Monday, August 27, 2007
Hey! Hey! I Feel Alright!
James Brown - The Little Groovemaker Me (Pts. 1 & 2)
Yesterday, my wife was channel surfing and we lucked into seeing on VH1 Soul two installments of the highly-praised BBC documentary Soul Deep, which covers the story of black popular music from the gospel era to the present. (Fortunatelty they ran the whole series later in the evening, and I taped it; it needs to be released on DVD!) The first installment I saw (the fifth in the series) covered funk and of course James Brown was a central subject, which inspired today's post.
JB's "The Little Groovemaker Me" was an audience-participation portion of the 1968 LP Live At The Apollo, Vol. 2, where it was billed as "I Feel Alright." The band cooks along with a vamp from "There Was a Time" and Brown has some fun with the audience with the chant "Hey! Hey! I feel alright - UNGH!" After the bit started receiving radio airplay (I have a George Vennette aircheck from New Orleans' WYLD which includes the routine), the segment was scheduled three times for a 1969 single release as King 6235. But such a 45 didn't come to pass: the first two slated releases (one featuring the whole thing as a two-part 45 and the other backing Part One with "Any Day Now") were never pressed and the third release, which backed Part One with "I'm Shook," was withdrawn. (Did any copies of this sneak out, like the fuzz rock original take on "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing"?) The tune finally found a home, albeit on another LP, 1969's It's a Mother.
Whatever the format, however, "Groovemaker" is a treat. The Apollo audience (which was somewhat subdued for the venue, considering the theater's notoriety for rowdy audiences) gets into the spirit of things as JB switches up the game ("two times ... three times ... four times ... well I'll be!") and he chides one of the musicians for some mistake ("he's got something else on his mind ... he wants me to hurry up and get off the stage so he can go home ... c'mon now, brother, stay with me, don't leave me here ... don't take all this groove away"). Knowing JB's reputation as a strict taskmaster, I'm sure what appears on record as a joking moment probably resulted in harsher words and a fine when the show ended!