Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The A-Z Of All-Time Great Pop Singles: "G"

G is for 'Green Onions' by Booker T & The MGs

Simply because it never gets old, which is remarkable, because it's, like, really old. 1962, man, and those Onions sound just as fresh today as they did when Booker T first cooked 'em up.

While lacking the lyrical themes, vocal stylings and Flute Solo that California Dreamin' has somehow managed to overcome in it's avoidance of not being an irritating Babyboomer nostalgia yawnfest, this Hammond Organ instrumental (surely the most famous organ instrumental of all-time) is still Typically 60s enough, and recycled as a 60s Soundtrack Shortcut often enough, to make it astounding in itself that it hasn't become a tiresome relic. But is Absloutley Hasn't. It falls into the same category as Louie Louie - put Green Onions on in a club, any club, anywhere, and People Will Dance. I DJ'd at a Sixties Night for 5 years, and played all sortsa obscure nonsense - but not playing this was simply never an option. It has The Vibe. It creates a whole scene. It's Three Dimensional - it transports you. Smoky, slinky, COOL.

Green Onions is an example of the Good Will Out, of The Cream Rising To The Top. Of popular culture Getting It Right. Why is this the most famous Organ Instro? Because it's the best one. There are loads of other great organ instros, thousands of 'em infact, but if we gotta pick one, let's all just agree on this one. I like Jimmy Smith's Root Down pretty much more than any record on earth, but it doesn't have the whole package like Green Onions does. This is a pop record. It has hooks. You can sing along. It hits the ground...well, not hits the ground grooving. And that guitar...Steve Cropper's guitar...might just be my favourite guitar part ever. SHRAK! SHRUK! He play's next to nothing, and get's it absolutely right.

Finally, Booker T. He was like 17 years old when he played on this record. How insane is that? 17 years old, and you're on a record that people will still be digging for centuries to come. The video above is simply one of my all-time fave pieces of video. Booker T's expression at 2.52 makes me laugh every time; mugging to the crowd, grinning his ass off as he plays the most insane, juddering, outrageous organ solo, like "I KNOW, RIGHT? I'M AWESOME! THIS SONG IS AWESOME! Check out what I'm doing on this organ! It's RIDICULOUS!"


The folks said...

What else could it be for "G"?!Great choice,entertainingly written.Good stuff.

Dazzy Hitch said...

That, right there, is a great piece of writing, Paul. You've taken a song I've always loved but never really expended much thought as to why, and given me a whole new level of appreciation for it.
Incredible to think Booker T was just 17 when he created this, and the brash virtuosity he displays with that organ has all the hallmarks of a star for the ages, but accept for a couple of tracks I've culled from Northern Soul albums, I've rarely come across him again - any idea where it all went wrong, or is he a legend in funky organ circles, and I'm just too ignorant to know about it?

Have to say, I'd kind of suspected you might have gone for Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart", a song that fits this blog's vibe like a glove, but after reading your masterful appraisal of "Green Onions", I ain't complaining...

Paul 'Fuzz' Lowman said...

Dazzy - to be honest, way back at the beginning of this idea I probably intended to have Groove Is In The Heart for 'G', and if it had re-occured to me before Green Onions popped into my head it would have certianly appeared here. Thanks for the kind words too; sometimes it takes me days of re-working a piece of writing to come up with something I'm still not hugely happy with. This took like 45 minutes to write, 'cos I guess it's 'from the heart'.

Booker T and The Mgs made a bunch of records in the 60s, all of which have great stuff on them, and they were the house band at Stax playing for Otis Redding etc. Booker T Jones is still going today. I've heard live versions of Green Onions that are vicious, really raw. And yeah - 17! Outrageous.