So I know you’re scratching your head right about now saying I thought this was a series about 1988? It definitely is and you are definitely tuned into the right station on your box. Here’s how it started… over the weekend I had some time to relax for a minute and take it all in. So as I was out in nature enjoying the breeze and thangs, I looked at my phone and thought about some music I hadn’t listened to in almost 30 years.

Like many curious youth, in my teenage years I stumbled upon and explored my parent’s music collection. At this point in the 80’s, they had long stopped purchasing music save for the occasional Gospel offering that piqued their interest (“Rough Side of the Mountain” and Aretha’s “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” comes to mind). But their joint collection from the mid-1950’s to the early 1980’s was still intact. The collection was comprised of mainly 33 1/3 albums, and yes, you guessed it, 8-tracks. Ah, 8-Tracks, click, Parts 1&2 and all that good stuff. At some point in the early 70’s my parents “joined” Columbia House and received (purchased) a treasure trove of 8-track tapes one of which is the subject of the post and series today.

If you listened to Hip Hop at any time during the mid to late 80’s you could not escape the influence of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. If you were lucky enough to have a parent, or a parent of your friend who was open enough to listen to what we were listening to and “Bridge The Gap” by telling you (often in comical ways) that what you were listening to was based on something they grew up with, you received a Golden Ticket. This ticket transported you into a world that may not have been that familiar to you mainly because of your age. As we know, in that time we didn’t have just about the entire history of recorded music at our fingertips. Either you had to know the music or know someone who did to guide you, and you or they had to have the music in your personal collection or access to the collection of someone else.

This was great sport for my nerdy friends and I. This hunt for the original recording of a James Brown song that had been sampled by one of our favorites like Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Biz Markie or Public Enemy. It would be nothing for me to roll by one of my friend’s house in ’88 and he pulls out a Bobby Byrd record that he found in his parent’s collection. This exchange would happen time and time again during that whole 86 – 88 sample everything James run, but with the most intense focus being in ’88. One day in ’88, I happened upon a case I had not seen before that had a latch on it. Why not explore? Upon opening I found so many 8-track titles, but one stuck out – James Brown Sex Machine (Recorded Live At Home In Augusta, Georgia With His Bad Self!) Yes all of that!!! I ran upstairs and put this joint into my old stereo that still had an 8-track player. Over the ensuing months I wore that tape out – “Lowdown Popcorn/Spinnin’ Wheel” because I was fascinated by the saxophone duo on the end with the press roll. “Lickin Stick” –  listen if you don’t feel like jumping up out of your chair and hitting your best Freddie “ReRun” Stubbs Pop Lock moves, I may have to evaluate your life goals. “If I Ruled The World,” “There Was A Time,” which really resonated for me because my dad was from down in South Carolina right around the border there near Savannah, and when I would hear James talk sometimes I’d hear that down home sound that reminded of my dad. “The name of the place??? Augusta, GA”!!!

Listen, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to understand and appreciate the importance of living and loving this music – all of it. Genres and outside forces are always trying to separate people. No, your parent’s music isn’t always going to be your music and vice-versa, but we are all supposed to be from the same house and love and look out for one another. Now if grandma don’t want to hear the boom, boom, you turn it down as you say yes ma’am. But hey, maybe after she’s had a little sip of a tonic she might tell you to turn that on up, baby. If it got real good to her she might say “Baby, I don’t know what them people sayin’ but I know that music. You kids done got a hold to some James Brown. Somebody clear the floor so I can Camel Walk.” You can’t have those experiences if you’re not in the same place. But you also can’t have those types of experiences if there’s a lack of respect either. What began as criticism “You kids are just stealing music and ya, ya, ya…” (which oddly enough 30 years later some people are still advancing that argument) turned into (for us meddling kids) not only an appreciation for the music that came before us, but a gateway into not only James Brown’s music but countless other artists as the practice of sampling matured and diversified.

As a musician I never got into the whole real vs. not real debate. Creativity is the litmus test. There have been some amazingly inventive creators who have sampled, and of course, the other side where it’s not that creative at all. But that same notion holds true for folks who play traditional instruments. I know I’m biased in saying that I wish there would have been a way to get at the legal issue of sampling earlier in Hip Hop because once the practice became somewhat taboo or out of reach for budgets I think a lot of creativity suffered. I for one have never liked what I call “General MIDI” sounding sequenced Hip Hop. To me it just misses the essence of the music.

Nevertheless, here we are. I cannot tell you how much fun I had listening to that James Brown record (well 8-track, now digital file) all these years later. To listen and remember every cue, every hit. To have more mature ears to go even deeper than you could when you were young. It brought back so many great memories that I really got that feeling all over again.

So what I did below is to create a playlist of a few songs (this is not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination) that I rocked to in and around ’88, and the original tune that was either recorded by James or one of his affiliate projects. I really do hope you enjoy it and that you would consider following and sharing it because it demonstrates our main tenet here at GFM “Bridging The Gap!”

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.