Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown

So farewell James Brown... dead on Christmas Day, what an exit. I made a Christmas CD for friends this year and included his great 'Santa Claus go straight to the Ghetto' (could have put the Belle & Sebastian version on, but much as I love them no one can really cover James Brown).

The James Brown sound will always remind me of my early days in South London, just after I'd moved to Brixton in 1987. I used to go to Dance Exchange at the Fridge, with Jay Strongman DJing. It was the pre-house 'rare groove' period, with the music dominated by James Brown and his associates - among the biggest records were Brown's own 'Get Up Offa That Thing' and others made by members of his band, particularly Maceo Parker (Cross the Tracks - Maceo & the Macks) and Bobby Byrd (I know you got soul).

As well as the Fridge, there were other smaller clubs playing similar music in the area - there was Wear it Out upstairs in the Loughborough Hotel in Brixton, and Dance Chase above the Alexandra at Clapham Common. Another important night was Wendy May's Locomotion at the Town and Country Club in Camden, playing a mixture of funk and northern soul.

Soon electronic beats would begin to squeeze out the 1970s funk sound, but James Brown provided the DNA for the next wave of dance music through the endless sampling of loops from his band (where would Public Enemy and many others have been without them?). There is always hyperbole when somebody dies, but I can honestly say anybody's who's been out dancing in the past 40 years should raise a glass tonight to the Godfather of Soul.

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