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The Winstons - Amen Brother

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:13 pm
by nikki akinjinmi
Yesterday a friend tipped me off about an item on BBC radio 4 regarding The Winstons' Amen Brother and influence the drum break contained in that record has had on countless records, sampled so often with the original musicians (particularly the drummer) receiving little if anything at all.

Anyway here is an article (with the title: Six Seconds That Shaped 1,500 Songs) about said drum break

Re: The Winstons - Amen Brother

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 7:06 pm
by NormanD
Child is the father to the man. Tom told me about this a while back (The "Amen break") and, naturally, I forgot. Thanks for the reminder. I'll pay more attention to my son's music tastes.

It's good, ennit?

Re: The Winstons - Amen Brother

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 7:54 pm
by Gordon Neill
I saw the article yesterday. It reminded me of couple of aspects of the recent tug-of-money over the Got to Give Up Listening To Blurred Lines thing.

The first was the over-the-top victim language. In the earlier performance, Marvin Gaye's daughter burst into tears and claimed it was 'a miracle' that she was now 'free of the chains what they tried to keep on us'. I don't know if any onions were harmed. She managed to wedge in religion and slavery. But didn't mention what she was going to spend her share of the $7.4 million lottery win. Now, in this version, the lead singer feels 'raped'. I mean seriously. 'Raped'. Has rape become something trivial? Has it changed its meaning? Or is it being used to try and chisel some money?

The second similarity is this peculiar belief that no-one ever steals anything from anyone. Especially musicians. They're sent by God to do His will. I mean, every song you've ever heard is unique and bears no resemblance to any other song ever created. They're like snowflakes hummed by Jesus. Only crafted by people trying to make some money.

There's a wonderful story told by Nick Tosches in his book 'Country'. In 1976 he interviewed Warren Smith about his song 'Black Jack David', the b-side of 'Ubangi Stomp'. 'I wrote it' says Warren. Nick Tosches then proceeds to give a history of 'Black Jack David', starting rather implausibly in 29 B.C. and then, rather more plausibly, going through the various versions from12 century Ireland, 14th century England and 19th century Scotland (yes, I know, we were a bit slow). He touches on newer versions which entered the New Worldbefore 1750. We then get to recorded versions from 1929 (Professor and Mrs Greer), 1939 (Cliff Carlisle), 1940 (the Carter Family), 1945 (T Texas Tyler). There was a squabble about the copyright between the last two (they were quite modern). Warren Smith was seven years old when the Cliff Carlisle version came out. He was 13 when T Texas Tyler had a go. But, as Warren Smith says, 'I wrote it'.

Amusingly, there is even an example of disputed ownership in the Winstons story. You would have thought that maybe it was the drummer, GC Coleman, that came up with the drum bit. But no. It turns out that he's dead. So, presumably on the basis that Coleman couldn't take it with him, Richard L Spencer, the lead singer, claims that it was he, the singer, who 'directed it'.

And how about just listening to the 'Amen, Brother' track (as opposed to the little drum bit)? It's nothing special, to me. Echoes of James Brown, some Stax-Atlantic? Or is some sort of 'tribute'?

All this, of course, is a sign of the times ( (c) The Artist Formally Known As The Artist Formally Known As Prince). We've been through the most remarkable century of creativity. But, as the recording has strengthened, the creativity has weakened. What was flowing is now set, what was blowing is now just wind. Time for the lawyers to step on in.....

Re: The Winstons - Amen Brother

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 12:52 am
by Garth Cartwright
Nice post, Gordon. Do please contribute more.

I was alerted to the story by Marc Engel - who some of you know - who said "that could be any Earl Palmer break".To which I said "the cult of the break means many producers use the same sample because it once appeared on a rap record that is 'seminal' so they all feel they have to use it." Rather than, say, listening out for an Earl Palmer break. A bit like pub blues bands all doing the same standards.

This story is really absurd as the record is pretty obscure, the drummer is dead and guilty young white guys are raising money for a musician who, if he hired a decent copyright lawyer, could claim decent funds. I've intv'd Jimmy Castor, Charles Wright and Syl Johnson and all have very comfortable pensions from sampling royalties - but this is never mentioned in the story.

And the band leader's quote that he grew up in an age where people didn't steal - the late 60s when Zep & Stones and everyone was lifting wholesale from blues recordings, some that were less than a decade old.

That the BBC would carry such a silly story makes me wonder what the fuck is going on there? Maybe one of the fundraisers is related to a Beeb producer? I mean, this is nonsense. And, yes, Gordon, the use of such language as "slave" and "raped" shows how victim culture has invaded and debased debate.