On Friday, Feb 10th, as part of my random ten iPod songs, I said the following:
2. Funky Drummer- James Brown: I once was in a band who were briefly courted by RCA Records back in the ’90s. The A&R guy was named Peter Lubin, and he had been around in A&R for years, and had a good set of ears and an even better nose for trouble, which is why he didn’t sign the troubled bunch of yoofs for whom I was drumming. Over dinner, while we were still in the courtship stage, Lubin talked about his early days as a mid-level flunkie at Polygram (or Polydor- can’t remember), and James Brown announced that he was bringing his new album down for everyone to preview. This was an occasion, one must understand, and the label assembled everyone in a large listening room at the appointed time. James brought his entire entourage- more than a dozen people- band, band girlfriends and wives, manager, personal assistants, a fair to middling crowd of folks, and with much ceremony, James had someone put the big reel-to-reel tapes up on the giant tape machine, and had the lights turned down. The massive sound system was turned up to near bursting, and the sort of standard mid-’70s James Brown band groove (see Hotpants and Popcorn and My Thang and Funky President (People it’s Bad) for examples) began to bubble out. It played for about three and a half minutes, and Lubin sat bobbing his head and smiling, when James suddenly shouted “YOU!!!” Lubin looked up as the music stopped, and James was pointing RIGHT AT HIM.
“Me?” he bleated.
“What’s the matter? You don’t like my RECORD?!!?” shouted James.
“N-n-n-n-n-o… I mean, YES, I like it. It’s great, um… sounds great James….” Twenty-something years old, and the Godfather of Soul suddenly hates him for no apparent reason.
“TURN IT OFF!” shouted the Godfather. “TURN MY FUCKING MUSIC OFF! FUCK ALL OF YOU PEOPLE! WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE? I’M THE GODFATHER OF SOUL!!” James tore the reel-to-reel masters off of the machine himself, and the entire entourage stalked silently and with much hostility, out of the room, back to the airport and back to Augusta.
After hearing that story, I have always suspected that Funky Drummer was the track in question. I don’t know why, but despite its being the most sampled hip-hop break in music history, this track never really jumped out at me as being the best James Brown tune of all time. Oh, well. (6/10)
I got an email from Peter Lubin last night, and it said:
What James Brown actually said was, “I ain’t playin’ my record for you or any of you other WHITE, HONKY MOTHERFUCKERS!!”
All the best,
Just wanted to make sure everyone got the message…