Friday, April 23, 2010
Flair And The Flat Foots "Hey Boy - Hey Girl" (S.P.Q.R.) / Virginia's Employment Commision "John Fuzz" (New Faces '69)
In any survey of Virginia music it's damn near impossible not to keep coming back to the legacy of Frank Guida. Legrand may have been the most recognizable imprint in Guida's empire due in large part to chart topper Gary U.S. Bonds, but S.P.Q.R. was arguably Frank's most consistent label, with a catalog boasting the bulk of Jimmy Soul's output as well as some of Lenis Guess's most successful outings, not to mention the lone single by Garage Punk legends The Swinging Machine, and Barbara Redd's left field Northern Soul classic "I'll Be All Alone".
But as is the case with the Guida discography by and large, there are quite a few lost treasures awaiting excavation (See: Jimmy "Hot Lungs" Moore). S.P.Q.R 1007 is a particularly interesting number. The A-Side is credited to Floyd & The Flat Foots , the flip to Flair & The Flat Foots. Let's start with the Flair side. Despite its 1967 release, "Hey Boy - Hey Girl" has an early Soul sound that could be at least of '65 or even '64 vintage. Remarkably straight forward in it's approach, "Hey Boy" has that "live-in-the-studio" feel that makes Guida's records so exciting. Nothing too fancy here, just a tight band moving along at a nice clip, sounding like they hit the studio after a late night gig and nailed it in the first take. In this stripped down arrangement, the piano pounds out the rhythm, the guitar keeps pace, stepping out for a nice and concise no frills solo, and the drums...the drums are the basis for all the great Frank Guida productions. They're characteristically huge, with plenty of bottom. The drummer thunders through some crazy rolls that only pick up in intensity as the song progresses.
The lyrics aren't anything ground breaking, just direct and heartfelt. It's the way they're delivered that catches your ear. "Flair" is belting it out, maybe not silky smooth, but raw, honest, immediate and going for it. The back up singers are great too with their "Hey, hey, hey, girl! / Is it Love?" response. A winner from start to finish, this record's got charm to spare.
If "Hey Boy - Hey Girl" is a bit of a throw back for 1967, the "plug" side of this single is down right anachronistic. Floyd & The Flat Foots' "John Fuzz" is rockin' R'n'B that could be straight outta the early 60's. Opening with the theme from "Dragnet", "John Fuzz" lays out the misadventures of a sad sack cop who gets hit in the head with a mustard jar while trying to break up a domestic dispute, slips on a banana peel while walking his beat, and ends up in the hospital with a busted jaw after trying to recover a stolen car. Then in the final verse there's a slight change of heart as the cop's tormentors sort of take pity on the poor underpaid officer, a nice enough guy who never complains, even when he saved that kid stuck in a pipe. "He's alright!", they declare. Gee, thanks!
"John Fuzz" is more in line with the "novelty" tag applied to many of Guida's records. Apparently, Frank must have believed in this odd ball ditty on some level, because he waited another two years to re-release it (not an uncharacteristic move) as the debut of his New Faces '69 label. This time around "Fuzz" was preposterously credited to The Virginia's Employment Commission with the parenthetical tag "Hire Through". Is there any way the actual state agency known as the Virginia Employment Commission signed off on this? Seems unfathomable, but Mr. Guida could be very persuasive, and it was the late 60's.
The flipside of "John Fuzz", "Don't Go To Strangers" appears to be a left over track from the original Flat Foot sessions with Flair taking over lead vocal duties again, this time joined by a small horn section. Though not as fully realized as "Fuzz" and "Hey Boy - Hey Girl", "Strangers" is still a pretty solid ballad. It's not hard to imagine it being a show stopper in a live set. You can almost envision a female version of James Brown falling to her knees, pleading a la "Please, Please, Please" as a the Flat Foots' answer to Danny Ray comes out to drape a cape over her shoulders.
Flair & The Flat Foots "Hey Boy - Hey Girl"
Floyd & The Flat Foots / Virginia's Employment Commission "John Fuzz"
Virginia's Employment Commission "Don't Go To Strangers"