Friday, June 10, 2005

Black Betty, Wild Things, Wives of Artie Shaw & Dance Monkeys

Ram Jam

Little sems to be known about the 70's boogie rock wunderkinds of Ram Jam, (or at least let's just say I'm not gonna spend days digging through my rock encyclopedia volumes to provide ya with nuggets of useful trivia on some one hit wonders). The basics are that the N.Y based group contained members that were previously affiliated with Billy Joel's first group The Hassles & bumblegum icons The Lemon Pipers ( "Green Tamborine"). According to, Billy Joel often dedicates "We Didn't Start the Fire" to late bassist Howie Blauvelt when he performs live. While this rocking song ranks right up there with Frankenstein by Edgar Winter and numerous boogie rock chestnuts of the era by Humble Pie, Lynyrd Skynyrd & Golden Earring ,it ain't an original track. Black Betty is a song that first enters the flat black spinning disc world not in this 1977 version, but via Huddie Ledbetter aka Ledbelly. Maybe he stole it from somebody else, but all I know is that he is first to market and that's what counts around here. An Ohio area group called Starstruck first put a rock version out, but it takes a defection by Starstruck's guitarist Bill Bartlett to engage involvement of famed producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz to get the track onto the charts for Ram Jam's one and only US hit.

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Black Betty had a child (Bam-ba-Lam)
The damn thing gone wild (Bam-ba-Lam)
She said, "I'm worryin' outta mind" (Bam-ba-Lam)
The damn thing gone blind (Bam-ba-Lam)
I said Oh, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

Oh, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
She really gets me high (Bam-ba-Lam)
You know that's no lie (Bam-ba-Lam)
She's so rock steady (Bam-ba-Lam)
And she's always ready (Bam-ba-Lam)

Bob Gruen pic of Joan Jett in LA at Sunset Marquis 1978

Ms. Joan Jett is up next , who with the help of her bubblegum guidebook and svengali's like Kim Fowley & later Kenny Laguna, has walked a fine line between bitching hard rock icon and cheese covered shlock queen for much of her multi decade career. Here is her contribution to the Major League film soundtrack in 1989, a take on the Trogg's perennial frat rock & roll classic Wild Thing, . The song first showed up in Joan's repetoire back in her late 70's Runaways days, and is rehashed here for the soundtrack of a baseball movie that takes place in Cleveland. ( Ironically, Cleveland was the setting for Joan's acting debut in "Light of Day" a semi-pointless 1987 flick where she played the sister & bandmate of hard rocking Michael J Fox)

We'll go officially non verbal & head out west for a spell with an instrumental guitar thick track from a new release by Seattle's Kinski, from Alpine Static, out on Sub Pop July 12 on CD and double (gatefold) vinyl.
The sample Kinski track is called The Wives of Artie Shaw, who you should know is a real guy who recently died, and was one of America's most interesting & preminent swing musicians & authors who gave up performing when he tired of the audience's expectations. By the way , the pic is of Klaus Kinski not Artie Shaw...

And our last bit o' froth is from the Sage Francis release out now on Epitaph. The label known for slammin' bumblegum punk finally jumps on the white boy hip hop scene. The caucasian rhymin' king out of Providence R.I plows through a wordy rap that sorta ends up somewhere between Eminem & House of Pain's Everlast in macho posturing and with the beastly multi syllabic verbiage of the Boys Beastie.

Sage Francis - Dance Monkey

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