Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Staple Singers "Slippery People"

This one’s been in my head for a while now. But not this version. The Talking Heads’ original, which appeared on their great Speaking In Tongues album, is what keeps buzzing around my brain.

David Byrne’s incessant “What about the time, you were rollin’ over” haunts me for some reason (ok – the lyric sheet says “we were rollin’ over” – but it sounds like you to me – and you makes more sense in the song).

I saw the Talking Heads back in ’82 in Pittsburgh and it was memorable for many reasons. Jerry Harrison. Oh, my, Jerry Harrison. Bernie Worrell. Oh, god, Bernie Worrell. I sat right in front of drummer Chris Frantz’s parents, also Pittsburgh natives, like me. And the surprisingly imminent musical showmanship of David Byrne. The whole amazing show.

They did this one too. And it’s always stayed with me.

Oddly enough, the great gospel group The Staple Singers came out with a techno dance cover of “Slippery People” in 1984. I remember the album, Turning Point, on the CBS-distributed label, Private I, with the computer generated cover art (something that probably seemed cool or maybe just cheap in 1984). It all seemed weird and unbelievable. But it sounded great.

I think lead Head David Byrne, flying high at the time on the success of Jonathan Demme’s film of the great Heads show I saw a few years earlier, Stop Making Sense (the title derives from Byrne’s lyric to “Girlfriend is Better,” also originally from the Speaking In Tongues album), is doing something on the track. Bass? Guitar? He probably sings too. But Mavis Staples (b. 1939) sounds sublime here. So does the always memorable Roebuck "Pops" Staples (1914-2000) on the few audible bits he gets.

The Staple Singers' utterly soulful cover of “Slippery People” is worth hearing again. So here it is.

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