Jackson 5 + Inell Young: Olde Soul

Jackson 5: Big Boy
From 7″ (Steeltown, 1968). Also available on First Recordings.

Inell Young: What Do You See In Her
From 7″ (Libra, 196?).

The gig at the Casanova Lounge (aka the Bay Area SSV2 party) was proper. Thanks to my old friends Vinnie Esparza and Josh Bea for the invite.

Turnout was solid and I met quite a few cool Soul Siders, including a DJ from Dalva who walked down the block – during his own gig – to say hi and buy an LP. I’m seriously appreciative of that kind of love and support.

During the course of the evening – during which I dropped all covers, including a few pieces from what I hope to be the Deep Covers sequel, one of the other DJs, Geoff, threw on a few 45s at the end of the evening that had me rapt. Enough so that I compulsively rushed out the next day to track ’em down (not the actual vinyl…not yet anyways).

The Jackson 5’s “Big Boy” was their very first single (I think), for a small, local label called Steeltown. This was before they signed to Motown and I don’t want to even think about how old MJ was at this time, especially in listening to him croon about how “I’m a big boy.” When one thinks about Michael Jackson BITD…and the MJ of today…it’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same person, you know? That moment of intellectual perturbation aside though, it’s definitely a cool little sweet soul single.

The Inell Young is on some whole ‘nother level though. I had “heard” this before, meaning that I had given it a passing ear lean and that was about the extent of it, but that night, I really sat there and listened to it, especially as Geoff was breaking down the backstory. (Some of this might be apocryphal but even so it’s still a good story).

Apparently, Young was involved with famed NOLA producer Eddie Bo – he produced her first two singles – but for this third recording, which was to be Young’s last, she worked with another producer (Gus Lewis). The tale is that the person she’s talking about in the song was actually Eddie as she was being two-timed by him for some other woman (“nothing but a playgirl…all the boys know her name”).Ok, so Geoff actually wrote in to clear some stuff up:

    “From what people say, Inell, Mary Jane Hooper & ??? were the Explosions, backup singers of Gold Cup fame. Some say they were in high school chorus and Eddie told someone to go down to the school & get some girls for backup on Hip Drop. Anyway, Eddie worked with Inell for a few tracks on Big 9 and Busy B, and sometime around then she fell heavily into drug use (heroin). Her and Eddie weren’t lovers (at least to my knowledge, I believe he was still married to Dolores Johnson around that time), but had a working relationship. Inell and Mary were supposedly best friends, but after Inell hit the junk hard, Eddie refused to work with her until she cleaned up her act and continued working with Mary Jane Hooper. From what the people say, “what do you see in her” was her response to this, and reportedly about Eddie and Mary.”

Young supposedly died of an overdose soon thereafter, though it’s not clear if this was accidental or purposeful. Rumor had it that Young died of an overdose soon thereafter but this too was apocryphal; her son wrote in to me to let me know that Inell died of throat cancer at the age of 49 and thus, well after the recording of the single.

As far as invented back stories go, it certainly gives what would otherwise be a bittersweet love song added resonance but beyond that though, there’s a few things, musically, that really stand out here, beginning with how Young introduces herself on the song with that unexpected, four-note whateveryoucallit (I really need to get some basic musicological training at some point); it’s almost like bird call and it’s definitely attention-getting. From there, I like how the arrangement holds back the guitar accompaniment until after the first A portion of Young’s verses (after “I’m lost in misery”). Suddenly, what was a minimalist funk tune stretches into something much more dynamic. And lastly, you have to love how Young sings the chorus, “what do you seeeeeeee, in herrrrrr.” It’s a good melodic progression, not what you’d necessarily anticipate, and from that point forward, anyone listening will find themselves singing along.

By the way, I’d say “Happy July 4th” or some nonsense like that if there were actually anything to celebrate but not this week. Not this year. (Read: not this president). The real independence day is whenever the long reign of King George ends. You know the anthem: