James Brown, how old are you now?
The organizers of a tribute compilation to the R&B legend — featuring the likes of
ex-Pixies frontman Frank Black and the Fleshtones — aren’t really sure, and
that’s caused some technical difficulties with its final production.
While they had intended to title the upcoming collection Super Bad @ 70: A
Tribute to James Brown, it now appears that the tribute may be renamed
Super Bad @ 65.
Though those involved in the project are inclined to give the Godfather of Soul
the benefit of the doubt — out of respect, if nothing less — it seems that nobody
has been able to pinpoint the funkmaster’s exact age. “We might try to make it a
little more James Brown-friendly,” said Freddie Patterson, executive producer of
the album. “We’re thinking of changing it to 65.”
Still, amid all the decision-making about the R&B legend’s birthday tribute (May
5), one thing is for sure: Black and the Fleshtones will be joined on the
collection by singer/songwriter Jules Shear and by Broke Dick Dog (which
features Mike Watt, Jane’s Addiction/Porno For Pyros drummer Stephen
Perkins and Money Mark) among 12 other artists paying tribute to the artist
known as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
The problem in confirming Brown’s age, according to Patterson, is that his
Guinness Encyclopedia lists a May 3, 1928, birthdate for Brown, but the singer
claims that he was born five years later, in 1933. “It’s like art, I guess,” said
Patterson. “You are what you get away with.” Three resource books checked by
SonicNet Music News supported Brown’s claims.
No matter his age, Brown — who has been coping with legal hassles recently in
pleading no contest to firearms charges filed against him in January and being
ordered to undergo drug treatment, as well as receiving a two-year suspended
sentence — will be treated to a number of unique versions of his classic tracks
when the album hits stores two days after his next birthday, whatever that is.
Patterson, who is a creative manager at Warner/Chappell Music, which
administers Brown’s music publishing, said he was inspired to ask a number of
punk and underground bands to cover the Godfather of Soul’s work after
watching the New Jersey punk band the Swinging Neck Breakers play a
rousing version of the obscure 1958 Brown tune “Good Good Lovin’.” “I thought,
’you know, there could be lots of rock bands out there doing this stuff,’ ”
The results range from what Patterson described as the “Jules doing Van
Morrison doing James Brown” version of “Ain’t That a Groove” by Jules Shear;
brassy band Sex Mob’s take on “Please, Please, Please,” which starts out as a
New Orleans funeral march and ends up like an abstract Albert Ayler jazz
record; and Q-Burns Abstract Message’s ambient stab at the classic “Get Up (I
Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine.”
In the planning stages is a May 3 birthday party at a still-unannounced New
York venue that is slated to feature a number of the compilation’s bands.
The full lineup of the album is: Frank Black at the ’G,’ “Mother Popcorn (You Got
to Have a Mother for Me)”; Chris Whitley, “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You
Touch Me)”; Carmen Quinones (Grand Mal) with Mercury Rev, “It’s a Man’s,
Man’s, Man’s World”; JTQ (James Taylor Quartet), “In the Middle”; World
Famous Blue Jays, “I’ll Go Crazy”; Don Fleming (Gumball), “People Wake Up
and Live”; Q-Burns Abstract Message, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex
Machine”; Jules Shear, “Ain’t That a Groove”; Swingin’ Neck Breakers, “Good,
Good Lovin’ “; Scarnella (Nels Cline and Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine
Fibbers), “Hot Pants (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)”;
the Fleshtones, “Don’t Be a Dropout”; Chris McDermott & His Wild Combo, “The
Whole World Needs Liberation”; Sex Mob, “Please, Please, Please”;
Doublespeak, “King Heroin”; Little Sammy D. & Newborn, “Call Me Super Bad”;
and Broke Dick Dog (Mike Watt, Money Mark and Stephen Perkins),
“Shhhhhhhh! (For a Little While).”