Tuesday, April 11, 2006

June Pointer, Bore Surfing , Barraging Etc

R.I.P June Pointer... the troubled 52 year old singer died after battling breast, liver, colon and bone cancer in a Santa Monica hospital earlier this week.

June was a founding member of the Pointer Sisters, a group of four sisters who arose out of the West Oakland Church of God where their father was a preacher. Under management & production of David Rubinson & later Richard Perry, the sisters became a hugely sucessful act throughout the 70s & 80s, creating a decades long career. Amongst the tracks June sang lead on for the group included "Jump (For My Love)", "He's So Shy", "Happiness", "Fall In Love Again" and "Baby Come And Get It".

The Pointer Sisters had no real solid direction or success yet in the early 70's when they came to the attention of Bay Area producer David Rubinson. Rubinson had produced the Chambers Bros, and Moby Grape, but was branching out into indie work after leaving a steady gig at Bill Graham's "Fillmore" record label. The Pointer Sisters would perform onstage with the flamboyant Sylvester of The Cockettes, and they'd done some work as background singers on recordings by Elvin Bishop, Boz Scaggs, Cold Blood and other Bay Area groups.

Their breakthrough was a cover of an Allen Toussaint song "Yes We Can Can ". Already an uplifting Lee Dorsey track from 1970, the song was a hit with the girls voices added over funky backing tracks laid down with the help of Rubinson's contacts like Tower of Power guitarist Willie Fulton. They sang live around a single mic, with Anita handling lead, and upon release in March of 73, the record soon hit Number 11 on Billboard's pop chart and Number 12 on the R&B chart.

The Pointer Sisters- Yes We Can Can

here's another couple from their breakthrough 1973 hit album produced by Rubinson...first up a cover of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" with the girls backed by the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils.

The Pointer Sisters - Wang Dang Doodle

The Pointer Sisters - Old Songs

During this era Bonnie once said the group was "the biggest thing to come out of Oakland since the Black Panthers." and in 1974 they became the first pop group to perform at SF's Opera House, and capitalized on their feat releasing "Live From The Opera House". This track from those early daze explores the idea of moving from the city to the country.

The Pointer Sisters - Jada

Along the way they broke new ground, continued touring, creating diverse & unique music with a variety of influences ranging from jazz, blues, broadway, funk & even country and even became the first black artists to perform at Nashville's Grand Ol' Opry. This feat came about as from a song called "Fairytale', sounding straight outta Bradley's Barn replete with loping slide guitars & fiddles. Ironically it eventually won them their first Grammy for Best Country & Western Performance by a Group. Elvis Presley also later recorded Fairytale. June would later tell the story of astounded country fans in the Nashville audience who had no idea the sisters were actually black. Ironically, when they went back to their hotel to celebrate at a party in their honor after the Opry appearance they were shown the service entrance by staff who assumed they were there as service workers.

The Pointer Sisters - Fairy Tale

Here's their 1975 #1 R&B hit from their Steppin LP, see if you can pick out the classic funky keys of Herbie Hancock & wicked guitar stylings of Wah Wah Watson...

The Pointer Sisters -
"How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side)"

By 1976 though, June was showing signs of having trouble managing the fast pace of life on the road, with substance abuse rumors surfacing. Bonnie left the group, their deal with Blue Thumb records ended and they chose to sign to a new label...Planet.

In 1978, they also switched production duties to Richard Perry who had success with Diana Ross, Babs Streisand and Ringo Starr, he allowed the group to modernize their sound from a nostalgia based act into a more contemporary look & sound. Of course, sadly the word "contemporary" at the time means a backing band comprised of members of L.A session hacks like Toto and Waddy Wachtel. From the album Energy, came these two cuts, first up a version of a classic Sly Stone cut, and a rendition of another Allen Toussaint song. Jamiroquai has reportedly said that "Happiness", with lead vocal by June was an early influence on his later "Space Cowboy" sound.

The Pointer Sisters - Everybody Is A Star

The Pointer Sisters- Happiness

In 1983, June released a solo album entitled Baby Sister, and also contributed an energetic lead vocal on a track that helped propel the group to the tops of the charts. On their new album Break Out, which did exactly that, Perry seemed to have discovered the bubbling electro pop funk sound of Prince, and built tracks on sequencers & beats that were perfect fodder to layer the gals infectious vocals over. Following in the wake of Michael Jackson's crossover success, the Pointer Sisters went triple platinum & were helped along immensely by getting some fairly rare MTV exposure for a black group at the time. Here's June's vocal featured prominently in this hit...

The Pointer Sisters - Jump For My Love

This cut was their last big hit, in 1985 from the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop...

The Pointer Sisters- Neutron Dance

June appeared in Playboy in 1985, and hit the Billboard charts singing "Respect Yourself" with actor Bruce Willis on his "Return of Bruno" album. She signed a solo deal with Walter Yetnikoff's Columbia in 1989, shortly before the label was sold to Sony. The group stopped reaching new heights in popularity, but contributed to film soundtracks, and continued to tour & play sporadically. Eventually June's niece Issa ( daughter of sister Ruth & Dennis Edwards of The Temptations) came to replace her in the touring lineup as June's substance abuse spiraled out of control.

