DJ Constantine “Connie” Price’s Soul Picnic: ‘Los Angeles’
Hey everybody, my given name is Dan Ubick. I’m a music producer, musician, record collector and part time writer from California, also known as Constantine “Connie” Price when I get behind the drum kit or spin records. I love all kinds of music regardless of genre or era but, full disclosure, I do have an ongoing love affair with the late 60’s and early 70’s.
I am here today because my mission, on behalf of my brother Scott “Sourdough” Power and Not Real Art, is to share with you once a month songs that have been catching my ear. Flavorful dishes from the kitchens of the my favorite musical chefs if you will.
I am lucky to have so many amazingly talented people in my life that are as obsessed with music as I am, constantly getting turned onto things that make me go; “how have I never heard this??” These monthly playlists will be me trying to return the favor. I hope you find your new favorite song here and it makes you smile, felt understood or keeps you positive.
This month I thought it would be cool to include all artists who either hail from Los Angeles or formed or made a name for themselves here. Included here are; The Chambers Brothers, X, The Doors, Love, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene Clark, The Beach Boys, Fishbone, Jane’s Addiction, Shuggie Otis, Johnny Otis, Dyke and the Blazers, Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and Little Feat.
Pop on some headphones, wire yourself into a good amplifier and speakers or go hunt down the original copies and your local record store and get the full effect. These tracks all deserve it.
The Chambers Brothers—“So Fine"
Willie, Joe, Lester and George Chambers were four of eight brothers and five sisters that grew up on their fathers Mississippi cotton farm singing to pass the time. In the mid-1950’s the family up and moved to Los Angeles to escape the rampant racism of the pre-Civil Rights Act South and fell into the folk music scene at the famous Ash Grove club, rubbing elbows with Rev. Gary Davis, Ramblin Jack Eliot, Hoyt Axton and Barbara Dane who helped get them added to the bill at the Newport Folk Festival. After playing the festival after party the brothers were invited to attend a recording session with Bob Dylan and his newly acquired electric backing band, The Hawks (later known as The Band), and honed their sound once again to include elements of rock ’n’ cool, rhythm ’n’ blues and soul music and recorded many classic records for Colombia including their biggest hit “Time Has Come Today”. One of my favorites, however, is this live remake of The Fiestas “So Fine” which imho just absolutely blows the original out of the water.
Los Angeles’ X is one of the reasons I’m proud to be from the City Of Angels and this masterpiece of a song from their second LP Wild Gift is one reason why. With The Doors’ Ray Manzarek once again in the producers chair (he produced their first four albums) and the band absolutely feeling themselves we get the perfect blend of punk rock attitude and perfect catchy pop song. Exene and John Doe’s harmony vocals captivate, DJ Bonebrake’s raw drumming propel and guitarist Billy Zoom’s no nonsense riffs all fit together perfectly, arranged to make me want to put it on again the minute the song is done. "Easy to fall, Part of your skull…starts to break away. Drugged and in love, out at a club, pulling me outside."
The Doors—“Wild Child”
From The Doors LP The Soft Parade comes one of Robbie Krieger’s nastiest riffs and some of the funkiest drumming John Densmore ever committed to magnetic tape. Doors keyboard wizard Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison’s met at UCLA’s film school so it’s no surprise how cinematic the band’s music and Morrison’s lyrics were. “With hunger at her heels, freedom in her eyes, she dances on her knees, pirate prince at her side.” Manzarek is known for his fluid Fender Rhodes melodies but “Wild Child” brings the the raw hedonist out of this Venice local. Listen to Ray lay into his Vox Continental organ here starting at the two minute mark after Mr. Mojo Risin’ belts; “Staring into the hollow idol’s eye!”
