Super Cool, Super Mean, Super Sonic Sweatshop

It had to be a great one tonight to rouse me from my death sick bed and type, let’s not beat around the bush here this cold I have would probably have slain a lesser man; in fact my continued survival has baffled medical science – the best explanation offered was by Professor Trixie Hotenoff who proffered the learned opinion ‘Hot damn, he’s one awesome specimen of manhood’, I can only concur.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 03

As I said it would take a stupendously excellent slice of awesomenessosity to celebrate my Lazarus-like recovery, Curtis Mayfield Superfly fits the bill damn easily; released into the world in 1972 like all the greatest things in creation.  I’ve never seen the film it soundtracks, but no matter Curtis is so amazing you don’t need to, listen to the first 42 seconds of ‘Pusherman’ and you’re there in glorious Technicolor HD.  The rhythm swaggers like only a man wearing a jacket with a faux leopard skin collar can, there’s a glorious elasticity about the drums (Tyrone McCullen) and then there’s THAT voice.  I declare a bias here, along with Al Green, Curtis Mayfield just had the best voice on the planet as far as I am concerned, it just sends me into raptures.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 06

I’m your mama, I’m your daddy,
I’m that nigga in the alley.
I’m your doctor when in need.
Want some coke? Have some weed.
You know me, I’m your friend,
Your main boy, thick and thin.
I’m your pusherman.

Ain’t I clean, bad machine
Super cool, super mean
Dealin’ good, for The Man.
Superfly, here I stand.
Secret stash, heavy bread,
Baddest bitches in the bed,
I’m your pusherman

The whole song is quotable, the whole song is amazing, the whole song just sounds so tight and right delivered in Mayfield’s fallen angel falsetto.  It’s an astonishing creation and one that lesser men copied and hung whole careers on further down the line.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 04

I’m not a big one for soul music as a rule and I’m certainly not a big funk fan, in both genres it’s the rawer stuff that catches my ear but there is something I really love about the late 60’s early 70’s flowering of Ike Hayes, Mayfield and Gaye that can be pretty irresistible even for a gnarly old soul like me, it’s music made without any restraint at all and that really appeals to me.  This is ultra-calculated, beautifully played and written stuff, lush and layered but still with that touch of grit inside its oyster shell interior.  It’s that which keeps me coming around, that and the fact that I knew every song on this LP years before I ever heard it through almost every hip hop record I owned, so much so that sitting down and spinning Superfly for the first time was more of an act of recognition than exploration*.

It’s all a highlight.  Check out the outrageous bass and keys on ‘Little Child Running Wild’, Mayfield resigned and defiant, but above all compassionate – listen to it, I tell you!  Forget the lyrics, he could be singing the instructions for installing a new wireless router** and you’d still get the whole script through his tone and expressiveness.  Add a little instrumental melodrama to bring the sucker to the boil and you’ve got a sonic banquet for all the family to enjoy.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 05
Is it just me, or do you agree Lego should seriously consider bringing out a Blaxploitation range?

Okay so the two instrumental tracks are good, rather than great and despite the genius title, ‘Eddie You Should Have Known Better’ is comparatively forgettable fare.  But I’m here to praise Superfly, not to trade in tawdry, turgid reality.  So let’s cut to ‘Freddie’s Dead’ and ‘Superfly’ itself.  The former a cautionary tale of the consequences of a street life that swings a little too gleefully to rack up too much sorrow and the latter a great glistening pimp roll of a tune, all brass and ‘tude.  What’s not to love here?  this isn’t real street life, not even in NY in the 70’s, its a mythic celebration/deploring of a badder than bad idea.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 01

Given how perfect the playing is on this album I was pretty surprised that none of the musicians even merit a mention on the cover of Superfly, other than a cursory ‘My special thanks to Sol Bobrov and all the musicians on the sessions’.  I had to go to the net to find out who played on this sucka, which as I expected, were a seasoned class of ultra-experienced sessioneers, the type of guys who end up with 1200 LPs and no real credits under their belt – real sonic sweatshop stuff.

