JJ RASSLER STORIES : DAN PENN
JJ Rassler, est un pilier de la scène de Boston. En 1975, avec Peter Greenberg il met sur pied DMZ un des groupes américains les plus influents du rock pre et post punk. Ensuite il rejoindra les Odds puis les Queers avant de refaire en 1999 son propre groupe the Downbeat 5 avec la chanteuse Jen D'Angora. Ce groupe existe toujours mais JJ s'est impliqué dans des projets parallèles comme sa participation à l'album Red Lite de Mr Airplane Man, et son groupe éphémère JJ and Thee Cuban Heels.
JJ connaît toute la scène locale et américaine, il a vécu et engrangé mille aventures depuis des décennies. Il a décidé de nous faire partager ses souvenirs car il aime raconter et éclairer le monde du rock avec un point de vue original. Et c'est mon ami.
Je lui ai donc demandé, pour commencer et pour rebondir sur la passionnante série d'articles de Patrick, si le nom de Dan Penn lui était familier ?
JJ : I became aware of Dan Penn's name and songs, whether solo, or in collaboration with Spooner Oldham or Chips Moman in the mid 60s. There was a magazine I was a fan of, Hit Parader.
I mainly printed the lyrics to popular songs, which I used
for my band then, The Deserters. It always included the composer's names
under the title, which is where I first became aware of him, Dan Penn.
The Deserters, JJ with 12 string on the right
In 68, maybe 69, I saw the Box Tops live.
The Box Tops of course performed, Cry Like a Baby, and, the Letter. Both, via Hit Parader, I knew were Penn/Oldham songs. I believe I had the Box Tops LP, which, I think, included I'm Your Puppet, another Penn/Oldham tune. I, of course knew this as by, James & Bobby Purify.
Some 40 years later, JJ & Thee Cuban Heels added this song to their set list. It was then I discovered that the Box tops version was the exact same as the Purify's. The identical backing track, substituting the vocals only, from James and Bobby's to Alex Chilton's. I knew, in 68, to keep my eyes on the songwriters, and I did, faithfully.
(photo Pete Weiss)
Another team I followed were, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who struck gold with a local Philly Band, the Soul Survivors, and Expressway to Your Heart. Gamble and Huff became the pioneers of the Philly Soul Sound, TSOP, Philly International. But, back in 68, the doubled down with a hit from another a Philly band, the Intruders, whose first hit, Cowboys to Girls, which remains one of my fave local songs.
OK, lets skip forward in time, as the 70s and 80s were more well known for Dan Penn, via Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams and other artists scoring on Rounder's, Bullseye Blues label.
When Carol and I got together in 2004, we traveled to Philly to meet my family. I brought many comps with us for the ride. One song in particular, lit up our trip, a version of Gamble & Huff's Cowboys to Girl's, as done by a new fave of mine, Chris Gaffney accompanied by Lucinda Williams. To each others delight, we were both ecstatic over the cover. A few years later, it appeared on a CD by a group, the Hacienda Brothers, which Chris Gaffney was in, along with guitarist from the Paladin's, Dave Rodriguez,
and producer, sometimes vocalist, Dan Penn. Quickly becoming my new fave band, I collected all I could find by them. Around this time, a CD/DVD was released, a live recording from London, by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham of their well known hits. I also have their edition of The Songwriters series on Ace, with many of their Fame hits.
Needless to say, I almost fell over when you asked, "are you familiar with...?" I guess, the easy answer would've been, "yes".