Love—“Alone Again Or”
“7 and 7 Is” and “Little Red Book” are probably Arthur Lee & Co.’s most well known songs but “Alone Again Or” from their band Love’s third studio LP Forever Changes is the one that knocked me out when my friend Andrew Sandoval first played it for me back in high school. "The title of the album came from a story that Lee had heard about a friend-of-a-friend who had broken up with his girlfriend. She exclaimed, "You said you would love me forever!" and he replied, "Well, forever changes." Lee also noted that since the name of the band was Love, the full title was actually Love Forever Changes.” – Wikipedia.
Flying Burrito Brothers—“Christine’s Tune"
Gram Parsons was the man responsible for steering the Byrds into going down a country lane for their massively influential Sweetheart Of The Rodeo LP but he was also hanging out with Keith Richards, his running partner for a stretch there in the early 70’s while the Stones were exiled in the South of France. After Parsons left the Byrds he roped in his former bandmate, and kick ass singer/bassist, Chris Hillman, had head turning Nudie suits custom made and formed The Flying Burrito Brothers who made one of my favorite records of all time, The Gilded Palace Of Sin. Great songs with interesting characters, great singing and all recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood. “She’s a devil in disguise, you can see it in her eyes. She’s telling’ dirty lies, she’s a devil in disguise.”
Gene Clark—“Tried So Hard”
1967 saw The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday and recent Byrd-who-flew-the-coup Gene Clark’s first solo record released. After a long absence from the public eye Gene’s masterpiece was unfortunately eclipsed by his former bandmates new offering though I think as a whole it’s a much stronger record (and that’s saying a lot as YTY is a crowning achievement). I heard this record randomly at a record store in San Diego, the employee with incredible taste was playing it over the shop’s loudspeakers while I dug through 45’s. I kept thinking; ‘wow, that song was incredible” and then found myself repeating that statement after every cut on the LP. The fact that this LP wasn’t huge is a complete travesty to me cause the songs are absolutely some of Gene Clark’s best plus the backing band, consisting of Byrds Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, Glen Campbell, Jim Gordon, Leon Russell, Jerry Cole and future Byrd and ace Telecaster b-bender Clarence White, is on fire. Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers is a masterpiece but so are the stripped down mixes released as Collector’s Series: Early LA Sessions
The Beach Boys—“You Still Believe in Me"
My good friend Andrew Sandoval (see above) turned me onto so much great music when we were in High School…..Two Tone (The Specials, Madness, etc.), The Who, The Kinks, XTC, The Beatles (my mom listened to them but Andrew was obsessed) and also The Beach Boys. Now, I used to regularly check out Endless Summer, the comp with all their early hits including another favorite “In My Room”, from our local library in elementary school back when public libraries had vinyl but I had never heard Pet Sounds when I met Andrew. At first I didn’t get it….it took me a while to comprehend this unique gem and how absolutely beautiful pop music could be. Those early hits were great but these songs had symphonic elements, were truly deep and almost religious in how adeptly Brian Wilson could hone in on human emotion and capture so many of the feelings we all experience in this set of songs.
Fishbone—“Ma and Pa”
Another reason I’m proud to call L.A. my home is that Fishbone is from here. Their third LP Truth and Soul came out in 1988 when I was a junior in high school and seeing them live changed my entire music outlook. Effortless talent, great songwriting, two incredible lead singers in Angelo Moore and my brother Chris Dowd paired with boundless punk rock/ska energy knocked my socks off. Fishbone had humor (see “Cholly”, “Lyin’ Ass Bitch”, etc.) but then would pull a punch a give you a deep song like “Ma and Pa” which gave insight into family disfunction. “Only a child in the middle of a war, she’s a problem child now because of a divorce. Hey ma and pa, what the hell is wrong with ya’ll?"
Jane’s Addiction—“Had A Dad”
When a buddy I met in Hollywood took me to see Jane’s Addiction for the first time at a club called Scream my mind was blown. Perry Farrell had long, green “dreadlocks” with metal beads tied in, was rail thin with no T shirt on and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I ended up seeing “Jane’s” live again at their John Anson Ford Theater run with my buddy Brett Billig (RIP) right before Ritual De Lo Habitual came out and for a while they were my favorite band. Prime era JA with Eric Avery laying down the most perfect and simple bass lines (the kind that make you say; “it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?”) on top of the heavy tribal drumming of Stephen Perkins and guitarist Dave Navarro’s classic rock meets Johnny Marr soundscapes were a breath a fresh air amidst the posing of bands like Poison and Bon Jovi who ruled the airwaves at that point.
