Sunday, 7 February 2016

a hook in time 2: no no no, with a boogaloo

I tripped over this amazing boogaloo song when
simulating dancing in a Bath pub, with a gal
friend and here's the story:

In a dark, low-ceilinged pub, cut into a hill-side
in Bath, we were standing listening intently to
the DJ's cool tunes. Nobody but us was dancing.
In fact, we were also so self-conscious and
half-assed about it, others thought we wanted
to sit down, and kept offering us chairs. When I
heard this song, I was driven to ask the DJ about it.
He had it on a vinyl 45, with this picture on
the sleeve:

I've already expressed my interest in salsa,
recently, but what confused me with this song
was the use of English in a salsa song. And
there were lyrics that I semi-recognised. It's a
bilingual tune but from what I figure, the band are
Americans, but I know nothing about their
What they are doing is called the
Newyorican (New York Puerto Rican) sound,
which was sung with mixed English and Spanish
lyrics. Also called boogaloo (9:45), it was a wave in
1970s New York. I'll dig up the documentary.
Here it is, with , you guessed it, Ruben Blades.
New York Salsa (see 6:40):

 From the beginning:
So, finding this song started a search that
took me back to the 1950s. What we have
here is another awesome mix of mixes.

in 1955, Bo Diddley (not greatly appreciated)
wrote a song "She's fine, she's mine" where
we get a wicked, minimal blues beat with harmonica
and the words "you don't love me" in the
the closest-thing-to-a-chorus. A hook is born.

check it at 0:35
Credit for the song is given to E McDaniels,
Ellas McDaniels, the legal name of the one and only
Bo Diddley. Actually, he was born Ellas Otha Bates
and had it changed as a child.

The dawn of the 1960s sees Willie Cobbs
taking the beat, speeding it up and using
the chorus words from the opening onward.
"oh, oh, oh, you don't love me. Yes I know"
He added some v good guitar work (starts at 1:00).
Very much a good example of 1960s blues,
that has hints of Chuck Berry in the tuneship.
This time, it's supported by a tenor sax.

we hear:
"if you love me, I'll get on my knees and pray"
 near the end.

In 1967, the song is exported to Jamaica.
Dawn Penn took the song and lyrics, turned
the beat inside out with a rocksteady syncopation
(that's a precursor to reggae).
She added an impressive, cool intro with
a percussive& guitar double beat that gets your
attention. The metal drums cascade, like a lot of
reggae, and then the angst-ridden (for a Jamaican)
"no,no,no. You don't love me and I know now"
rings out. 
The guitar bar chords & piano keep a steady slow
beat as the lyrics slowly leave her lips. There
is the coolest use of echo in the recording
that probably was caused by the actual recording
conditions. This time, the spice comes from horns,
heard on occasion.

By 1994, Penn had the song morphed into a classic
reggae song, with a toast at the beginning. Though
the instrumentation changed a lot including a
a reggae high-hat and drum rim beat, the
words are the same. The song seems to be about
15% faster than her 1967 version. It's a professional
piece of reggae with the sorta-sexually charged,
scripted video. Gotta have a
,sexy video to get famous on MTV
, or so the story goes.

The ultimate version, in 2013, took
the Jamaican version,
some boogaloo beats from Joe Cuba,
some Spanish lyrics
and created a song with dizzying musicality.
the piano dominates one beat. a Spanish percussion
instrument (I can't name yet) keeps another beat.  Total
salsa time is kept here. The single singer
is replaced by salsa harmony. Throw in some
flute, sax and trombone and there you are. This tune
is twice as fast as the 1994 version.

These fellas have their own youtube channel, as you
As mentioned earlier, the no-no-no musicology is
not the whole story. They have mixed this song with
Newyorican music, which for me is a big find. It is
very much based on Cuban Salsa but it rocks with
a metropolitan feel.
If you want to dive in with lots of tunes, check this:

One key example, that likely affected their tune was
these songs by Joe Cuba Sextet 1 "Sock it to me"
for the beat

but, the Ritmo starts with the almost the exact tune
as the Assassins:

Here's a live version of no-no-no:

If you hear them talk, you can see they're Americans.

There have been other versions by Rihanna and Beyonce,
so far only live versions. I'll dig those up, but
they cannot touch the boogaloo.