The Chairmen of the Board - Since the Days of Pigtails (and Fairy Tales)
Stand up and salute! It's General Johnson.
Friday has arrived once again, the weekend is upon us, and I must take this chance to say, huzzah! Kudos to the inventors of the weekend, the 40 hour work week (as it is), labor laws and health insurance (again, as it is…). I invoke these great – and often forgotten – pioneers, because if they ever had the opportunity to return from the great beyond, and see who’s running this country, they would, to the last, expire again immediately, their ghostly faces twisted in disbelief. Now, I know that this blog has always had a musical focus, but if you’re a loyal reader you know that I sometimes digress into political ruminations, and this is such an instance. George Bush is a lying motherf*cker. There, I said it. Sure, I didn’t have to resort to profanity, but I find it difficult to think of what Bush has done to this country without descending into a kind of subverbal funk where foul language is about as good as I can muster. Things are that bad. The specific instance of dishonesty I speak of, is back when the whole affaire de Plame got rolling, ad he expressed his displeasure with people that leak information, and how when he found out who it was that was leaking information, he was going to fire them. So, yesterday, we find out from the humorously named “Scooter” Libby (who’s real first name, hidden behind the initial ‘I’, must be so horrible as to never be revealed, because, when you think of it, why would any grown man - outside of a full time circus midget - go around calling himself Scooter?) has testified that it was Bush himself who OK’d the leak of classified information. He apparently did so after getting “legal” advice from Alberto “Dowatchalike” Gonzalez. So today, after an evening of deafening silence, Bush sends his greased weasel Scott McClellan into a hostile pressroom to split hairs, parse language, invoke ongoing investigations and generally add insult to injury by inflating the “lie pile” just a little bit more. Apparently allergic to straight answers, McClellan spent the better part of a half an hour dancing around the issue of the President’s no-leak policy by claiming that Bush was referring only to leaking of classified information (which he clearly wasn’t), and that the release of information he has “declassified” is not a leak, but merely contribution of information “in the public interest” (a phrase McClellan used over and over again, never convincingly) in order to counter “lies and misinformation” from hostile Democrats. Please… A leak is a leak is a leak, and if you sprinkle a pile of shit with diamonds, it’s still just a pile of shit. These people ought to be ashamed of themselves, but sadly, it appears that they are beyond shame. So, anyway, how’s about some music? I’ve gone on before about the joy of discovering a great new track, and haven’t been above admitting the instances when I had been unable to see the forest for the trees. This is one such instance. A few weeks ago, via a Myspace friend, Spain’s own Gruyere DJ, I received a link to download his New Years Eve DJ mix. I did so, and the mix was excellent, featuring a wide variety of rare funk nuggets, as well as a bunch of stuff that was not familiar to me. One such track appeared less than 15 minutes into the mix, and it was a killer. I immediately recued the tune (three of four times), listening to see if I might recognize the singer(s), or if any of the lines might reveal a familiar title. No such luck. So, I tried to contact Gruyere DJ to ask him who it was. The Myspace link wouldn’t load. So, I posted a query over at Soulstrut, figuring that one of the learned heads over there would recognize the refrain. Snake eyes…. Then I tried Google-ing the lyrics, only to discover that the main line in the chorus also appeared in a Jackson Five song (this was clearly not the same song, nor was it the Jackson Five). I thought I had reached a dead end. Then Myspace started working again, and I got a message through to my amigo in Spain. He got back to me in short order, and informed me that the track was ‘Since the Days of Pigtails (and Fairy Tales)’ by the Chairmen of the Board. So I start searching around to see how I an get myself a copy of this funky gem, and lo and behold, it turns out to be residing on the b-side of a huge hit, ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’. Well, dip me in shit and call me stinky! Naturally, I found a nice copy for under ten bucks, and had it drop through the mail slot a few short days later. If you’ve heard the song (which I’m sure someone out there does), you’ll already know how smoking hot it is. If you’re as blissfully ignorant as I was, it should come as a very nice surprise indeed. The Chairmen of the Board was one of the top acts in Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus/Hot wax stable. Formed in 1968, by General Johnson – who had previously been in the Showmen, who’s Beach Music anthem ‘It Will Stand was a hit in 1961 and 1964 (for Minit and Imperial) – Danny Woods and Harrison Kennedy, hit the top ten several times between 1970 and 1973. ‘Since the Days of Pigtails (and Fairy Tales)’ appeared on their 1970 debut LP, and was credited to Ronald Dunbar and Edith Wayne. The Dunbar/Wayne credit, which was also attached to Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’ (among other tunes) was in fact a pseudonym for Holland-Dozier-Holland who were still contractually obligated (as songwriters) to the Motown organization. That LP also featured the original recording of Patches (written by General Johnson) which went on to be a huge hit for Clarence Carter. While the a-side of the 45, ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’ is one of the most fondly remembered early 70’s soul classics - which strangely enough did better on the Pop charts (#3) than the R&B charts (#8) – it’s killer flipside is what we’re hear to talk about today. Starting off with a funky guitars and tambourine, the good General drops in with the first few lines before the congas, and then the drums kick the tune into gear. The first chorus takes things to another level entirely, bolstered by the horn section. The arrangement is clean, mean and delicious, with enough kick to please the funk fans and the dancers, and plenty of hooks for the pop crowd. Why this didn’t catch on to create one of the great two-sided hits of all time is beyond me. I’d place it up there with ‘Band of Gold’, and Laura Lee’s ‘Crumbs off the Table’ as the absolute best of Invictus/Hot Wax. So the next time you’re prowling garage sales and flea markets, bring along an extra quarter. You’ll be able to get your own copy of this killer. You can thank me then.