ roll’s early days, but, after four decades of being obsessed, there’s still hardly a week that goes by that something doesn’t remind me of just how much is left to learn.
So, this week, my drifting-off-to-sleep-at-the-end-of-another-world’s-on-fire-day music has been Rhino’s Otis Redding box set Otis!
Because I’m not exactly young, not exactly prone to shutting down early, and very likely to find peace in all things Otis, I haven’t been making it past the first disc, or even very far into the first disc.
But I have been making it as far as the third track, which is “Shout Bamalama” a great little number I’ve heard fairly frequently before where The Big O pays up his Little Richard dues.
Somehow or other, I never realized, until it caught me drifting off to sleep this week and jerked me awake like a live wire, how close the “party style” intro is to Marvin Gaye’s epochal “What’s Going On,” which was released just over a decade later.
The world wasn’t yet on fire when Redding recorded his number. It was holding its breath.
By the time Gaye lifted that intro (whether he relied on memory or telepathy I don’t know…but theres’ an even stronger connection than with Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ party records) the fire was threatening to rage out of control (from whence state it has never quite fully been doused).
I like that kind of convergence. Probably would have been worth a post in any case.
But then I went to YouTube to see if “Shout Bamalama” was available. You know, just in case.
And I found the link below.
When you get there, the record starts at about 1:10.
Kind of inconvenient, but I’m linking to this particular video because….well, because I doubt you would believe me if I just told you one of Otis Redding’s earliest singles was released on the Confederate label. Or that the label logo was a Confederate flag.
Or that the record itself epitomizes what, in my oh-so-southern-existence, I’ve so frequently heard referred to as “that screaming nigger music” (a common phrase generally accompanied by a wrinkled nose and prefaced by something like “Some of it’s pretty but I just can’t stand that…”).
I mean, some things you just have to see–and hear–to believe.
And…for comparison’s sake…as we continue slouching toward Bethlehem…