Song Of The Day 9/16/2014: Liquid Liquid - "Cavern"

Hip Hop Samples: "White Lines (Don't Do It)" by Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five was recorded and released in 1983, the year after John DeLorean tried to revive his sports car company's flagging fortunes by trafficking cocaine. He defended himself and got off by successfully arguing that he was entrapped, teaching all of us the very important lesson that if you want to weasel out of a drug conviction it helps to be white and rich. I'm joking, of course: It helps to be white, handsome and rich.

But back to "White Lines." Along with "The Message," "White Lines" showed rap's immediate ability to convey statements of social significance and potency, later taken to nearly kaleidoscopic extremes by Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. It's one of the few songs of any era or style to have a bass line as the primary hook, borrowed from New York post-punk groove band Liquid Liquid.

Well... perhaps saying Sugar Hill borrowed it is one of those eye-of-the-beholder deals. Some might have at one time said they stole it. The recording on "White Lines" was actually a cover of Liquid Liquid's "Cavern" by the Sugar Hill house band, featuring Doug Wimbish on bass. Liquid Liquid, according to a 2000 Italian interview with somebody from the band (probably bassist Richard McGuire), at first were honored by Sugar Hill's appropriation of their bass line, but then things got legally mushy, Sugar Hill went bankrupt, and a settlement was reached in the mid-90's and everyone's happy now. The only thing that pisses anybody off about "White Lines" nowadays is that Duran Duran covered it. I'm not linking you to it.

As for Liquid Liquid, they have a terrific but brief discography between 1980 and 1983: minimalist, dub-like and not aged one whit. The Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label collected all of it in a 1997 reissue which I'm listening to right now. I think we're going to be close friends. Very close. In a one-sided way, of course, but close.

A reformed Liquid Liquid opened for LCD Soundsystem at the latter's last show ever at Madison Square Garden.

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