Listen – Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again – MP3
I hope that all is well as we get going on a new week.
I spent the weekend pretty much just being exhausted and worried that I was coming down with something, which I kind of was, but instead of it being a cold or a virus or some such, I was coming down with too much shit to do and not enough energy to do it. This is of course the story of my life, but sometimes the effort to stay a step ahead of the tiredness fails and, well, here we are…
The tune I bring you today first fell by my lobes and into my brain almost 20 years ago, but it was via a cover version (which I didn’t know was a cover).
Back in the day, after my years with the garage revival scene were on the wane, but before I dove headfirst into jazz, I spent a lot of time listening to one of the all time great radio stations, WHTG-FM in Eatontown, NJ.
It was on WHTG that I first heard traces of the Madchester sound, that being the end result of a bunch of musicians in the UK getting their hands on handfuls of ecstacy and the beat from James Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’ and raving themselves to international prominence. This scene included the Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses, Charlatans UK, 808 State and the band that covered today’s song, Happy Mondays.
It’s important to note that what appealed to me about the Madchester vibe was a certain lysergic component. Many a psychedelic excursion in those days featured repeat plays of the long version of the Stone Roses ‘Fools Gold’. This is the same vibe that turned me on to groups like the Orb (probably the most psyched out of the trance/ambient crowd).
One of my fave records from that era was the Happy Mondays’ ‘Step On’. I forget when or where I found out that the song was a cover (no doubt in some fanzine or other), but when I did – as is always the case – I set out looking for the original.
It wasn’t too long before I tracked it down (surprisingly enough at a flea market) and when I did was surprised once again by the heaviness of the OG by John Kongos.
Kongos, a native of South African had played in and recorded with a group called Johnny and the G-Men. After moving to the UK in the mid-60s he played with the groups Floribunda Rose and Scrugg, before recording his first solo album in 1970.
Kongos recorded ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’ in 1971 and it became a Top 10 hit in the UK that same year. It was released in the US (on Elektra). Created using a tape loop of African drummers, the song bears the marks of the Glam era, with anvil heavy guitar and drums, especially when the chorus kicks in. There a certain “Come Together”-ish feel in the verse that I dig.
The Happy Monday kept the feel of Kongos’ guitar line, but lightened the feel somewhat with ringing piano and afemale backing chorus. I have a special nostalgic place in my heart for the Happy Monday’s version, but the more I play the OG, the more I prefer its heavyosity.
I hope you dig it too,and I’ll be back later in the week with some British Beat.