Hugs and Kisses #39: Sharon Jones Plays for Podgy Men in the UK


Hugs and Kisses

The Continued Outbursts of Everett True

THIS WEEK: NYC’s Sharon Jones Hits the UK

I remember one time, racing backstage to greet (mid-Eighties, perfect Scots amalgam of the Ramones and Sixties girl groups) Shop Assistants, shaking with sweat, annoyed at the futility of expressing in words the headiness of the dance experience.

I felt like a failure: enthusiasm is nothing if not eloquently expressed.

Last Saturday night, Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings delivered. There was never the slightest shred of doubt they wouldn’t. The subtlest nuances of the CD and record packaging — the gold strap high heels that Sharon wears on the sleeve of their third album, 100 Days 100 Nights, the backlit orange, the lettering, the way the tenor saxophone cuts in just so — led me to believe a while back, and believe fervently. And, of course, the music: anyone can replicate the sequence of notes and rhythm changes and sharp suits of James Brown’s horn section, given enough time and trucker-speed. Anyone can warble their scales in the bath, or hold a note wavering and long until it takes on every semblance of meaning. Anyone can talk deep and low and preacher-confiding over a glitzy array of guitars and horn players, given a fair hearing. That is not what we’re talking about here. (Although, of course, all this was going on.)

As some classic pre-gig conversation went in the urinals beforehand: slightly podgy, late Forties, ‘soul’ type to bearded Forties ex-Mod: “I’m looking forward to this.” “Uh-huh.” “Some real soul at last.” “Damn straight.”

Now, I’m not in the business of definitions here and I sure don’t believe in the authentic, any more than I believe in the inauthentic…(ASIDE: fuck it, if you want my straight opinion, The Dap-Kings are too on the edge of late Sixties/early Seventies Memphis horns funk to be termed ‘soul’: END ASIDE)…but this I do know. There were moments on Saturday night, moments where my feelings of liberation and shared delight with the 20-year-old students sashaying almost as hard as me (Them: “Can you believe how good this is?” Me: “Uh-huh.”), that I lost my overreaching fear of death and felt, yes, whatever crap joke existence proves to be, it’s worth it just to be here, to be now: just to watch the Dap-Kings unsuccessfully hide their mirth when Ms Sharon Jones invites a Brighton male on stage (dressed as a carnie, with flat cap and wife-beater shirt) to dance her ass off on “Let Them Knock” and he does precisely that, even hurling his cap across the stage and dropping to a full body press on the floor to retrieve it; just to watch Ms Sharon Jones become one and part of her music and dance possessed (to order!) to the Twist, to the Funky Chicken, to the music of her forefathers; just to hear those sweet horns merging and melting into one Stax-sweetened sound; to witness Ms Sharon Jones whipping the crowd up into a fervour of appreciation and testifying, to hear sweet melodies sung with such pizzazz and played with such eloquence; to be witness at a spectacle, people who understand that it isn’t enough to suck in your cheekbones and look moody, sometimes the crowd want a little entertainment.

I mean, dude. I’ve seen Millie Jackson (from the front row!). I’ve been the first up and dancing to Irma Thomas (who gave me and my bro’ autographed hankies). I have a ticket stub to a James Brown concert I can’t even recall. I watched Nina Simone in Minneapolis where the crowd sang more of her damn songs than she did. I got filmed dancing to Troublefunk in the Eighties, and I still swear nightly by Carla Thomas. I know nothing about ‘real’ or ‘authentic’. I just know damn good, uproariously uplifting entertainment — soul music, if you want to call it that — when I see it; and shit. My dancing shoes still ain’t garnered no dust.

Oh, and there was some real nice reverb going down.

Hugs And Kisses Top 5

Other stuff that makes Everett’s feet happy

1. SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS, “100 Days, 100 Nights” (from the Daptone album of the same name)
On the night, it wasn’t even one of the highlights. Scratch that. Everything was a highlight. On record (and on Letterman on YouTube), it’s a rock-solid groove.

2. NEW AGE STEPPERS, “My Love” (On-U Sound 12-inch)
One day, I won’t be whistling this song as I bang pots and pans together. One day…

3. DIRTBOMBS, “Underdog” (from the In The Red album Ultraglide In Black)
Twin drums always set my legs trembling…last time I saw this Detroit combo play live I seriously thought my knee had gone.

Pretty much anything by them… but I ain’t talking much past the seventh album here. That would be crazy talk.

5. MARY LOVE, “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” (classic Northern Soul seven)
Bring on the chalk.

In 2006: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Live
Down in Front: Rob Harvilla on Sharon Jones
Indrani Sen on Sharon Jones and Darondo: The 35-Year Plan for Soul Superstardom