today’s songinmyhead: “Free and Single” (The Brothers Johnson)

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So a couple of hours ago, I was just minding my business… when Treasure Blue, one of my Facebook friends, posted this:

“A woman’s favorite song will say more about her and who she is, than her mouth ever will.”

Because I’m a smartass, and because Treasure Blue is my friend, I posted the name of the first smartass song that popped into my mind: “Free and Single by the Brothers Johnson.”

Now that song came out in 1976, and was on their debut album, Look Out For #1, which I’m holding in my hand right now. Those brothas could play some fon-keh guitar and bass–wowwowwow!! Then again, they were discovered by Quincy Jones, so what would you expect but quality and talent? The album had these tracks, several of which became hits:

SIDE ONE:
I’ll Be Good to You
Thunder Thumbs and Lightnin’ Licks
Get the Funk Out Ma Face
Tomorrow
Free and Single

SIDE TWO:
Come Together
Land of Ladies
Dancin’ and Prancin’
The Devil

I loved all the songs on the album. But I had *extra* love for Free and Single.

This song got my respect because it was so damn brutal. Those lyrics told it like it was. It was a man’s anthem which warned women that this dude was enjoying his bachelorhood–and you don’t wanna get in the way of a dude who tells you he’s enjoying his bachelorhood! Any smart woman who paid attention to that sucka could get a tuition-free pee h dee in relationships. Yes indeed. I admired the bravery and the honesty of those lyrics.

Since you asked, here are the lyrics, taken from the album sleeve. Of course I’ve memorized them (ha ha), but I just now pulled out the album sleeve and noticed that my smart ass made corrections to the printed lyrics right on the sleeve! But you know me–I can’t help myself. I was born an editor!

FREE AND SINGLE
Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya ya!

I’m a man full of fun
I can’t stop, must book, I gotta run
Cause there’s thing I gotta do
I can’t do ’em all staying with you

Now if you want me, you got to get me
But I promise you that you’ll miss me
I know you can’t hold on
Cause this bull is much too strong

Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya ya!

I got to keep movin’ around
I can’t let nothin’ tie me down
Cause’ once you got a love Jones
You’ve got to be at home Jones

There’s no way that I can do it
I can’t seem to satisfy you
If you want me all the time girl
I can’t promise I’ll be true

Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya
Ya ya ya ya ya ya!

There’s people I got to see
I got to be alone to be me
You can’t stop the rain, baby
You can’t heal the heart when it’s painin’

So I’d rather not be
What you want to see
I don’t want to see you cry
When I give someone else a try

There’s no way that I can do it
I can’t seem to satisfy you
If you want me all the time girl
I can’t promise I’ll be true
I can’t promise I’ll be true
I might change
I might change
Rearrange, on you
I said, I might change
I might change
Rearrange, like I always do
I might keep you one day
The next I won’t have ya
I might keep you one day
The next day I’ll have me a new one
Well that’s the way I am
And the way I’ll be
If you want to stay
Come on and see me
But, I might change
I might change
I might change or rearrange
I might change your brain
I might change your brain
I might change your brain
Rearrange
All your marbles
Hey!

Lyrics ©1976, George Johnson and Louis Johnson

Okay, now that you know the lyrics, let’s hear you sing along:

Bros Johnson jacket

(click to enlarge) My “Look Out For #1” album cover and inner sleeve with the lyrics. Whoever the hell wrote on that sleeve will be SPANKED!

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a message like that? Or delivered one yourself? Do tell in the Comments section below!

eavesdroppings: Paul Simon

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eavesdroppings: muse-nourishing s**t i hear musicians
(and other creative artists) say

The album that preceded GracelandHearts and Bones—was a relative commercial failure, and my reaction to that, rather than thinking ‘Oh I’m dead,’ was ‘Well good! The next time I make a record, nobody’ll be looking over my shoulder, which is what they’d been doing for years and years—‘What’s the hit on this album? What’s it gonna be?’ — because I’d had an unbroken string of hits from Simon & Garfunkel, up until Hearts and Bones.

