We Still Got The !!!! Beat

Earlier in the year I posted 3 clips from a 1966 TV show out of Dallas Texas. The !!!! Beat captured some of the sensational Soul/R&B artists of the day in wonderful colour footage. I am a sucker for those grainy clips of “Shindig” & “Hullabaloo” but the !!!! Beat went beyond the chart hits of the time, looks as good as a movie & was clearly a wonderful thing. The clips are hidden away on the Y-tube, live or lip-synch they are gems stumbled upon almost accidentally when you are looking for something else. Here’s one I found this week.

Well, Otis Redding in his high-waist trousers, hands over the mic to “Mr” Garnet Mimms, a well turned out young man, who proceeds to deliver his song beautifully & passionately. I’m trying to keep it together here but it’s moving colour pictures of Garnet Mimms…bloody hell ! He recorded in New York with the great Jerry Ragovoy. His weave of uptown polish with a gospel feel was as good as soul got in 1963/4 & when his records caught a wave he would have Top 30 hits. “As Long As I Have You” is a near-perfect record & this one “I’ll Take Good Care Of You”, Garnet’s last Top 30 hit, gives it a run for its money. So, the only thing I know about this man is that he just missed the Soul Explosion because Memphis & Motown carried the swing at that time. That & he has a beautiful voice. In 2007 Garnet returned to recording with songwriter/producer John Tiven who specialized in the re-discovery of soul talents. Garnet was 73 years old when “Is Anybody Out There ?” was released. I have not heard the LP but I’m on it now.

One day I just might begin that magnum opus considering the African-American voice as the major determinant of 20th century popular culture. When (OK if ) I do then this clip of Etta James is one of the first illustrations because it is absolutely blinding. We like to place labels on to the things that come our way firstly to comprehend & then to control them. We can put this into that box & we feel better. Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul. In “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” Ms James delivers a summation of 50 years of culture, touching all bases & defying categorization. The original 1964 hit was not 3 minutes long. Here we get the extended 12″ version & it is a showstopper.

Etta had a tough childhood, born in Los Angeles when her mother was just 14 & her father never around. She moved to San Francisco & singing was her way out. There was a hit record when she was just 17 & singing with the Peaches. There were solo successes too in the 1950s before the great Chess label signed her with big plans for her future. I don’t know if “crossover” was around in 1960 but that’s what the string-heavy, overwrought ballads Etta recorded were aimed to be. “At Last” is state of the art but a little too smooth. James had strong ideas about her own career path, she also had drug & alcohol issues. That volatility & power needed to get itself into the music. As we can see here she got it right when she let it all out in front of a big old funky band. The following year (1977) Chess sent Etta down to FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. The “Tell Mama” LP made a soul singer out of her & enhanced an already assured reputation. There were some tough times before Etta James was able to enjoy the deserved recognition which came her way in her later life. She won her first Grammy in 1995. She’s a queen.

On “The !!!! Beat” it was not just those latest pop-soul hits. There are forgotten Texan groups covering Motown, there is even a pre-teen James Brown impersonator ! We have to stick with the classics though so…all together…” We may not have a cent to pay the rent but were gonna make it, I know we will”. “We’re Gonna Make It” a song of optimism, of love will get you through times of no money better than … by Little Milton that I have lived with & loved since 1965. James Milton Campbell Jr made records for over 50 years. In the 1960s he was with Chess & for much of the 70s with Stax. There’s a lot of music from this time & much of it is solid blues & soul. He was a big deal, there’s a village in Oxfordshire named after him.

The accepted wisdom is that by 1966 commercial African-American music was a Land Of A 1000 dances, Dancing In The Street. While  Motown & Stax-Atlantic artists were undoubtedly the most visible the R&B, Blues, even Doo Wop & Gospel traditions were not simply abandoned for fancy suits & synchronized choreography. “The !!!! Beat” looked modern & it was ahead of its’ time in that it was programming for a mainly black audience. What made it so great that it avoided the “look at me !” “you’re only as good as your last hit” shallowness of most contemporary pop shows. So we are lucky enough to see a wider spectrum of artists captured in what can be justifiably termed their glory. Praise Jah !