Shuggie Otis—“Aht Uh Mi Hed"
Los Angeles born multi-instrumentalist and singer Shuggie Otis spent years honing his skills in his father Johnny Otis’ band as well as in the studio with artists as diverse as Etta James, Frank Zappa, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Richard Berry. His breakthrough came with his song “Strawberry Letter 23” from his second LP Freedom Flight which was also recorded by The Brothers Johnson to huge success but it was his third LP Inspiration Information that pulled my ear. Shuggie is the entire rhythm section here and penned every song including the gorgeous “Aht Uh Mi Hed.”
Johnny Otis—“The Watts Breakaway” feat. Delmar Evans
“The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues” also known as Johnny Otis is best known for his hits “Harlem Nocturne” and “Willie and the The Hand Jive” and for discovering artists like Etta James, the Coasters, Little WIllie John, Hank Ballard, Big Mama Thornton and Little Ether Phillips. His son, Shuggie Otis, played with his dad’s “Johnny Otis Show” from the time he had to wear a fake mustache and dark glasses to get into clubs to perform and he played his ass off from the get go. Check out Shuggie get down on this funky stomper from his dad’s Cuttin’ Up LP.
Dyke and the Blazers—“Let A Woman Be A Woman, Let A Man Be A Man”
When you are digging through endless dusty 45’s and you see the “Original Sound” label with the name Dyke and the Blazers on it you should grab it no questions asked. Arlester “Dyke” Christian and the Blazers had their first hit with “Funky Broadway” which also later hit #1 with Wilson Pickett’s wicked cover of the tune. In 1968 Dyke used future Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band and Bill Withers band members James Gadson, Al McKay, Melvin Dunlap amongst others to record “We Got More Soul” and this killer…”Let A Woman Be A Woman, Let A Man Be A Man.”Arlester/Dyke was sadly shot in 1971 with the remnants of his band going on to link up with Charles Wright, their signature sound racking up even more hits.
Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band—“What Can You Bring Me"
Founded in Los Angeles in the early 1960’s Charles Wright & Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band cranked out hit after hit including “Express Yourself”, “Do Your Thing” and “Loveland” but this song featuring Kansas City drum god James Gadson on lead vocals is my favorite. Gadson lays down a solid super funky 16th note pattern while singing so sweet and soulfully with Wright and Benorce Blackmon ping-ponging some of the funkiest guitar parts ever recorded underneath. Check Gadson’s scream going into the chorus at 1:14! If you’re not converted after that we can’t be friends. Haha!
Little Feat—“44 Blues”
“Forty-Four Blues” can be traced back to the early 1920’s but it’s Roosevelt Sykes who apparently provided the lyrics and first recorded it in 1929. However, it was Howlin Wolf’s menacing version that first introduced the song as a shuffle and included the prominent guitar lines that created the basis for the version Los Angeles’ Little Feat created on their self titled first LP. Drummer Richie Hayward’s mean shuffle combined with Billy Payne’s boogie piano playing, bassist Roy Estrada’s pulsing bass lines and guest slide guitarist Ry Cooder’s Hubert Sumlin/JodyWilliams-inspired riffs lay the perfect bed for singer Lowell George’s wailing vocals and harmonica licks.
Listen to the playlist on Apple Music:
The Last Word: If you love these songs, please buy physical copies if you’re able. Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, YouTube, and other streaming services are great tools, but streaming doesn’t pay artists a living wage. We want these amazing folks to keep making the music we cherish.
Love music as much as we do? Then check out Dan Ubick’s production company, DanUbe Productions, and drop him a line if you’re so inclined.