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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Partridge Family - I Can Feel Your Heartbeat (1970)

Can the ultra white-bread, bubblegum pop, manufactured TV group The Partridge Family be FUNKY? Maybe so, and today's joint is the proof. Anybody who's ever seen The Spirit of '76 and watched David Cassidy in his red, white and blue Captain America jump suit and sparkling silver platform boots go all kung fu fighting on Leif Garrett while rescuing Olivia D'Abo the disco diva (aka Chanel-6 from the year 2176), well, they already knew the man's got some killer dancefloor moves. And listening to this track, now I realize he also had a little blue-eyed soul thing going on. Closing cut on Side A of The Partridge Family Album, which was a Carrboro PTA find in my big score of a few weeks back. It's far better than anything I've ever heard before from "the family that reverbs together." Who were actually just Cassidy and his step-mom Shirley Jones backed up by session players - Danny Bonaduce and the rest of the cast didn't play or sing on any Partridge Family records.

I've always been a fan of I Think I Love You, which was their biggest hit (#1 on the pop charts in December, 1970), although I never thought it was all that sexy a song. Which puzzled me, because back in the day I remember reading a reprint of a Rolling Stone profile about Cassidy (turns out it was an infamous cover story from '72 called Naked Lunch Box: The Business of David Cassidy, which sold out on newsstands, one of only three RS issues ever to do so). It told how Cassidy was playing sold-out concerts packed with screaming teenage girls and having such a lustful effect on them that workers had to clean the seats once the shows ended. Was that just hype? Listening to this sultry, suggestive, soulful track, it all makes sense.

And cueing this number up over and over again today on my turntable, which clocks in at a teasingly short 2:05, I've got new respect for the first crop of DJ's in the early 70s who had to create extended jams from double copies of two or three-minute songs on 45 rpm records. Wish there was a 12" mix!

- Dyn-O-Mite

Friday, February 18, 2011

Nancy Wilson - Tree Of Life (1976)

Today I've been reflecting on the passage of time, life's ups and downs, and how some things always seem to cycle back around. Part of it is that last night I watched a documentary on Hugh Hefner that David Lynch co-produced back in the early 90s titled Hugh Hefner: Once Upon A Time (not be be confused with the recent doc Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, directed by Brigette Berman). And I was struck by a dark episode involving the suicide of Hefner's executive secretary in early 1975, a woman named Bobbie Arnstein, who was also one of his closest friends. She was targeted by the feds in a vicious attempt by Republican prosecutors (including future Illinois governor "Big" Jim Thompson) to nail Hefner by entangling him in a drug investigation, in the hopes of destroying his publishing empire.

A grieving Hefner reacts to the suicide of Bobbie Arnstein.

Hefner was an early financial supporter of NORML, and funded a bevy of other very liberal causes through the Playboy Foundation. Between his progressive, pro-legalization political agenda and very public role as pied piper of the sexual revolution (no less a cultural authority than Roger Ebert called Playboy "the most influential magazine of its time"), he made a lot of enemies in the conservative, puritan, law-and-order establishment of the 1960s and early 70s, and they seized their chance to try to bring him down.

But the tragedy was that Arnstein, a fragile, gentle, brilliant soul, got caught in the crossfire, sentenced to an excessive fifteen-year jail term on trumped-up charges, all in the hopes that she would implicate her boss for something he didn't do. Even right-wing columnist William Safire denounced the prosecutors' tactics in the New York Times, editorializing "It is one thing to give a cooperative witness a break, entirely another to threaten to let a defendant rot in the slammer until he or she tells the story the prosecution wants." Well, she killed herself instead. What a shame.

Bobbie's story struck me, and I kept thinking about her today, so it's fitting that I would discover this track, which is a fairly unknown Nancy Wilson gem. From her 1976 Capitol LP This Mother's Daughter, it was written by Eugene McDaniels, who also penned the album's title track. McDaniels is a soul genius singer and songwriter currently living as a self-described "hermit" in Maine and an artist who, like Nancy Wilson, I also had never heard of before today. But his Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse LP from '71 apparently provided samples for classic tracks from hip hop outifts like Tribe, the Beatnuts, and the Beastie Boys.

(Note from 2018 - apparently, less than six months after this post was originally written, Gene McDaniels died peacefully at his home in Kittery, Maine on July 29, 2011. Love, peace, and mad props to an amazing musician and songwriter.)

This was an Elliott Road thrift store find. By the time it dropped in '76, "Sweet Nancy" had already released an amazing 40 other albums in her career as a jazz vocalist stretching back to 1959.

- Dyn-O-Mite

Friday, February 4, 2011

Skyy - Get Into The Beat (1981)

Although this record was not among either of the two huge thrift sto' scores I stumbled onto within the past month, it surfaced today thanx to another track that was. That other track being Double Cross by First Choice, and I found the original 12" at the Elliott Road PTA, released in 1981 on Gold Mind Records (headed by producer Norman Harris). Featuring a remix on one side by Bobby DJ Guttadaro of Ice Palace fame (he spun at both the original Fire Island disco and its New York City sister club on West 57th Street). Bobby DJ was also notable for having supervised the production of the soundtrack to the Soul'ed Out, UnLtd. crew's all-time favorite disco flick, Thank God It's Friday. Old-Time Granny sez she's seen this, like, five times, which is more than I have!

Anyway, I already had a sealed copy of a Salsoul reissue of Double Cross, with Let's Celebrate by Skyy on the flip. Which was written by Skyy member Tommy McConnell, and not the group's superstar producer, Randy Muller, who was also the force behind Brass Construction and arranger for B.T. Express. And as I was checking out my copy of Skyy's Skyy Line LP, to compare the album version with the extended 12" mix, I happened across today’s JOTD – Get Into The Beat. Which was the LP's closing cut, and has got a smooth, silky, roller disco funk sound going on all over the place.

