Monday, March 10, 2008

Crates & Crates: Twenty-Five Miles

The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band- Twenty Five Miles

One of the first moments in my long love affair with soul music started on a trip back from visiting my grandparents in Ohio. I was sitting in the back seat of a rental car, listening to my Walkman. I'd officially exhausted the tapes that I had, and was listening to an oldies station outside of Winston Salem. I heard a song that blew me away, and I couldn't figure out who it was for years. I just remembered the parts about "feet don't fail me now" and "I gotta walk on! ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah". On occasion I'd remember the song, and search madly for it, quizzing my friend Brian, who was (is) a walking encyclopedia of the type of soul music that would be on oldies stations, and he didn't know what I was talking about either. Years and years pass, haunted by this song, only remembering the urgency and gritty feeling of the song, and it's aforementioned lyrical tidbits.

Then one afternoon, I bring home In The Jungle, Babe by The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. This was right after Amanda and I moved in together, so I'd say right around three years. It was a perfect find for my fledgling vinyl collection. The 103rd Street Band is probably most popular for "Express Yourself" (which isn't on this record). There's an amateurish nature to the band's recordings, Charles Wright's voice cracks like a drunken hobo, the band plays way too fast, but all that makes their sound all the more exhilarating.

And on the second side of In The Jungle, Babe, I heard it. "Twenty Five Miles", even faster, even more urgent than I remembered it being. There it was, this moment that led me into loving soul music, this moment that I couldn't even explain to anyone, and here it was. I was so happy to finally hear this song that I'd been thinking of for years.

So, years pass, I occasionally listen to the album now and again, and get slapped in the face by the greatness of "Twenty Five Miles". Today, I decided that it'd be good to bring this song to Beneath The Underdog, inspired by my "Compared To What" post from the other day. I decided to do some similar research on the song, to find that this wasn't the version I heard on the outskirts of Winston-Salem that night so long ago. I must have heard Edwin Starr's version, which was the original. Here was the line about "feet don't fail me now" which wasn't in the 103rd Street version. I think I like 103rd Street version more than I do Starr's, not to discount Starr's, it's just that The 103rd Street band tear it to pieces.

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