Here's an hour long archive of real video clip including Anita, June & Ruth performing their biggest hits at a Kennedy Center gala in 2001, around the time she was officially replaced in the group by Ruth's daughter.

Over the years the group was nominated for 10 Grammy awards, winning three. They had many record labels starting with their first failed single on Atlantic on through to long periods with Blue Thumb, Planet, RCA, later Motown and even SBK.

June, the youngest of the girls, eventually had legal problems due to her use of alcohol & drugs, including a somewhat successful rehab stint at Promises in 2000. She told People magazine in 2000 that she began using subtances to cope "every day since I was 13…. [I] started with pot, went to cocaine, booze, Valium and Xanax” and finally was hooked on crack by the late '90s.

With the Pointer Sisters officially touring without her, she re-teamed up with her sister Bonnie, and actually were sued by Ruth & Anita for trademark infractions & confusing the concert market.

She soon made the National Enquirer in 2004 after spending two days in jail, allegedly on a crack binge and gouging at her then boyfriend's eyes. She also pled guilty to cocaine possesion and paraphernalia after being busted outside Bonnie's apartment in Hollywood in 2004. Stints in rehab became derigeur. She is rumored to have suffered a heart attack & stroke in February and her cancerous condition was diagnosed then.

Rest In Peace June...

So here I am , bored... and after reading of baby June's sad demise....I'm anything but So Excited !

but what to my wandering eye should appear, & man just in the nick o time, before sleep became a threat, while net surfing, I found out about Bore Surfing..

and despite the name, Bore Surfing really has little to do with sitting at work, waiting for time to crawl & staring at the interwebs...It actually involves reenacting a legendary Celtic Myth... that of Potent Sabrina

Potent Sabrina, the Celtic goddess of the Severn, would stir up the river with her fury and anger, then ride the wild turbulant waters against the natural river flow.

British newspaper "The Independent" today told of a British surfer who set a world record last Thursday by riding a single wave for an hour and 17 minutes. The amazing feat, which traversed an almost 8 mile run, occured within the Severn estuary where a unique wave known as a "bore" occurs only during equinoxes each year. Steve King, the record setting surfer is a member of the Bore Riders surf club, a group of locals who keep track of the rare event & have since challenged the longest wave each year since 1955.

Being that the world's attention is focused on the spot, no doubt money making entities would like to tap the unique properties as well. In fact many see it as the best untapped renewable energy source in the United Kingdom, and the Dept of Trade hopes to build a barrier wall to tap the flow of the water. No doubt shifting political tides will play into the fate of the Severn Estuary's future.

Dirty Three - Great Waves

B.T Express - Energy Level

Blackalicious - World Of Vibrations

Bitch Boys - Surf Rider

"The Independent" also continued the British process of mourning the passing of empire, or at least noting the many brands that were known to be British. Much like Prince Charles, who made snarky asides, bemoaned & sighed after passing control of Hong Kong back over to Chinese control, so did Britons who no doubt read the article over morning tea. From familiar kitchen staples like HP Sauce & Walkers crisps to the once great automotive names like Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Bentley & Jaguar, offshore investors increasingly own the brands of the once far flung British empire. Recently the country's best known Fish & Chips chain "Harry Ramsden's" passed into control of Australian & Swedish investors, while even The Body Shop was just passed of to French cosmetics maker L'Oréal. Not even football is sacrosanct, with a Russian oil billionaire owning Chelsea FC,and Manchester United was picked up by an American owner, not so long after the team sold off Britain's most popular player David Beckham to Madrid.

It's all part of the glories of globalization, and Britain with it's" free market economy" is prone to finding itself free of the very brands that people associate with the country. Heck, this story is nothing new, as I remember being shocked as a kid to find that even old London Bridge itself had been dismantled and sold to an Arizona lakeside land developer in the 1960s.

The Christian Science Monitor, easily one of the best, yet unappetizingly named newspapers around, recently did a story on the growing trend of downloadable audio tours published as Podcasts. They mentioned Audissey Guides - (www.audisseyguides.com) a company that targets Gen X travelers with hipper soundtracks & colorful local characters like noted authors & cafe owners. They also posted some short samples. Check 'em out...

Download Some Boston Tour Samples:
"Big Lou" DeMarco on Boston's North End (mp3, 1.5MB 1:35)
Michael Patrick McDonald on Paul Revere's midnight ride (mp3 , 3.2MB 3:25)

The Christian Science Monitor is unlike a traditional profit driven newspaper , and their 90 year track record of awards and great in depth storytelling prove this. They actually survicve on donations, and here's where you can subscribe or even make a tax deductible contribution to their unique mission. According to their own website, they have a unique journalistic mission that is "devoid of the corporate allegiances and pressures that critics say too often skew today's media."

Mark Eitzel - Christian Science Reading Room

more Mark Eizel info & tracks at my previous post


that's enough blather to keep y'all occupied...toodles


Anonymous said...

WHEW that was such good information to read about the Pointer Sisters. I have been looking for general info about them, and am especially sad to hear of June's death and her troubled lifestyle. You put these other news outlets to shame :D

sabrina said...

Ok it was years ago, but that article in the Independent was a HOAX - or just a belated april fool, from an fallacious press release! No one has ever surfed on the Severn bore for more than an hour and the longest stand up distance is around 6.5 miles by the same Steve King.