Sunday, April 3, 2016
Track of the Week: Pointer Sisters "Fire"
We live in a cultural moment where an obsession with "authenticity" co-exists with increasing cultural segmentation. Even though I am getting long in the tooth, I can still follow pop music because the amount of it that crosses over the various segments is really tiny compared to the past. The various genres of music seem to multiply with each year, and seem to be saying less and less to each other.
It wasn't always like that. Back in 1930 the king of country music, Jimmie Rodgers, cut the song "Blue Yodel #9" with Louis Armstrong, jazz legend. In the 1960s, Nina Simone's music seem to pull from innumerable genres, from jazz to classical to to show tunes to soul. The Clash's magnum opus London Calling has everything from reggae to ska to rockabilly to hard-charging punk on it.
In 1979, the same year as that Clash record, the Pointer Sisters released "Fire," which sounds as if country and soul got together to make a beautiful baby. Like the sensation described in the lyrics, this song just smolders until the drums, piano and organ come in big, then draws back again, only to burst forth once more on the solo. There are few other songs that replicate the sensation of trying to suppress burning lust so well, and it's all done with a sultriness that's neither playful or silly. I've been listening to this song non-stop for the last month, and as much as I enjoy it, it makes me wistful for a time when pop music could hold multitudes.