Posts from 27th August 2000

27
Aug 00

James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

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James Brown – Moby-esque cross-media overexposure

Ahhhhhh! (Or should that be “oooowww!”) The joys of summer, the smack of leather on willow, the strawberries, the cream, Wimbledon. But what’s that I hear? It seems the boys in the backroom at the BBC have been having a light-hearted fiddle with their editing equipment. Bless them – they’ve put together a series of amusing out-takes and pratfalls from various sportsmen (and women).

Look! There’s a pigeon on the playing field!
Look, look! Rain stops play!
Now this is good, there are some spectators in Union Jack wigs! Ha ha!
Tim Henman misses a shot, but does the splits!

But best of all, it’s all soundtracked by “I Feel Good” by James Fucking Brown. It puts me in mind of that other hilarious montage of sports stars falling over, accompanied by “Get Up” that I saw yesterday.

What’s on the other channel? Oh it’s a tea-bag advert with those crazy chimps – well bugger me, if they aren’t playing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. Post-production must be a very incestuous but literal-minded world, mustn’t it? It is not hard to imagine how it happens…

[Fade to:]

Somewhere in Soho, various people in garish YSL shirts and big glasses sit round a glass table. One young hipster is up at the flip-chart mocking out a story-board for an Indian spices ad.
Ad exec 1: Anyway guys, those are the rushes of the first execution of the Schwartz campaign. For the background music, I thought we’d have “I feel good” with the line about “sugar and spice”…
Ad Exec 2: Excellent work Barni! Puts me in mind of that wicked campaign for Slumberland with “Get Up” as the background music. (Continue ad nauseum).

JB – The Funky Drummer

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JB – The Funky Drummer

Let’s not forget James Brown’s unique contribution to the proliferation of crummy dance music. How many bands, eighties and nineties, pilfered one of The “Please Please Please” Man’s frugging riffs to beef up their cojones-free tracks? And how does JB respond to his funk and soul spawning anonymous house and techno music? Well, it is reported that, at Polygram, there is a whole department whose job is to listen to records to check for unlicensed James Brown samples.

You sad tossers.

JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

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JB – You’ve overstayed your welcome

Nowadays, it is impossible to think of “young” James Brown (a poised, suave young buck, supposedly) without being reminded of “old” James Brown (a wizened, fogeyish old criminal, allegedly). Not content with his years of success and touring, he insisted on contributing “Living In America” in 1985 to the soundtrack of “Rocky IV”. What better background music for Apollo Creed getting the shit punched out of him by Dolph Lundgren. “Got to have a celebration” = fuck off, you sad git.

JB – Nicknames

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JB – Nicknames

In addition to “The Godfather of Soul”, James Brown has a number of other, less well-known nicknames. These names, picked up during his childhood and remaining with him throughout his overlong career, include: Music Box, Mr. Dynamite, The “Please Please Please” Man, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Soul Brother Number One, The Sex Machine, His Bad Self, and The Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk.

Now I’m sorry but in my limited experience of nicknames, these all appear a little unlikely. Nicknames are invariably given by other people and, as a result, they often reflect your most memorable feature (not necessarily your most flattering – hence the number of boys who, after receiving awful haircuts were nicknamed “Bogbrush”). Whereas, on James’ list, there is nothing that you wouldn’t feel self-satisfied about being called. This doesn’t jibe with my own experience. If I think about the nicknames I had as a girl (Tanga Headon, Gives Good Head etc). I was never called “The Groovy Girl” or “Wicked Kid” – not that I’m too bitter about it. Which makes it deeply implausible that Mr Brown managed to garner not one, but NINE different “cool” nicknames. He’s just showing off.

JB – Godfathers

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JB – Godfathers

And what’s this business about The Godfather of Soul? Let’s see, godfathers in the traditional sense of the word are male friends or relatives of the parents, who are generally pretty up for being a godfather at the start – considerable enthusiasm for the role, gift-giving etc. But they soon recede into insignificance, having little or no relevance and certainly not providing anything like the top-notch offerings from the days of the Christening.

In the criminal underworld sense of the word, a godfather is a nasty piece of work who oversees drugs and violence without getting involved himself, making it difficult for the authorities to bring him to account. So on both counts, this seems a pretty appropriate moniker for JB, except he forgot about giving high quality gifts at the beginning of his career, and slipped up by giving the cops enough to sling him in jail.

And, by the way, what about that fucking appalling indie band, The Godfathers. They were shit. Not James Brown’s fault – but I blame him anyway?

James Brown – Sexual Gymnast

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James Brown – Sexual Gymnast

“Ooooooowwww!”

This would seem to me to be a perfectly understandable reaction to James Brown’s music. Only instead of wetting my pants at what is meant to be orgasm-inducing “ooowwww!”s, “hey-yey-yey-yey”s and “yowwwwll!”, I can’t help but clap my ears in pain when the klaxon warning riff of “Get up (get on up)” fires up.

His singing (squawking?) and music, needless to say, are unspeakable, but the constant single-entendres regarding his sexual acrobatics are rough beyond belief. What these songs offer is a bouffant-haired geezer in a purple suit, “performing”. What they deliver is a greasy man in gold lame, humping a microphone stand, with a very bad line in farting brass accompaniment.

Get on the scene, like a sewing machine

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Get on the scene, like a sewing machine

I was ill.
I am ill no more.

From my sickbed, I have just heard three James Brown songs back-to-back on the radio.

Mr Brown – your day of reckoning has come.