Thursday, July 22, 2010

ROCK Sex: 'Blue Flowers Echo From A Cherry Cloud!'

Another relay race, with one song branching off in new directions.

The son of famed R'n'B bandleader Johnny Otis, SHUGGIE OTIS released a scarcely-heard album called "Freedom Flight", a kind of hinge between Sly Stone and the coming Prince. It included this catchy ditty with almost incoherent psychedelic lyrics.

SHUGGIE OTIS -"Strawberry Letter #23" (1971)

With producer Quincy Jones, the BROTHERS JOHNSON stepped out from session backups to their own spotlight with their funkier take on the song. It was a massive hit, one that still makes me smile fondly every time that opening chime and funky groove kicks in.

BROTHERS JOHNSON -"Strawberry Letter #23" (1977)

PHIL UPCHURCH, famed for his funkadelic guitar on late 60's Chess Records albums by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, ups the ante on the Funk with this response.

PHIL UPCHURCH -"Stawberry Letter #23" (1978)

The song has been covered again over the years by Tevin Campbell and Akon, and sampled by Dr. Dre, Beyonce, DJ Quik, and even avant-collage pranksters Negativland.

It's also the clear melodic blueprint for this song...

OUTKAST -"Ms. Jackson" (2000)

"In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins
Dressed in green"

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