“Get Back” – Clarence Reid

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A terrific Beatles cover by Clarence Reid. Reid had the talent and chops to be as big as Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, but he became more popular doing dirty parodies of soul hits (“S–ting off the Dock of the Bay,” “What a Difference a Lay Makes?”) with his XXX-rated alter-ego Blowfly. As much as the 3rd grader in me loves Blowfly, I’ve been rediscovering Reid’s straight soul recordings as of late and have been completely knocked out by how good Reid was … and also a little sad that Reid found more success with a gimmick than playing it straight.

It reminds me of seeing another Clarence … Clarence Giddens … back in 1993 at a restaurant / bar in Virginia Beach. Giddens was a terrific blues guitarist and singer that opened for a singer known as “Black Elvis.” Of course, “Black Elvis” was Giddens in an Elvis suit and I have to say as an Elvis impersonator, he was damn good. But it also filled me with regret because Giddens had the chops to be a major blues talent, but found bigger paychecks going down the Elvis tribute trail. Granted both Reid and Giddens had their reasons for going down the more lucrative path as Blowfly and Black Elvis, but it’s a sad commentary about how we … as audiences … myself included … are more suckers for a gimmick than the real deal.

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“Get Back” – The Beatles with Billy Preston

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The Beatles tend to run hot and cold with me. I don’t know whether it’s oversaturation or overpraise of everything they’ve ever done that sometimes rubs me raw. Please don’t get me wrong. For the 8 years that they recorded (1962-1970), the Beatles were some prolific bastards and all of their great stuff (even if it only comprises 40% of what they recorded, in my opinion) is better than what most bands have produced over twice (or even triple) the number of years. Despite that, a lot of what the Beatles recorded was merely OK. And even some of it was pretty dreadful.

But “Get Back” is a song that I’ve never ever disliked, even during those times when I’m down on the Beatles. Unlike much of what they’ve done over the years, “Get Back” just sounds like a bunch of friendly musicians kicking back and just jamming away for the hell of it. The organ fills by Billy Preston are an especially nice touch and are miles away from the funk freakouts (sometimes great, sometimes not so great) Preston did in the 1970s. It’s a song that always makes me feel better, even when I’m in a really s—ty mood.