Perry & The Harmonics - Do the Monkey With James
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang!!
Despite all of the scrounging around I do through literally tons of dusty old records, it’s rare that I find a complete surprise. Of all the discs I grab with an interesting label, group name or song title, I’m lucky if one out of every 50 is good, one out of a few hundred a work of genius. This is one of those rare ones! ‘Do the Monkey With James’ by Perry and the Harmonics is a record I discovered in my pre-portable days, when I had to depend on/fight for access to a record store listening station to check out my diggings. Fortunately the place where I got this was located out in what we like to call East Jabib, and I could safely drop in on a weekday and dig through boxes of 45s to my hearts content for hours on end, interrupted only by strange old dudes with combovers looking for Barry Manilow 45s (oh yeah...they’re out there). Sadly, the last time I stopped in, word had apparently gotten out to the “digger community” and the place looked like it had been hung upside down and shaken until every decent record was gone. The day I dug this out of what can safely be called a pile of crap and dropped the needle on the disc I knew from the first few seconds that I had a winner on my hands. Opening with a brisk but low-key vamp, a voice soon enters the scene. ‘Have you ever heard of James? That cat with ten gold fingers? Who had Russia sending him love? Girls falling at his feet. James can do anything. The Jerk, The MONKEY, the Twist. In fact James’ Monkey sorta goes like this…” all followed by a brief sax solo, and the organ EXPLODES! The tune turns from a slightly sinister novelty into a stone groover. Perry & The Harmonics were a Chicago group (led by saxophonist Clarence Perry). Their 45, ‘Do The Monkey With James’ b/w ‘James Out Of Sight’ was lifted from the Mercury LP ‘Intrigue With Soul’. A quick look at the song titles on the LP (or a listen to the lyrics of the single) makes it immediately that the ‘James’ in the tune in Bond, not Brown (see Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers ‘Sock It To ‘Em JB for a similar take). The ‘vocal’ (more like narration) and piano were provided by Ed Townsend, who had had significant success as a ballad singer (‘For Your Love’ in 1958). He also wrote ‘For The Love Of My Man’ for Theola Kilgore and later co-wrote ‘Let’s Get It On’ for Marvin Gaye. While ‘Do The Monkey With James’ is an absolutely brilliant soul/jazz killer, it’s obscurity is probably due to the fact that it was likely swallowed in a tidal wave of “spy”-related cash-ins around the Bond films, including the Man from U.N.C.L.E. on TV, and Derek Flint, Modesty Blaise, and Matt Helm in the movies. Not to mention a bunch of soul tributes including the Miracles ‘Come Spy With Me’, the Olympics ‘Secret Agents’ and the aforementioned Rex Garvin disc. It doesn’t help that the rest of the LP, despite being quality soul jazz, is a little on the dull side, sounding NOTHING like the 45. There is a certain cool, spy-jazz sound (5 of the 9 tracks are covers of Bond themes by John Barry and Bricusse/Newley), and the tunes ‘Golden Horn’, ‘Goldfinger’s Got the Blues’ and ‘James Goes To Soulville’ are definitely worth a second listen. The organ (played by Richard McRea) is wailing and the backbeat (Paul Pratt on guitar and Maurice Wells on drums) makes it a great dancer. In a just world ‘Do The Monkey With James’ would be revered as a Mod classic, burning up turntables and dance floors the world over. It may yet happen…. The45 of this tune is extremely hard to come by, though I have seen it pop up on E-Bay once in a blue moon. The lp, which is also hard to find does seem to pop up more frequently. As far as I know ‘Do The Monkey With James’ has never been reissued. PS This is a slightly revised version of a ‘Hammond Groove of the Month’ from the Funky16Corners web zine. For my recycling I humbly beg your forgiveness. I’d been wanting to blog this disc for a while and I figured I had covered all the pertinent points already.