One of my photos

Sweet Soul Music

July 26th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

By happy chance I turned the TV on just after 9pm today and a programme on Stax records had just started on BBC Four. It was nearly two hours long and absolutely fascinating.  Even better, it was immediately followed by a concert film from the Stax Volt tour of Norway in 1968.

Considering how long ago it was it is amazing that the concert film still exists, and how good the sound on it was.  Booker T and the MGs kicked it off with Green Onions and then provided the backing for Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd and others.   They really were the backbone of Stax records but seem to have been happy to stay in the background while a succession of singers grabbed all the attention.

The documentary was a real eye-opener for me. Obviously I was too young during the 60s and early 70s heyday of Stax to know what was what and really just knew about the songs.  I never appreciated the way American society was at that time.   Segregation was still widespread at the time which makes the multi-racial nature of the record company all the more unusual, especially the acceptance it got from the black audiences when 50% of the house band was white.

Apart from the relentless onslaught of great music, the reminders of a country still split along racial lines, and the often hilarious reminders of what used to pass for fashion (Rufus Thomas’ pink suit with matching cape and short trousers!) there was a clip from the Wattstax concert of Jesse Jackson introducing Isaac Hayes.  Jackson is a familiar name and we see him popping up on the news all the time, but I don’t think I had ever seen film of him in his prime. What a speaker!  That “I am somebody” routine was just so powerful, I can now see what all the fuss is about.  Easily the best thing I have seen on TV this month.

One clip of Booker T and the MGs playing live had them sounding like early prog-rock: it could easily have been Focus playing!  Booker T was looking bloody good for his age in the modern interviews, and Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper just reminded me that I have been meaning to watch the Blues Brothers films again for a while now…


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