Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg Vol. 1 - "Total Destruction of Your Mind" and "Rat On"
On any list of the truly underappreciated geniuses in pop music, Swamp Dogg deserves to be near the top. His music has endured because there is nothing quite like it. It is at times hilarious, other times harrowing, but always interesting. This is one of those rare combinations where brilliant lyrics, excellent arrangements, and an amazing voice all come together to make music that is timeless and phenomenal.
"Little" Jerry Williams was a singer, songwriter, and producer who worked with such 1960's soul acts as The Exciters, Patti Labelle & the Bluebelles, and Gary U.S. Bonds. Over the decade, he released about 30 tracks of music under his own name, which are available on the cd The Little Jerry Williams Anthology.
As the 60s were ending, Williams began crafting songs about racism and civil rights, soldiers and the Vietnam War, acid and weed, and sex crazed psychos and cheating wives. Aside from Sly Stone and possibly Frank Zappa, it is hard to tell what his influences are and who was influenced by him. He made a decision that these songs were too much of a departure from his previous work and decided to begin his recording career anew under the name Swamp Dogg. Here's how he tells it in a must read 1998 interview for a chapter in the book "Unknown Legends of Rock N' Roll" here.
"I was thinking along those lines when I was doing my productions and cutting my soul records; actually starting in 1960, was my first nationally released records. At that time, I was in with the norm. I was being what everybody wanted, felt they needed. I was just trying to help supply the demand. But while I was out there watching what was going on, it hit me that I wasn't nearly as good as those people at the top of the ladder who were supplying the demand. And my songs were just as good, but I didn't feel that I had as much heart in my songs as they had in theirs. Because when I sang about being wonderful, I didn't really believe it. 'Cause I've never been caught up in a "I'm a great lookin' guy, and when I walk onstage, the bitches fall out." I never believed no shit like that. And I had good reason not to believe it, because it never fucking happened.
I was very disappointed with where I was going with something that I loved more than anything in the fucking world. So I just took a chance and bet on myself. And I said, I've got to change everything, and I've got to be drastic in this change. If you knew me, you'd know that it took a lot for me to make up my mind. Because I've always been crazy about my name-Jerry Williams Jr., I love my name, I love my father, I loved carrying my father's name. And to have to change it to something just to catch your ear was a heavy decision for me. But I did it. And that enabled me to jump into some music that I wanted to, some lyrics that I wanted to do."
He would bounce around from label to label, often being dropped in favor of the other one or two black acts at a record company, or leaving because he didn't want to compromise his artistic vision. Through it all, Swamp Dogg kept making music and performing to this day, when he now has a large cult following thanks to rappers sampling him and from the internet, where vinyl rips of albums that were once impossible to find have been posted and downloaded.
But what many who have shared and downloaded these records do not know is that Swamp Dogg has been rereleasing his music on his own label for the past few years, often on cds that feature two full length LPs. The first of these, "The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg Volume 1", features his first two classic albums. Here are three of the best songs from each.
From Total Destruction To Your Mind:
Swamp Dogg - "Total Destruction To Your Mind"
Swamp Dogg - "The World Beyond"
Swamp Dogg - "The Baby is Mine"
From Rat On:
Swamp Dogg - "Remember That I Said Tomorrow"
Swamp Dogg - "God Bless America For What?"
Swamp Dogg - "That Ain't My Wife"
I'll end with some great videos of a few more recent performances by the legendary Swamp Dogg.
"Total Destruction To Your Mind" in April 26, 2007 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam:
"The World Beyond" on a Dutch radio show:
Look for future posts on The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg Volumes 2-5 over the next few months.
Buy or download The Excellent Sides of Swamp Dogg Vol. 1 at amazon.com