Friday, 19 March 2010
Fairly recently I dug up a couple of obscure records that have very interesting stories behind them, which as far as I know, are not documented anywhere else on the Internet. There's a few brief references to both pieces of vinyl on various sites, but nothing that delves much deeper than the basic acknowledgement of their existence.
Now being from the U.K. it was particularly interesting for me to learn that both these records, which are by U.S. artists and were manufactured in the States, have a link extremely deep rooted within the British Isles, funding being supplied by a most unlikely source. Before I get into all that though, lets kick off with some basic info...
The first record is by a group called The America Poeple (sic) on the Attack label out of Richmond, Virginia. This was the only release by the group and although the small print states both sides are 'from Attack LP 6910', it never saw the light of day (more about that later). Side-A's "Give It Up If You Can't Do Nothing With It" is a funky Soul cut that sounds like it was recorded in a garage. This isn't a bad thing, if like me, you dig that gutter raw production approach. The band aren't the tightest in the world and the singer lacks a certain spark, but the song itself is one catchy number that I find myself playing on a regular basis. The B-Side is an instrumental take (always a bonus) with added party atmosphere - people chatting, laughing, drinking and generally sounding like they're enjoying themselves. This record is one of my favourites from a small batch of very similar 45's I picked up at the Boot Sale last Summer. All on tiny labels and all possessing that same 'homemade' charm. I might write about a few more on a later date but for now enjoy the rips of both sides below, a little crackly I know but hey, that's the world of obscure Funk 45s for ya!
The America Poeple "Give It Up, If You Can't Do Nothing With It"
Prince Charles & The Royal Guards "Funky Bootie"
The second record, again a one off label release on 'Rolls Royce Records' is a Rap 12" by The Two Fresh Brothers featuring Easy El & Chilly D, from 1986. The twelve includes four tracks in all - "She's Fine" (Club, Radio and Dub versions) and "Don't Even Try It". "She's Fine" is an OK-ish sparse drum machine cut, typical of the period with The Two Fresh Brothers trading lines back and forth, sounding like a cross between Run DMC and Black Rock & Ron. This track doesn't do a great deal for me. The subject matter, the odd tale of a supposedly fit girl that eats a lot and then moves on to the next man, isn't particularly interesting and doesn't get any better after repeated listening, but never mind, the bonus flip side cut "Don't Even Try It" is dope. Like the old saying goes, "B-Side wins again". Credited as an accapella, it's actually a Beatbox (courtesy of Easy-El) backed battle/brag rap, with The Two Brothers, again, trading lines back and forth, this time coming off far harder and even more reminiscent of Black Rock & Ron (or The Vicious Four as they were known at that time). Funnily enough one of the lines refers to them originating from Hollis, Queens so the Run DMC influence is obviously close to home.
If you can track down a copy of this 12" then it's well worth copping for the B-Side alone but check out both cuts below...
The Two Fresh Brothers "She's Fine"
The Two Fresh Brothers "Don't Even Try It"
So there you have the records, now here comes the really interesting part, the story behind them. The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed the name 'Prince Charles' credited on both labels, I'm sure however you haven't made the connection yet. 'Prince Charles' is actually the Prince Charles. The Prince Of Wales or, as he's less well known - Charles Philip Arthur George. That's right, just like the also very unassuming snooker wiz Steve Davis, turns out old Charlie boy is a massive Black music lover. Rumour has it that one of the wings in Clarence House was specially converted in the early '80s to house his ever increasing Northern Soul and Funk collection. And even more amazing is the fact that before The Princes Trust got off the ground, Charles was lending financial support to budding musicians across the globe who were struggling to make the break.
At the tender age of 23, whilst serving in the Royal Navy, a brief post in Richmond, V.A, gave him exposure to a bubbling Black Music scene in the underground clubs across the city. One particular group playing regular late night spots caught his attention and a meeting was arranged, the result being the Royally financed release of the America Poeple's "Give It Up If You Can't Do Nothing With It" 45. In honour of the Prince's commitment to the band they decided to credit the B-Side as 'Prince Charles & The Royal Guards' and the label was apparently named 'Attack' as a tongue in cheek nod to a higher ranking officer in Charles' fleet - 'attack' being his favourite phrase when at sea and confronted with unknown vessels. Unfortunately due to a short notice re-posting Charlie was unable to follow through with promotion duties that were lined up and the single sunk without trace, subsequently the planned album which had already been recorded was never released.
Some 25 years later a chance meeting with long time friend Larry Joseph led to another vinyl venture for the Prince who'd been looking to release a 'Rap' record since first hearing 'Planet Rock' on a trip to New York in the early '80s. Much like the America Poeple 45, only brief financial support was supplied before Charles' ever growing family commitments took hold and the group were left to fend for themselves. Despite the Prince managing to attract further financial support from the prestigious UK car company Rolls Royce, the record received poor promotion and minimal radio play, resulting in little more than a very minor local hit. You'll notice a similar reference to Charles on the label credits - 'The Prince Charles Crew presents...'. By the time this was released he was married to Diana with both William and Harry in tow, so the term 'Crew' was adopted, cheekily applied by Chilly D to help give the family's 'street cred' a boost.
So there you have it, the story of Prince Charles, the Funk 45 and the Hip-Hop 12". Who would have thought it ay? Of course it's all a load of b*llocks that I just made up to keep myself amused whilst I'm rained off from work. It does tie the two, otherwise completely unrelated, records together quite nicely though.
Enjoy the music.