Friday, September 4, 2009

Lloyd, Wilson and James

I tend to avoid buying greatest hits packages. If I like someone, then I prefer to get their complete work. Lately, I've been wavering on that formerly firm belief. I've come to terms with the fact that some artists have a handful of great tunes and some really shitty albums. Last week I went on a compilation binge, collections of Booker T. & The MGs, Ruth Brown and Wilson Pickett. The two disc Pickett set, A Man & A Half has its surprises, like "Let Me Be Your Boy," which sounds like the early ska of Bob Marley or Desmond Dekker. The Wicked Pickett - an original Rude Boy?

Listening to Pickett has brought back memories of one of my favorite concerts, a triple bill of Lloyd Price, Wilson Pickett and James Brown at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, circa 1983. Bob Maffucci, Jeff Gross (where are you now ol' housemate!) and myself went together. I think Bob lived up there, maybe Larchmont, and tipped us off about the show. I can't imagine any other way I would have known in the pre-Internet days of an event like this.

Lloyd Price set the table. I remember him as very gentlemanly, in a suit, pacing the stage singing hits like "Personality" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." At 50, he seemed so old, but it could have been a matter of style. "Mr. Personality," uh, not so much.

Pickett hit the stage, gleaming in a white jumpsuit with a cascade of fringe. Wilson was good, very good at times, although he tended to be pretty screechy. Now that I'm 47, it's hard to reckon with Pickett being five years younger than me at the time of the show. He seemed so dated, but, maybe so am I. It's hard to tell for sure.

What I recall of the crowd was that the three of us were the only white faces in a sea of 5000. We were dressed pretty casually, and the rest of the audience was dressed for a night out.

It's unimaginable that James Brown and Lloyd Price were both born in 1933. Brother James was a blur of motion, spinning, leaping, crashing to the stage. The arena was put into an immediate frenzy. It was incredible to watch. Weirdest thing, and lasting memory - between each song the band would play the riff from Entertainment Tonight. It was hysterically funny and pretty strange.

In my long history of concert going, this show makes my greatest hits album.

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