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I wonder if there’ll be any takers for my latest blindingly brilliant idea of certification of Free Range Records? this would be awarded to any LP with more than 6 instrument players where it can be proven that the record has been produced without any cruelty to them and where they are given due credit on the sleeve.  This would of course be the thin end of the wedge, my Vegetarian Approved Grooves certification scheme would quickly follow for LPs which have been constructed without any consumption of meat having taken place – this would be handy so even hardened non-meat eaters such as myself could pick them out and ignore their anaemic grooves, unheard.  Vote 1537!

But in the meantime, I’m off to take part in a superfly junkie chase, because if you ain’t heard, word is, Freddie’s dead.

Curtis Mayfield Superfly 02

526 Down.


*anyone who hears the beginning of ‘Superfly’ and doesn’t think of eggs isn’t on the same page as me.

**Spoiler Alert: He isn’t.

25 thoughts on “Super Cool, Super Mean, Super Sonic Sweatshop

  1. Yup! I’m a Mayfield guy. Check out another soundtrack from a real good flick ‘Short Eyes’. Curtis does the music and takes a role. This is a gritty piece of work and a CB fave. I do like the ‘Fly’ soundtrack.

  2. I <3 Curtis Mayfield so much. Super Size Me brought me to him. Pusherman is effing brilliant. I have his tunes on rotation in the car, and can't help but funk out. I also find his music empowering. It's got to be that horn section!

    1. It is just amazing, for me its that voice every time – I know its not on this one but I really don’t think music gets any better than ‘Move On Up’.

      1. Wow, I knew there was a reason we were friends!!!…his voice is awesome, and Move on Up was my ANTHEM last year. So motivating….and funky!!!

  3. In that territory you neatly define, I prefer Mr Hayes basso profundo panther to Mr Mayfield’s ‘fallen angel falsetto’ (lovely tag) but I get where you is coming from. Can’t imagine becoming a major fan myself either, but really great for those post-deathbed or pre-coital moments.

    1. So sex panther rather than fallen angel for you then? psychologically interesting … (makes notes).

      I do love this mini-era. Ike’s Shaft being a particular highlight …..

      1. I’d have to pull out my (whisper) CD to verify, which it mightn’t as CD re-issues were notorious for leaving stuff out. Yet another reason for loving vinyl of course.

        I do have, however, a 2LP ‘Best of’ that has a pistol and a fat gold necklace on the cover. Bitchin’. (Which is hard to get into a comment as the auto-correct makes it Bitcoin).

  4. Excellent. While I’m not keen on the ol’ funk business myself, I’d happily listen to some good soul records. This one qualifies as a good slice of both.

    Pusherman and Freddie’s Dead is back-to-back awesomeness. That’s just fact.

  5. “I’m not a big one for soul music as a rule, and I’m certainly not a big funk fan…”


    Haha it’s OK man, Al and Curtis and Marvin and Otis and Aretha will get you into it deeper. Much much deeper, baby uh uh yeah right there baby… Oh, sorry, I drifted a little there…

    I love this record, you’re right it just about damn perfect.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!

      1. Haha ain’t nothing wrong with my flashing!

        Wait, you meant… oh right. Well, my brain coughs up errors like that, I can’t control them. My built-in OS is 40 years old now. I’m lucky it works at all!

      2. I’m totally afraid to do that. At this age, shutting off the OS completely may mean it’ll never come back on at all. There sure isn’t tech support on something this old, hell, not even on something 40 minutes old. I am a horse-drawn carriage, to today’s kids.

        So I live with the bugginess, and try to kill the worst of it with alcohol. So far so good! No promises for the future, though. If I one day just run down in the middle of a blog post, like “…and think this album is god-like and you all should marry it because hurg blerg blarf ghggiigefiusdff…” ————————————— then you’ll know what happened.

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