Tag Archives: James Brown

Hot Tub Time Machine: David G's Last Call List, Pt. 1

This week, Noise Narcs answers the age-old question: What five bands would you travel back in time to see in their prime? To see other responses, jump in the hot tub.

This is part one of David G’s Hot Tub Time Machine post. See Part 2 here.

There is really only two good things about being a music blog’s editor: you can break your own rules and split a post into two parts. And every once in a while, you get to do what you couldn’t get away with at the bar: close out the argument and pretend your choices are the ultimate.

Even though I was the one who insisted on this list and have been asking barstool neighbors and bartenders this question for months, I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with my list of top 5 bands I’d time travel to see in their prime. Sure, it’s difficult to parse exactly what’s important (ha ha) in going back in time to see a show, as Chris and Material Lives have both pointed out. But that’s not my problem. My problem is that I’m going see Pavement next Friday. Pavement. And I have sweet seats. And did I mention that I’m seeing Pavement?

So right now, I’m having a lot of difficulty not just ranking Pavement 1-5. Or, for that matter, using my imaginary time machine to jump a week AHEAD to the show (and, why not, travel back in time first, so I could switch my 12th row tickets for 1st row). But, well, that’s probably not entirely a good idea. And, since I set up the rules, I might as well obey them.

My list, in chronological order, is guided by three principles. That choosing a live show should both be about the brilliance of the artist live and, to a lesser degree and in the most etymological playful of the word, the momentousness of the show. And that there’d be some lack of 20/20 vision about the concert: at a fickle artist, you could end up time traveling back to see a dreadful show. In short, I’d time travel to see an act with it feet planted fiercely in the now of the past, with one eye cocked to the future. Of course, my list cheats all over the place.

John Coltrane's house in West Philly: Did they stay here?

1. The Miles Davis Sextet, Philadelphia, 1958

Tenet #1: No musician in the twentieth century had as great an artistic output in a year as Miles Davis did in 1958. Go ahead, ignore that he created his greatest album, Porgy and Bess, that year. But playing with a (drug-free) Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Red Garland, and Jimmy Cobb. Recording Milestones? Undeniable.

Tenet #2: No group of musicians ever assembled played together were as great or played as well as the Miles Davis Sextet of 1958. John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Miles Davis. I’ll respect you if you’d argue the first or second Classic Quintet, but not that much.

Tenet #3: Some of my friends have been replaced with pod people. For the Noise Narcs who love Miles Davis (Chris T, Trent W) and wouldn’t use a time machine visit to see Miles in this incarnation, I have to wonder: what have you done with my friends? There are at least three musicians in this lineup worth wasting a time travel trip separately for.

In 1958, Davis invited my favorite jazz pianist, Bill Evans, to try out for the sextet in Brooklyn. Several days later, Evans joined them in Philadelphia as part of the greatest sextet of all time. I love Philly so much I’d probably waste a time machine trip just to see it in its 1950s heyday. Getting to see Bill Evans first gig with the sextet in Philly? Sign me up, friend, and how do you want me to deliver my first born? FedEx? Delorean? Also, do I get to stay at either Coltrane’s or Philly Joe Jones’ Philadelphian homes?

I can’t find a recording of that Philly show, but these recording at New York’s Plaza Hotel in 1958 and Newport 1958, will have to do. Oh my will they do.

Miles Davis Sextet, “My Funny Valentine (Live, 1958 Sessions)” [Buy]
Miles Davis Sextet, “Two Bass Hit (Live, 1958, Newport)” [Buy]

2. James Brown, Apollo Theater, 1962

Jesus’ Son is not a very good movie. It does, however, have the definitive line on music.

FH: I wanna know everything about you. All of it.
Michelle: Ask me.
FH: Like, like, what do you like?
Michelle: Like what?
FH: Well, like, what kind of music?
Michelle: James Brown

Exactly. What kind of music do I like? James Brown.

Specifically, the kind of music that James Brown was playing in the early 1960s, while he was still transitioning from soul to funk, when soul was bleeding through his funk, and funk through his soul. Specifically, the kind of music that he was playing with his spotless band on October 24th, 1962 at the Apollo Theater, which he captured, using his own money, on arguably the best live disc of all time. But really, the specifics don’t matter: my kind of music is James Brown.

James Brown, “Try Me (Live at the Apollo, 1962)” [Buy]

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Hot Tub Rock Show: Trent W

This week, Noise Narcs answers the age-old question: What five bands would you travel back in time to see in their prime? To see other responses, jump in the hot tub.

5.  The White Stripes
Two years ago, I saw The Raconteurs live at the New American Music Union festival. The also-rans at that festival were Spoon, The Roots, Bob Dylan, and The Black Keys.  Surprisingly, the band known down under as The Saboteurs put on, by far, the best show of the weekend, largely on the strength of Mr. Jack White’s contribution.  For me, it was reminiscent of seeing Method Man performing with Wu-Tang:  on a stage populated by perfectly capable and charismatic musicians, White drew all attention to himself.  During a song in which his contribution was minimal, he took great pains to climb a massive speaker tower at the side of the stage.  He also requested that the audience throw joints onstage and jumped in front of other band members while they were singing to emphatically grab his crotch.

No, wait, those were all things Method Man did.

Mr. White’s enticements were far more subtle, possibly even unintentional.  For the most part, he seemed like he really wanted to function as just one part of a regular old rock band.  He was just as happy to step back into the shadows and play keys on one song as he was to be front-and-center singing lead on the next.  (Actually, he wasn’t even set up in the center; Brendan Benson was.)  Problem was, he performed with such passion and exuded such enigmatic star power that no one in the audience could help but keep one eye on Jack at all times.  Am I gushing?  I guess I am, but it’s only because that show reminded me what the term “rock star” originally meant.  I mean, it was obvious dude was really made for this purpose.

So maybe my interest in the seeing The White Stripes can be boiled down to simply an interest in seeing Jack White.  And, of course, I’ve already seen him once and I can certainly see him again.  Why then, you ask, would I waste a time machine trip just for the addition of Meg’s sloppy drumming?  Because I like The White Stripes music far more than that of Jack White’s other projects to date.  (And maybe something about the focused energy of a duo.)  I think a White Stripes show would probably be the best context in which to see him.  It’s that simple.

The White Stripes, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (Live, Under Black Pool Lights)”

4.  The Headhunters

I fully expect that someone will include in their Hot Tub list one of the great jazz artists from the bop or post-bop eras: possibly one of the classic Miles lineups, or Coltrane, or maybe even Monk or Mingus.  And those names were also tempting for me to include.  However, if we’re talking about the sheer visceral entertainment value of a live show, nothing in jazz tops the groundbreaking funk-laden fusion of The Headhunters with Herbie Hancock.

Or without him.  While Hancock was instrumental in bringing together the musicians and providing direction for what would become The Headhunters, any of the early lineups will do for me.  It was specifically the linear interplay of bassist Paul Jackson and drummer Mike Clark (or Harvey Mason, as on the first record) that made The Headhunters sound unlike anything that came before it, and continues make me launch into unprompted monologues on the elusive concept of “pocket.” Adding to the heat that must’ve been coming off that road as they paved it were the hints of early Afro-futurism in the band’s dress and overall concept.  So, while I still might be able to catch some permutation of the group doing a lukewarm impression of itself at a festival for guys with graying ponytails, I’d gladly drop one of my time machine tokens to see them like this:

Herbie Hancock and the Headunters, “Cameleon (Live, Soundstage, San Francisco, 1975)”

See the rest of Trent’s picks after the jump…

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