November 7th, 2007

I Am Curious! What Beat Does Your Soul Emanate On?

I think a lot of the critical hoo-ha that followed in the wake of SF/J’s miscegenationist broadside could have been averted had we all paid closer attention to the Monkees.

Take the following clip, discussed by fellow Riddim Methodist Pacey Foster way back when, in which Charlie Smalls demos the difference between white and black soul for the utterly ingenuous Davy Jones —

If you think that’s a lucid breakdown (“Ringo plays the hardest 1 and 3 I’ve ever heard in my life” ;), things become a lot clearer when Frank Zappa gets into the mix. Note, in partic — tho the whole thing is well worth watching — the (intentionally sardonic?) discussion of soul and complex meter beginning around 1:38 —

Finally, not sure where to begin with this totally boingboingable img, but it seems somehow relevant, and the gods of synchronicity (thx, pat b!) made it land in my inbox this morning —


  • 1. DJ C  |  November 7th, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Ew! Body mold!

    She’s obviously much more soulful when she emerges though. I guess mold is good for something besides cheese.

    Is that Michael Jackson in the bottom left corner? “Don’t matter if you’re black or white”:

    The “soul” falling on different beats thing doesn’t make sense to me. I just listened through a bunch of Beatles songs and most of them emphasize the 2 and 4. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ is a great example. The guitar is hitting on the 2 and 4, not unlike roots reggae. If anything, perhaps Ringo emphasizes all 4 beats, but I don’t really hear the 1 and 3 thing. Maybe that’s cause the Beatles were essentially playing “black music”. Perhaps another example would have been better. The difference I notice when Smalls does his version of “black soul” is syncopation/swing, but to my ears the emphasis is on the 2 and 4 in both of his examples.

  • 2. AKinCLE  |  November 10th, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    One should never forget to pay attention to The Monkees;
    among other things, they were a major influence on The Beatles


    But please don’t get them confused with The Monks…

    (Those last two clips have probably two of the best guitar solos on YouTube!)

  • 3. Birdseed  |  November 12th, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    What’s wrong with a little difference, I ask? I thought we were past the point in society where we desired a single unified culture (because we realised that that culture would inevitably be the white man’s).

    Obviously it’s not just a matter of beats (yes, we realise, Zappa, you malicious, self-satisfied, saracstic buffoon) but I think we should celebrate and consume all traditions and new directions.

    (I did a fairly messy critique of F-J a little along these directions in my blog. It’s fucking difficult to get together though because the issue is just so large and multi-faceted.)

  • 4. infamous  |  November 15th, 2007 at 10:00 am


  • 5. wayneandwax  |  November 15th, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Wow, that’s an amazing clip, Infamous. It’s interesting to me how much they continued to engage with these stereotypical ideas about race and musicality.

    And no, nothing’s wrong with a little difference per se, Birdseed, or even a lot, but when difference becomes racialized in the ways we’ve been discussing, I think we run the danger of reifying racial difference, rather than seeing how people play with — as they are constrained by — cultural notions of blackness or whiteness. The messy history of “black music” requires a more nuanced understanding that, say, Charlie Smalls — or Sasha — provides. I highly recommend Ron Radano’s Lying Up a Nation for people wanting to get a grasp on the historical formation of the concept of “black music” and its fraught relationship to the exchange value of racial difference in the US.

    And yeah, Jake, I totally agree that both of Smalls’s examples seem to be emphasizing the 2 and 4, despite what he says. They called that Beatles biopic Backbeat for a reason.


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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