So that was in my mind when I went to South Africa: well, I can do whatever I want here and I’m not gonna get calls from the record company every week saying ‘How’s it going?’ or ‘Can you send us something? We’re dying to hear it.’ They just left me alone, and that was good.

–Paul Simon, in Under African Skies, the 2012 documentary marking the 25th anniversary of his Graceland album

eavesdroppings: Seymour Stein (Sire Records)

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eavesdroppings: muse-nourishing s**t i hear musicians
(and other creative artists) say

When we started Sire Records we had very little money. One thing we could offer was artistic freedom, because it didn’t cost anything.

–Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, about signing Ice-T (on The E! True Hollywood Story: Ice-T and Coco)

eavesdroppings: Sheila E.

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eavesdroppings: muse-nourishing s**t i hear musicians
(and other creative artists) say

They (my parents) said ‘Why don’t you try violin–because then you can make money, you can play for the movies and score and read music’… and all of the things that he [my father Pete] hadn’t done.

— Sheila E., interviewed in TV ONE’s “Unsung”

sheila-e

Sheila E

Mixtape-Makin’ Memories

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Recently I read an interview with the Roots’ drummer Questlove in which he talked about his passion for making mixtapes before the age of the iPod.

“I’d stay up hours the night before [a tour],” he said. “Like, I should be packing for Europe but I’m trying to make a ten-volume Mellow mix… going to CVS, buying five-packs of those Maxell XL-IIs, the real clear ones. And up until airport call I’m still trying to squeeze that last song in.”

Well DAMN, did that send me down memory lane.

Because anyone who’s known me for a long time can tell you that ever since wayyyyyyyyyy back in the day, my go-to gift to give has been a mixtape. Whenever there was an occasion calling for a gift, you’d get a tape. Or two.

Of course, there were the obvious “Birthday Music” and “Anniversary Music” compilations.

But if you changed your address, you got a tape of “Housewarming Music.”

If you had a new boo, you’d thank me later for the “Lovemaking Music.”

Feeling sick? The label read “Healing Jams.”

Bought a new car? I got your “Driving Music” right here.

If you were a classical or jazz purist, my mischievous side would come out and I’d put together some music by artists you probably wouldn’t be caught dead listening to… until I made that tape for you.

Seriously, I made so many mixtapes for people that I had to develop a system for not repeating myself. So each time I made a tape I wrote the track list on an index card, and kept the cards in a box filed under the recipient’s name. A quick check of the card before making another tape for that person helped avoid the embarrassment of “Thanks, but you already put that song on my birthday tape from last year!”

Mixtape Records

The little box of mixtape uh, records. On each tab is a person’s name, and behind it is an index card listing the tracks on each tape they got.

Mixtape Records 2
The reputation-saving index cards

Mixtapes were a labor of  love—because you could only record in real time. A 90-minute tape would take 90 minutes to record. But I loved sitting at the console, cheffing up the tunes. A dash of this, a splash of that… It gave me such a thrill when people would tell me how much they loved their mixtapes! And I would love receiving them as gifts myself.

Random Tapes

Some random tapes I pulled from my collection, just to show you. From left: The first three are probably recorded from the radio, most likely WRVR. The fourth is the very first tape I owned–somebody call the Smithsonian! The handwritten ones were gifts to me, and the typewritten ones are record company promos.

And so what if it’s the twenty-first century? As passionately as ever, I still make and give mixtapes as gifts. Only now, I curate from the my digital music library, created from my own CDs. Mixtapes… without the tapes. Of course, since I still have working equipment (and a few factory-sealed cassette tapes!!) I could make an actual mixtape if I so chose. But who could play it?

Yeah sure, there are playlists that you can download online, with all the work done for you. But I’m a purist: I love the sheer fun and discovery of putting it together myself. There’s nothing like rolling your own!

QUESTION: Who gave you YOUR favorite mixtape?