And judging from the minimal action it's gotten on YouTube, this remains a relatively unknown deep cut from Skyy. But it WAS written by Randy Muller, and it shows, ranking right up there with their other upbeat, slammin' mega-hits that he penned, like First Time Around, (a track that spawned an amazing remix by Larry Levan, featured on the 1979 LP Larry Levan's Greatest Mixes Volume Two, which also included Larry's classic remix of Double Cross), Here's To You, and Call Me.

- Dyn-O-Mite

S'Express - Theme from S'Express (1988) (from Tedd O'Neil mixtape)

Tonite I was digitizing a mixtape that a friend dubbed for me back in the day. His name was Tedd O'Neil, and later this month will mark five years since his senselessly premature death at the age of thirty-five.

Tedd circa 1990

Hailing from small town Rhode Island, I was considered a pretty unusual character during high school. Appearance-wise, I was a unrepentant punk rocker, sporting spiked or shaved hair, combat boots, and lots of wild outfits whether I was going to a punk show or heading to class. In my yearbook I was voted "most outrageous."

But Tedd, who lived one town over from me, half the size of where I grew up and a place even more suspicious of nonconformists, had me beat by far. That dude had mad style, charisma, and attitude, and everyone else could kiss off if they didn't like it. I first encountered him riding the Newport-to-Providence bus line that linked our little towns to the outside world. It must have been like '85 or '86, we were both 14, 15 years old, and Tedd was already an underground fashion icon. With all his jewelry and bracelets, jet black nail polish, eyeliner, black trench coat, boots, and an expertly coiffed (self-cut and styled) spiky hairdo with a bleached blond sort-of devilock in front and a braided rattail halfway down his back, he looked like a cross between Madonna, Glenn Danzig, and Siouxsie Sioux. It was goth meets punk meets gay, and it looked fantastic on Tedd.

We later worked together at a crazy job and became pals right after high school, hanging out in Rhode Island from '89-'91. After that, I spent more and more time in NC and went home less and less, and after Tedd graduated from Hampshire College in '93, he moved to San Fran. I never saw him again, although we talked on the phone a little. But he was one of those people I always expected to pop up again, and the news of his death came totally out of left field.

Peach Robidoux, his closest friend from high school and college, set up a Facebook group called Remembering Tedd O'Neil where his friends from both coasts still share memories and post photos, video and audio clips. Check it out for more info on Tedd's life and times.

Anyway, this mixtape was titled "Tedd's Amazing Goth Mix 1990," and I seem to remember him dubbing me a copy one day while he cut my hair in his upstairs bedroom at his parents' house. I used to love to visit him there because he had a huge Irish family, they were all super cool, and there was always some kind of drama going on.

On one side, there is in fact a mix of classic goth tracks. On the other, there's a slammin' house mix. And I'm pretty the whole tape was Tedd's production. From the house side comes today's JOTD, S'Express – The Theme from S'Express.

I first heard this track at the job where Tedd and I became friends. We worked at a boatyard where a company built giant cruiseships and then ran booze cruises on them all over Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. I started out as a maintenance worker in the late winter, low man on the totem pole in a skeleton crew of three. I was 18 years old and my two co-workers were 50-something and 80-something, respectively. No shit, one of the cats was 80+ and still coming to work five days a week at this crappy boatyard, so I had to respect that. I'm not even going to get into all the bullshit stuff these dudes had me doing when I first showed up. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the spring arrived and I got promoted to working in the boatyard, helping build the cruiseships. Or at least painting them. And then by the summer, I got to be a deckhand aboard the boats. Which was actually a lot of fun.

The whole time I was working my way up through the ranks of this small town boatyard empire, Tedd had the game all figured out. Probably because he lived right around the corner and had worked at the place before, he had a super cushy position. He was in charge of parking all the boozehounds' cars who showed up for the cruises, then staffing the office while the cruises were out and keeping watch over the parking lot. Yeah, right! Tedd would invite his friends over to hang out, blast music, and party in the office almost every night while the boats were gone. He was king of the wharf.

There were DJ's on board the boats, and after I heard one of them spin this S'Express acid house stomper, I would pester them to play it as often as possible. 'Cuz it was the bomb. And checking out the '88 promo video for the first ever time tonite, I'm even more impressed with the whole S'Express vibe. This video rocks! Clearly reaching back to the 70s with retro fashions, psychedelic effects, live horns, and strong diva vocals, but with a cutting edge, pulsating acid house beat. Plus stock newsreel footage that contains subliminal anti-war messages and makes the whole production a work of video art. (Note from 2013: the video now featured here is a different mix, the original promo video was removed from YouTube courtesy of the copyright police). And the main sample is from a Norman Whitfield-produced classic by Rose Royce, Is It Love You're After from 1979's Rose Royce IV: Rainbow Connection LP. Also something I never knew until right now. My jaw dropped when I saw video footage of them performing that joint and heard the original sample, see what I mean.

And apparently, The Theme From S’Express had a big impact. A whole year before Deee-Lite’s breakthrough LP announced to the world that house music was here to stay, this topped both the UK singles charts and the US Hot Dance Club Play chart.

So here's a Joint Of The Day resurrected from his old school mixtape and dedicated to my friend Tedd, who as another of his friends put it, is hopefully "in that heavenly looking hair salon in the sky, that Frankie Avalon sings about in Grease, doing all the dead celebrities' hair and makeup."

- Dyn-O-Mite

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From 2000-2008, Ringside in Durham, NC was the South's coolest nightspot, a decadent refuge for queers and straights alike. Ringside may be gone, but memories of the best damn party in town live on!