Back in the dark ages of the seventies, when I lived in Vermont and there was one snowy television station and no FM radio other than the low power college station, I was clued in to what to listen to by two things…the press, mostly “Rolling Stone,” but “Fusion” and “Crawdaddy” too, and the Warner/Reprise sampler albums. And “Burbank” was not my favorite iteration, but it began with a track so infectious that even in the white haven of Middlebury it evoked the funk and the ooze of Oakland.
I’m speaking, of course, of Tower Of Power’s “Down To The Nightclub.”
It’s Saturday night and I’m just hangin’ out
Lookin’ for a place to party
I jump into my ride and I hit the road
‘Cause there’s only one place to go
Down to the nightclub
Ooh, the women be righteously ready and pretty
To the nightclub
We go bumpty, bumpty, bump
I thought that was the name of the track, actually it was the name of the album, but what an IMAGE! This was years before disco burgeoned. This was about going to a smoky club, getting your buzz on and…TOUCHING!
You can’t do that on the Internet. No cam will give you the human touch. You’ve got to leave your house for that. And listening to “Down To The Nightclub,” you wanted nothing so much as to throw on your dancing shoes, race out the door and PARTICIPATE!
But the song is magical for so many reasons.
There’s the intro. Which sets the mood, sets your mind free and gets you ready for…
This track is not made for the radio so much as for you. Screw the rules. The rules would excise the intro, but that’s one of the things that makes this track.
Along with that hooky… BUMPTY, BUMPTY, BUMP!
As well as that entrancing bridge…
The joint be jumpin’
THE MAMAS BE HUMPIN’!
“Down To The Nightclub” is one of those songs you like immediately, but the more you play it, and you’re driven to, the more you become enamored of it. Kind of like a great nightclub!
“What Is Hip?”
“Down To The Nightclub” was on the second album, the aforementioned “Bump City.” The third album, the eponymous “Tower Of Power,” opened with a definitive soul/funk number entitled “What Is Hip?”
This is a precursor to rap, an honest black world where the truth is spoken. If you haven’t looked yourself in the mirror and wondered if you were hip…YOU’RE JACK NICHOLSON!
When you hear Lenny Williams sing, “You in a HIP TRIP!” you crack up.
But it gets even better…
What’s hip today might become PASSE!
Could you say it better yourself?
OF COURSE NOT!
That’s what we depend on art for, to distill what we all know in an economical, comprehensible fashion.
If you’re truly hip, you’ll love “What Is Hip?,” it cracks me up every time I hear it.
“Only So Much Oil In The Ground”
SOONER OR LATER THERE WON’T BE NONE AROUND!
From an album entitled “Urban Renewal” to boot!
The sense of humor is amazing. It’s like Frank Zappa moved to Oakland, and the resulting music was infused with his zinging social commentary.
It gets better…
WE CAN’T CUT LOOSE WITHOUT THAT JUICE!
Utterly hysterical! Could you say it better? You need your gasoline, to cruise, to get to the nightclub, TO LIVE!
THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR OUR ABUSE!
It’s the same way today as it was back then, right after the initial gas shortage of 1974. Just ask east coast residents in the wake of Sandy, lining up for their hit.
And there’s much more than these three tracks. But start here. They’re infectious, they’re deep, they’re satisfying.
And the band may have become more famous for its horn section than its own material, the Tower Of Power horns backed up Little Feat on its live album “Waiting For Columbus,” but these tracks should neither be overlooked nor forgotten.