Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walkin' on the Moon!

Clay Tyson - Moon Man

Comedian Clay Tyson is a footnote in the history of African-American stand-up comedy, despite having a fair number of record releases and despite his serving a stint as part of the James Brown Revue. I've heard one of his stand-up LPs and his two James Brown-produced singles, which I'll discuss below, and I can see that he was indeed a lesser talent among the many "party record" comedians that were plying their trade at the time. (I'm apparently not alone on this - one Internet review of a "Playboy After Dark" TV appearance by JB and his group refers to Tyson's comedy as "lame," and a news story from Stars & Stripes covering a 1968 JB concert for the troops in Korea noted that Tyson's stand-up routine was axed by the AFKN, who was broadcasting the show live, in favor of a musical interlude!)

As I mentioned earlier, Tyson recorded two 45s with James Brown during his tenure with the Revue. The first, "You Don't Know What I Want" b/w "Man on the Moon," was a King 45 from 1968 in which Tyson, working over the "I Can't Stand Myself" riff, tells a blue fairy tale and comments on race and the space program. The second 45, "Moon Man" b/w "If You See a Ring Around The Bathtub (Baby You Know I Left You Clean)," was a 1972 release on I-Dentify. Despite the different titles on the 45, Tyson's doing the same two routines from the King 45, albeit with different music. "Moon Man" actually works a bit better than "Man on the Moon," as it features an attractive chug-a-lug groove over which Tyson talks about how white people hadn't invited any black people to go on any moon missions ("they ain't gonna take us," he asserts), but then suggests that black people should build a rocket (suggesting that James Brown hold a benefit concert to raise the money) and then go not to the moon, but to the sun (flying at night, of course, because the sun would be too hot during the day). It's pure nonsense, but Tyson and JB trade lines and the band does its thing, so the end result is a groovy funky 45.

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