Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Honky Tonk ... Popcorn!

Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk Popcorn b/w Honky Tonk

Organist/bandleader Bill Doggett and James Brown crossed paths at King Records in 1956 and in 1969 in what would truly be a reversal of roles. In 1956 Doggett had a mega-hit on his hands with the smoky, two-part R&B classic "Honky Tonk" (which was allegedly the biggest-selling rock and roll record of all time in those days, save for Elvis' recordings) and Brown was a very raw newcomer, with "Please Please Please" giving him his first taste of success. By 1969, however, Brown was virtually keeping King Records in business with his hits and Doggett's glory was long-faded. It was at that time Brown gave his old labelmate a hand with today's selection and an album of the same name (James would also help Hank Ballard in a similar manner around that time).

"Honky Tonk Popcorn," a Brown composition (which I can't believe I didn't mention in my post about "Popcorn Charlie"), is in essence nothing but a long guitar solo (not sure which James Brown band member is responsible for it ... any ideas are welcome). Over a very basic background vamp the soloist snakes along with no particular sense of melody, spinning a hypnotic web of riffs. The only break from this relentless groove comes at about 2:10 into the song, when the band comes to a complete stop and James makes a series of the strangest squeals ever heard on a Brown recording (they sound to me like a cat mewling!) But then the groove is back and the guitarist carries the song to the fade. Funky funky stuff.

The flip is a very funky remake of "Honky Tonk." Doggett himself had re-recorded the song many times, and Brown also recorded several versions of it (the best version being a 1972 single by "The James Brown Soul Train" featuring the same rhythm used in the Fred Wesley & The J.B.'s 1974 hit "Doing It To Death"). This version tops all of them. After a great breakbeat intro, Doggett tears through the song. The band holds a strong groove to back him up and the end result is worth more than one listen!

1 comment:

reverseengine@gmail.com said...

sweet lord in heaven that is some hot sh*t!!! i've got the funky chills. thanks for another great post.
-dave