Happy 4th of July all. I hope you all got your fill of Soul in my last post. I have part two in the works, but first I have to do a mix for the good people at Vault Magazine . I’m looking forward to doing that mix, and have also done an interview which will be running in the upcoming months.
When I first heard this song, it was actually the version done by Miss Sharon Jones, which coincidentally, if you scroll down, you can hear. I had no idea of who had done the original (nor did I care) at the time, and I grooved to the cover version over and over. Fast forward to this past year. I’m out in the field and I come across this record. There is no way I could pass it up. When I found out the history of the band, it made it all that sweeter. A big thanks to the great folks at Daptone , who were so kind to hook me up with the Sharon Jones version this past week. That’s right people, both versions of the song in this post. So here we have “I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In” by The First Edition on Reprise Records in 1968, and then an updated version by Sharon Jones on Daptone more recently.
The First Edition stemmed from the New Christy Minstrels and included a man who went on to be the Gambler himself, Kenny Rogers. Yes that’s correct folks, the Country legend Kenny Rogers was an integral part of this psychedelic (to label it lightly, psychedelic was their intention) sounding record. Their previous record only brought about some minor attention, but this record was the one people took notice of. Comprised of Rogers, Thelma Camacho ( later replaced by Mary Arnold), Mike Settle, Terry Williams, and Mickey Jones the First Edition put out a few singles. They were known primarily for “Ruby”, this song, and other than “Burning Sensation” in 1970, the FE had their share of songs that weren’t hits. “I Just Dropped In”, IMHO, after I found out it was Kenny Rogers singing it, made me giggle a little, but the song grew on me. The chorus of “Yeah, Yeah, Oh Yeeeeeeeah….”, kept getting stuck in my head. The guitar intro was Glen Campbell ( apparently playing the guitar backwards), and the psychedelic sound they’re going for (sounds provided by one Mike Deasy) is almost laughable, but like I said, it grows on you. Had I not known who Kenny Rogers was, I probably would have thought: “Well, it’s just another so-so psyche record” and just passed on by. To know that Rogers had a hand in it, growing his hair long and being a major hippie after this record was done, peaked my interest to give it another listen. I mean everyone has a history, and this single being pre-Gambler Country or sappy Western duo stuff, makes it sweeter. It’s nice to know Kenny was down with the pyschedelics if you know what I mean. Eventually the First Edition split up and Kenny Rogers went solo, rocking the Country and Western scene along with opening up a string of franchise fried chicken joints.
Photo Courtesy of Daptone Records
Now let’s get on to the Sharon Jones cover. I will not go into a background history of Sharon Jones, but for those who want a little info on her you can go here. For those who do not know who she is (and I’m hoping many of you do know), she’s the closest thing we have to a true Funk Diva and or Soul Sister No. 1 in the modern sense. In other words, this talented singer sings it like they used to, but in modern times. Along with the Dap Kings, she single handedly pioneered the retro Funk sound. I’ve been hooked since her work with Desco Records, and as the Soul Strut massive have been known to say, I’d “ride for her” any day. She changed the title a bit (adding the I and chnging the was to is), but these are minor things. From the opening horn stabs, this Funk cover blows away the original by more than a country mile. Sharon’s voice echoes the days when bands producing sounds like hers worked hard on the Chitlin’ Circuit, playing juke joints and small clubs to crowds that lived and breathed the lyrics of each song on a daily basis. A place where people could go and forget about the everyday struggle and be absorbed by heartfelt Funk and Soul bands who traveled the country and sang like it was their last show every night on stage. It’s as upbeat as you can get (much more upbeat that the original), and doesn’t stop to take a breath or even let you breath the entire time. Missing are the psychedelic sounds, replaced by a horn and rhythm section that are both tight and outta sight. I have to say I’m ok with that. I am always open to other kinds of music, but I think this is clearly a case of the cover being better than the original. It just so happens to be done in a funky style, and think that Jones and Company do the song a hell of a justice. There is not much that they touch that isn’t good, and if you don’t own anything by them, I urge you to hit up one of these Daptone links and get yourself some Funk that sounds like it was made in 1969 or 1970. No I also want to throw in that Soul Brutha Dave B pointed me in the direction of the Betty LaVette version, and my man Mike from This Is Tomorrow hooked me up with an mp3 to listen to. They are both right, it does seem like the blueprints were laid down by LaVette, and carried on home by Miss Jones. Thank you guys so much for the input.
That being said, I have yet to really plug the Asbury Park 45 Sessions this Friday July 6th at the Asbury Lanes. We have the usual residents plus two guests: Cool Hands Luke and Devil Dick . It’s going to be a great time.
Come on down and make sure you introduce yourself! Keep Diggin’!
**Here’s a Bonus Video, because a psychedelic bed is bad ass: