From Funk to Punk, With a Side of Meat Loaf
So sorry, but it can't be helped; today's serving of homegrown hits and misses contains a side of Mama's favorite hamburger helper with plenty of extra cheese. But why deny the fact Marvin Aday, graduate of the very same high school that made me the man I ain't today, is probably the biggest (heh) rock and roller ever to steam outta this town and roll over the world? Edie who? Dixie wha? 'Zactly, holmes, as Ella Mae Morse said back when we started this trip down Amnesia Lane on Tuesday. So we go funk to punk, ushering out the Golden Age with classics beloved and overlooked, and look onward to next week's trip to familiar places populated by friendly faces. --Robert Wilonsky
Sly and the Family Stone, "I Want to Take You Higher": It's astounding how little is known about Sly Stone's days in Texas; there's no agreeing even on when he was born (March 15, everyone says, but in 1941, 1943 or 1944?) or where (Denton claims him, as does Dallas). Freddie's said to have been born two years later; some folks have Dallas, others Northern Cali, which is highly unlikely since the family probably didn't move to Vallejo till the 1950s. Then again...who the hell knows? If nothing else, it suggests it's about damned time someone got to writing a book about the man with two perfect records to his credit (1970s's Greatest Hits and 1971's There's a Riot Goin' On--and if you don't believe me, see the Dean for proof) and a few others awfully friggin' close. This, of course, comes from 1969's Stand!, the most ironically named album of all time; dance, motherfucker, dance.
Marchel Ivery Quintet, song title unknown: That's right--"song title unknown," probably because on that rainy night in June 1970, the group's South Dallas Pop Festival set list packed a hundred songs into one firecracker that tore a whole in the soggy roof off the Central Forest Club on old Forest Ave. Ivery, a beloved jazzer still playing around town, fronted a monster quintet back then. Course, you had to be hellacious to keep pace with the likes of the Apollo Commanders and the Soul Seven and the other jazz-funk-rock-etc. hellraisers roaming the South Dallas clubs (The Lark on Grane Avenue and the Gemini 101 on Second Avenue) at the time.
Johnnie Taylor, "Cheaper to Keep Her": Taylor--born in Arkansas 68 years ago, died in Dallas six years ago--is the through line connecting Sam Cooke to Junior Parker to Stax/Volt to the Chitlin' Circuit to disco and back downhome again. Exactly 30 years ago he hit the top of the charts for Columbia with "Disco Lady" from Eargasm, the best record title ever. But that came after a decade-long Stax stint that produced this slow-roller and show-stealer in '73.
"England" Dan Foley & John Ford Coley, "I 'd Really Love to See You Tonight": Included because nobody believes this gold-standard duo, last heard from yesterday suffering a psychedelic freak-out, hails from Dallas. Or that anyone could write a song this friggin' gooey. You, in the back, stop slow-dancing; this ain't no bar mitzvah party.
Boz Scaggs, "Lowdown": Dallas may have clogged up pop radio in the mid-'70s--see above and below--but of this there is no doubt: Silk Degrees, released in 1976, was the classiest, funkiest bit of white-boy soul ever to hit the top of the pops. And it came with three hits, including this one, that landed in the upper decks.
Meat Loaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light": Rock opera, schlock opera--either way, there's no denying the power (or whatever that sticky stuff is) of this 1977 Bat Out of Hell track that stays with you forever, like the taste of good wine or bad meat, take your pick. And this Thomas Jefferson High School grad still wants to make your motor run, which is nice.
Telefones, "The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla": Hell of a transition there, from Meat Loaf to Telefones; pardon the speed bump, willya? But those who think Dallas had no substantial punk-rock scene in the late '70s are sadly mistaken; call George Gimarc, why don't you, and let him set you straight as he did the generation of radio listener treated to repeated playings of this local rock-and-roll alternative, er, hit. The Telefones--three Dirkx bros and a saxman named Will Clay--were among those who got there first and best; this single is more pop than snap-crackle, but only because the boys knew how to play.
The Nervebreakers, "I Confess": Pretty much the band of the local punk-rock era; when you open for the Ramones and the Sex Pistols--far as they can recall, anyway--you're pretty much entitled to the throne. This cut, made in 1980 with the classic line-up that included Barry Kooda and Mike Haskins on guitar, Tex Edwards singin', Bob Childress on bass and Carl Giesecke on drums, is probably the most definitive 'Breakers tune; me, I prefer "Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls, Girls," which is among the dozen or so tracks available online. And, pretty sure till, oh, the New Bohemians came along that the Nervebreakers were the last Dallas band to land in Rolling Stone.
Coming next: What they were is what they were, and other sounds of Deep Ellum.