Song Of The Day 8/17/2015: Wilbur "Bad" Bascomb – “Black Grass”

Ultimate Breaks & Beats – DXT, formerly known as Grandmixer D.ST, did the scratching on Herbie Hancock's one-off hip hop breakthrough "Rockit." On the website Davey D's Hip Hop Corner he describes DJs looking for the perfect beat in the '70s:
Everyday, DJs would head out into the streets of New York to find beats. They would look for thrift shops with large collections of used records. The major record stores were next, to find the latest radio hits. However, the best stores were the small mom and pop record shops throughout the five boroughs of the city. Unlike the bigger commercial stores, the mom and pop record shops would have the old and the new. There wasn't any place that the hip-hop DJ wouldn't dig for beats. It could be mom's, dad's, aunt's, uncle's, cousin's, neighbor's or friend's. No one's record collection was excluded. If there were mountains with caves full of vinyl, you would find a DJ mining for hip-hop gold.
That kind of prospector's gold rush isn't much in fashion these days, now that we can all steal obtain music from Taylor Swift's server the web and run it through cheap-ass (actually free-ass) audio processing software like Audacity. But the backlog back then must have been inspirational. Not only did you have well-known records that had meaningful breaks, but you had scads of independent, regionally popular R&B records that must have felt incredible to discover. I still feel that way even just glomming onto radio shows like Mr. Fine Wine's Downtown Soulville on WFMU, when I remember to listen. (That plug wasn't too obvious, was it?) It's still a bottomless source. Any one of them could have been transmogrified into a breakbeat, and therefore a component of '80s and '90s pop smashes.

Then you find something as crazy and great as Wilbur "Bad" Bascomb's "Black Grass," a miracle of '70s physics. Bascomb was a session bassist who played for a million big names and projects: Roy Ayers' Ubiquity, Jeff Beck (the Wired album), Grace Jones, Bo Diddley, and the soundtracks for the 1979 movie version of Hair and the attempted movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. (A gig's a gig.) "Black Grass", the second song on the first volume of Octopus Breaks, which in turn was reissued as Vol. 1 of UBB, is an eminently logical pairing of funk beats with banjo. Given that the gulf between country and black music of the early 20th century is way, way narrower than you might think (just ask Jimmie Rodgers when he comes back to life), it's really a sort of naturalism on wax.

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