It was basically a year ago when my girlfriend and I visited Reykjavík, Iceland, but when have I ever let a little untimeliness get in the way of my #content? Here, at last, is my video about Lucky Records, which I can without exaggeration describe as one of my favorite record stores in the world. Check out the video to watch me and guest Kia Matthews discuss records by Bobby Brown, Klymaxx, Stevie Wonder, Queen, DeBarge, Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, and Loudness. Camera by myself and Kia; music by Loudness and Bobby B.
The last week of Jheri Curl June is always a story of decline, and this year’s is no exception: like yesterday’s song by After 7, today’s closing track is more New Jack Swing with a residual curl than it is JCM proper. Hell, El DeBarge even appeared on the cover of its parent album, Gemini, with a hairstyle more appropriate for the dawn of the 1990s–and when El DeBarge loses his jheri curl, you know it’s the end of an era.
For the past three years, we’ve commenced our Jheri Curl June festivities with profiles of major figures in the style we call Jheri Curl Music, timed to line up with their birthdays in the beginning of June. In 2014, it was Prince (born June 7); in 2015, it was Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (the former born June 6); last year, it was L.A. Reid (June 7 again). But until now, we’ve never managed to make time for another architect whose birthday falls as close to the beginning of June as possible: June 1, 1960. I’m talking, of course, about Jesse Johnson.
Jesse, in our defense, hasn’t exactly been a stranger to Jheri Curl June. His “Be Your Man” was our second-ever JCJ post back in 2014, and we’ve also considered his work both as a member of the Time and as the producer of late-’80s Minneapolis funk-rockers dáKRASH. But we’ve never taken a deep dive into his music–and that’s a damn shame, because whatever Johnson might have lacked in the innovation of his former associates Prince, Jam, and Lewis, he more than made up for with some of the strongest pure Jheri Curl Music of the mid-to-late 1980s. In other words, there’s no better person with whom to launch our fourth annual celebration of all things wet and silky in ’80s R&B music. So let’s get to it!
Well, here we are: for the second consecutive year, we’re turning Memorial Day weekend into a time of remembrance for the many great artists we lost since last May. But because this is still Dystopian Dance Party, and we’re constitutionally incapable of being reverent for more than a few minutes at a time, please be aware that the resulting podcast is about 70% wake, 30% roast (well, maybe 60/40). Just believe us when we tell you it’s all coming from a place of love. Hopefully, while everyone good continues to die and leave us trapped on this smoldering husk of a planet, we can at least entertain you (and ourselves) with our impressions of “The Force M.D.’s Meet the Fat Boys”… R.I.P. to Trisco Pearson. Show notes and Spotify playlist below.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure who I was going to feature for my last Women’s History Month post this year; I wanted to go out on a strong note, but I also wanted to hold something back for next time. Fortunately, the right choice ended up landing right in my lap (or, I suppose, my Facebook Messenger window): my friend Andre, of Andresmusictalk, recommended that I check out a band called KING, who he described as “kind of like a modern-day Jam & Lewis-era S.O.S. Band with all female singers.” And if you know anything about my taste in music, then you already know my interest was piqued.
KING are based in Los Angeles, but they have roots in Minneapolis: twins Amber and Paris Strother are the nieces of the late Minneapolis-based blues guitarist Percy Strother. And their music certainly owes a latent debt to the dreamy, synth-laden soundscapes of artists like the aforementioned Jam and Lewis, as well as some other guy whose name just keeps escaping me. Mostly, though, they make lush, vaguely Afrofuturist neo-neo-soul that sounds like the kind of thing you’d listen to while taking a bath on a mood-lit spaceship.
You’ve probably noticed that for most of the month, we’ve been trying to highlight songs that speak to women’s specific experiences; KING doesn’t necessarily do that. Their vibe is romantic and sensual, hence “feminine,” but they’re not really out here railing against the patriarchy or singing from the perspective of their wombs. And yet, there’s something beautifully aspirational about their 2011 song “The Story” (later remixed for their 2016 debut album, We Are KING): the lyrics about “charting my voyage to a different star” and “riding ’til we reach the mothership” connect the group to a long tradition of African American astral travelers, from Sun Ra to George Clinton; and the fact that it’s coming from three women can’t help but evoke the feminist science fiction of writers like Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler. Basically, KING is a feminist group, simply by virtue of their existence. And that’s good enough for me.
And with that, my contributions to Women’s History Month 2017 are finished. Callie will be back tomorrow to close it out. Spotify and YouTube playlists, as always, are below: