Sammy Gordon & The Hiphuggers - Upstairs on Boston Road Pt1
I was going to start out this post with an aphorism about how funk 45s are like potato chips (in that you can’t have just one), or like pizza (‘cuz even lame pizza’s still pretty good) but neither one of those comparisons said what I wanted. Then I thought “Hot dogs!” There are countless kinds of hot dogs, most are decent, and some are amazing, but if you don’t like hot dogs at all, it doesn’t matter how good they are since you can’t even imagine eating one without thinking about lips and assholes... Then I thought to myself, “Mmmmmmm...hot dogs..” (insert Homer Simpson drool here). Then I thought again (my brain is starting to hurt), and decided that food analogies really weren’t where it’s at when it comes to explaining funk 45s. I apologize for having wasted your time... Let’s start again. In the years since the whole funk 45 thing blew up (as far as an underground collectors scene can “blow up”), some great records have come to light, lots of pretty good records, and maybe even more run of the mill stuff. The thing is, if you really, really dig funky sounds, even the run of the mill stuff has its moments. However, if you found your way into the world of funk 45s via some amazing compilation of super-raer, break-filled bangers, where the only known copies are in Keb Darge’s super secret record box and on the wall in some Japanese record store, you might come into things with unnaturally high expectations. This is true of any music. If the first thing you hear is ‘A Love Supreme’, and it peels your eyelids back and makes your hair stand on end, you may have some trouble getting your groove on to some of the earlier Miles Davis Quintet LPs on Prestige. This certainly isn’t true of everyone. If your ears are truly attuned to any kind of music, you’re always going to go a little bit deeper than the dilettantes (I’m trying here to use that word with as little pejorative meaning as possible) in the crowd. That’s not to say that certain exceptional pieces of music from any subgenre aren’t going to have a legitimate effect on listeners. There’s hardly a record collection in the world that doesn’t have one or two oddball pieces, pulled from genres that the collector in question wouldn’t normally have anything to do with. There are also those that follow fads like a leaf in the wind, blowing from one section of the record bins to another (and sometimes back again) as fashion dictates. Where am I going with this? Like Tonto, I’ve had my ear to the rails and I hear a backlash a-coming. Maybe it’s not a full-scale backlash, but rather an ebb in the intensity of interest in all things funk 45. It’s just that it seems that the wave has broken, and as it recedes, it carries away with it those who’s interests were not as long lasting, who’s ears were seeking something else all the while, and justifiably the seekers who feel that a vein has been mined out and new discoveries are out there to be made (and they almost always are). These are all “legitimate” moves. It’s all about taste, and tastes change, and not everyone can tolerate a whole lot of one kind of stuff. It doesn’t help that the definition of funk is a flexible one, built on shifting sands. There are those (myself included) that would include a wide variety of sounds under the “funk” banner, knowing all the while that the stylistic distinctions are bleeding at the edges, melding with blues, soul, R&B, jazz, and even rock and that listeners are coming into the world of funk from all of these areas. Some get comfortable, stay a while and pass between those other “boundaries” at will (because for some they are not boundaries at all, but rather opportunities). As a result, most of those people (myself included, again) will always dig funk to a certain extent simply because it’s a permanent part of their palate. Others will root at the trough until the next big thing rolls by, and then will depart. That’s just the way things happen. So, I guess what I’m saying is, ‘Let the backlash begin’. It will have a negative effect on those who’s fortunes are in some way tied into the style (i.e. funk DJs, folks running clubs, live bands), but those things have always lived and died by the vagaries of public taste, and will – in an unfortunately Darwinian turn – either adapt or become extinct. But when they’re gone, no matter how epic a demise they experience, the music will remain. Why this rumination? Well, I just happen to have a very tasty funk 45 lined up as today’s selection, and sadly (though not unexpectedly) I haven’t been able to turn up a lot of hard data on the group. Sammy Gordon & The Hiphuggers were almost certainly a New York City band. They released a couple of tasty funk 45s on Brooklyn, NY labels (For The Archives and Lu Lu) and eventually morphed into a disco group (Their disco 12” ‘Making Love’ will set you back between $75 and $100). Today’s selection ‘Upstairs on Boston Road Pt 1’ is a very nice bit of urban funk that opens with a snappy little break, then busts wide open with horns and organ. When the “verse” starts the whole gang gets into a rolling tempo with some twangy guitar that suggests a bridge between the jazzy edge of Kool & The Gang and the patented James Brown git-down. There’s not that much of a change between parts 1 & 2 (otherwise I would have posted both halves). Anyway, I figured it’d make a good accompaniment to my State of the Funk 45 Address (as it is...). “Upstairs on Boston Road Pts 1&2” is supposedly the less expensive of the two funky Sammy Gordon & The Hiphuggers 45s (though it cost me more), but it ought to be findable for the $30-$40 mark. It has been comped on DJ Pogo Presents Block Party Breaks, Vol. 2, but I don’t think it’s in print anymore. The tune has been covered recently by the UK group Sting Davies & The Organites.