It seems that we are always looking to discover new music. Artists are always asked What are you working on now. But often, there are overlooked gems out there waiting to be rediscovered. There has been a lot of music recorded in the last 75 years and the onslaught of new material often causes us to forget about classic material that is still as fresh and exciting today, as it was the day it was originally recorded.
Case in point.
William Royce Boz Scaggs, originally from Ohio, was raised in Oklahoma and Texas. While attending school in Texas, he met up with Steve Miller and joined a band with him in 1959. The pair ended up at the University of Wisconsin and continued to play together. In 1963 Scaggs returned to Dallas alone, fronting an R&B unit before relocating to Europe. In Sweden he recorded a failed solo LP, 1965's Boz, before returning to the States in 1967. He ended up in San Francisco and reunited with Miller. He recorded two albums with the Steve Miller band, Children of the Future and Sailor, before leaving in 1968 to start a solo career.
Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone Magazine helped him to secure a deal with Atlantic and Scaggs headed to Muscle Shoals to make a record. Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler loved the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section; Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Barry Beckett, and Jimmy Johnson. They were practically the Atlantic Records House Band having played on sides by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and others. Also at this time, a young Duane Allman was the lead guitar player at FAME studios. This was prior to the formation of the Allman Brothers Band. With this group behind you, it was almost impossible to make a bad record and when things really clicked, magic happened. Pure sonic magic, and Magic was what happened when Boz Scaggs went in to record his debut record Boz Scaggs for Atlantic.
When Boz Scaggs was released in 1969. Critics loved it, but it never caught on with consumers. There were several gems on the record including a remake of Jimmie Rogers' Waitin for a Train but the highlight was a 13-minute epic entitled Loan Me a Dime. Loan Me a Dime would have worked as an instrumental. Scaggs' vocal work is impressive, but is still overshadowed by the inspired playing of Beckett, Hawkins, Allman, Hood, and Johnson.
The song starts out with Barry Beckett playing a subtle Hammond B-3 that builds until he comes in on the piano like the wrath of God. Roger Hawkins drumming, and David Hood's bass are the heartbeat that holding it all together. At 1:20 into the song, The piano falls out and Duane Allman drops in and starts playing these incredibly beautiful and mournful blues guitar licks. The tone and phrasing gently tug at you for about 60 seconds until Scaggs comes in on vocals at 2:20. As Scaggs pours out his heart and soul, Hawkins subtly starts digging down a little harder on the drums. There's a little more anguish. The heart is breaking. Things are slowly moving from sadness towards despair. Two minutes later Allman's back. He starts bending strings a little harder, wringing out a little sweat, eyes are starting to well up with tears. The heart starts pounding a little faster. A horn line falls in to accentuate the pain. Beckett's piano playing starts becoming more percussive and dirge like.
Scaggs starts singing the second verse and it's obvious that disaster is waiting up ahead. Duane Allman is providing fills, the horn line is mourning as we go into the bridge. Allman is wrenching notes out now. His guitar is crying along with Scaggs. As we come out of the bridge the tempo shifts again. The heart is pounding, racing. Hawkins drumming is as expressive as Allman's guitar playing. Beckett is slamming on the piano keys.
We're riding on that black train of hopelessness and despair and the destination is Hell. The tempo shifts and things start speeding up as we head underground. You can smell the sulfur and start to feel the heat. Soon all light is gone and all you can hear is Hawkins and Hood driving the train into the bowels of damnation and the tortured souls screaming through the playing of Allman and Beckett.
If a more powerful and gut wrenching recording has ever been made, I've never heard it. Listening to Loan me a Dime will make you sweat, it will causes your stomach to churn, It will brings tears to your eyes, it might even make you want to rip your hair out, bare your breast, and fall to your knees and scream up to the Lord, Why? Why oh why God? Why the hell have you forsaken me?
But that's what music is supposed to do. Elicit a response in the listener. We seem to have forgotten that. Music has been regulated to nothing more than background noise and filler instead of the life changing manna from God that it supposed to be. This recording should be required listening for every blues band in America. This is how a band is supposed to work together. A team doesn't have superstars. Roger Hawkins and David Hood are just as important to this recording as Duane Allman and Barry Beckett are. Each member of the band has something important to contribute and without that contribution the other members would not be able to achieve what they did. This is a perfect example of how the combination of the parts is so much greater than just the sum of the individual musicians.
Technically, the song is perfect. The mixing is dead solid perfect as is the timing. A click track would have sucked the life out of this song. Listen to the ebb and flow of the song, just like our heartbeat and breathing speeds up and slows down. These are important things that bring life to music. Listen to the three or four major tempo changes. These changes underscore the increasing sense of urgency and desperation in the song.
Go back and listen to Loan Me a Dime. Boz Scaggs is still in print. Turn the bass way down and the treble way up. Listen to what Hawkins is doing. His playing is as exciting and dynamic as anything here. Now turn down the treble and turn up the bass. Listen to David Hood. Listen to how tight he is. He's right in the pocket there with Hawkins. They are the key to the whole record. They set the pace and tone that Berry Beckett and Duane Allman feed off of. Set the bass/treble back and then sit down and listen and pay close attention to the keyboards played by Barry Beckett. Then go back again and listen to Duane. Turn the balance over to the left side and listen to what happening there, then shift it all the way over to the right and listen. Then listen to Scaggs, then the Horn line. Then go back and listen to the whole ensemble feeding off each other.
Loan Me a Dime is good enough and important enough to be listened to in such detail. It's not just another wanking blues tune. There are all kinds of subtle dynamics at play that don't become apparent until repeated listenings.
There's still exciting music out there that's new. It doesn't matter if it was recorded yesterday or back in 1969. Good music is good music. Loan Me a Dime is one of those records that just reminds us why music is so important in life.