Monday, May 02, 2005

Show Me Your "O" Face

An observant reader pointed out to me that I seem to have forgotten the alphabet. "So, Mo - did the letter 'O' stump you r have you given up on that whole musical alphabet thing?" No, I did not forget, ye of little faith. I present you with: OTIS!

There are lots of Otis-es out there. I'm only gonna write about two of them. Otis Redding and Shuggie Otis.

Otis Redding. Pretty genius - I mean, everybody knows "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" which came out after he died in 1967 (in a plane crash which also took along his back-up band, the Bar-Kays - funk legends on their own). Maybe you think that's the only Otis Redding song you know... well, it ain't. "Respect" by Aretha? An Otis song. "Pain In My Heart" by the Stones? Redding again. (In return, he did a pretty walloping version of "Satisfaction" which got him a bit of attention.) And if any of you kids saw "Pretty In Pink" (and I know you have, you John Hughes puppets you!) then you know "Try A Little Tenderness," because that's the song that Ducky lip syncs to in the record store and then sort of freaks out Annie Potts and Molly Ringwald.

Otis was well on his way to becoming a huge pop megastar when that plane went down. He was only on the scene for about 5 years (he was 26 when he died) and yet everyone knows his name and would recognize his voice, a smooth one that can convey grittiness or the sexy, depending on what he's trying to get out of you. Do yourself a favor and get one of his anthologies. Totally worth it.

Next up: Shuggie Otis. I don't have much to say about this guy except for the fact that he wrote "Strawberry Letter 23," which sounds really awesome blaring out of my friend's 1962 Buick Riviera. He's a guitar prodigy who played with his dad, Johnny Otis, and put out a couple trippy soul albums in the early 70's. The mod kids seemed to take a real liking to this guy, and I remember that in 2001 or so, Shuggie's records got re-released and hip kids went batshit. He did a little mini-tour, and a friend of mine got to DJ before the set at San Francisco's Fillmore. The report I got back was something like this:

"Man, Shuggie totally dialed it in, at best! He showed up all fucked up, didn't give a shit about anything that was going on, and played like crap. It was totally depressing and I have no respect for the guy." Whoa, harsh! Guess he was just doing it for the money.