James Brown - Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants)
I recommend that everyone check out the Funky 16 Corners obituary of James Brown, as it provides a great overview of JB's life and work, closing with a sentiment that I share: unfortunately, in the mainstream JB is viewed as more of a punchline, the man with the crazy mugshot, than the innovator and trailblazer of American music. Fortunately his work will forever stand on its own, both in recordings and video, and so his greatness cannot be denied. I think that my part in the JB memorials that will be all over music blogdom will be to just cover a few things that I have always enjoyed by JB and his production stable. The three "Rhubarb Cake" shows I posted yesterday, plus everything that everyone else will write, will offer so much more than the lowly Stepfather, so I'm not going to try anything that massive. I probably will, however, do a tribute set later in the week.
The three-part People 45 of "Hot Pants" was the first James Brown record I ever heard. As I noted in my Ahmet Ertegun post the other week (too many legends are passing away, I say!) my introduction to soul came from my mom's records, and the James Brown 45 stood out from all the rest I was listening to in those days: the groove was so bare; James' vocals were chanted and not sung; the horns darted in and out save for the vamp toward the end of Part 1. It was raw funk, my first exposure to the genre. What a way to be introduced to the sound!
"Hot Pants" was James' second release on his new King-distributed People label (the first being "Escape-Ism"), and it was a #1 Billboard R&B chart hit in 1971. The hit came at an odd time, however, as James was about to leave King Records (whose entire operations, by this point, were basically kept afloat by JB's hits) for Polydor, taking the People imprint and his masters with him.
Polydor rushed out the Hot Pants LP to ride out the People 45's momentum, and James re-recorded the song to be the centerpiece of the album. The album was not one of the stronger entries in JB's discography (although the improv jam "Blues & Pants" is a personal favorite, that will appear in a future JB tribute post), and I personally find the People version of "Hot Pants" to be the superior recording. Here, James talks about "the girl over there with the hot pants on" while a sinister guitar line strolls along and the very simple bassline provides the tune's heartbeat.