(Editor’s Note: So…the other day, I get an email, out of the blue, from someone who wanted to share an Irma Thoams song with me. I look at the sender and it’s John Cameron Mitchell, aka actor/filmmaker/writer/et. al., best known for his 2001 film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which, amongst its finer qualities, introduced me to the German way of pronouncing “Gummi Bears” (like goo-may, instead of gummy) which I have since adopted, much to the amusement and/or annoyance of my friends.

It stands to reason that someone who made a film about a fallen glam rock star would actually, you know, be into music but I also assume that actor/filmmaker/writer types usually have enough on their hands (unlike, I suppose, professor/writer/blogger types) to get that into it but lo and behold, JCM is a music nut. So much so that when I casually asked if he’d want to do a guest post, he not only jumped at the opportunity but turned around a post in about 24 hours, which is probably the fastest I’ve ever gotten writing in from anyone, including my students. He racked up over a dozen songs so I decided to split things in half and post half today, half later but I am very flattered and honored to share with you some of John’s fave songs for all the Soul Siders out there. –O.W.)

      JCM’s Note: I was so excited when Oliver asked me to do a guest post (which i’ve never done!) that i spent all day looking through all my damn music (i finally got the 1500 cds on hard drive, forget the vinyl). I was getting carried away so i thought i’d limit it to an album-sized sampler. Call it “Soulful Distractions Vol. 1”. – jcm

High School Dance – The Sylvers
from their album New Horizons (1977). Also on Best Of.

      This was one of the 45’s I spun at my 14th birthday party in 1977 at Fort Riley, KS. My first girlfriend, a gorgeous black cheerleader named Yvonne Quinton, turned me on to it. I was very interested in her hair (“Blow it out for me, Yvonne!”) but I was really more interested in Steve DePew. I still dj with this song and usually follow it with a slow jam that Yvonne and I used to grind to like Teddy Pendergrass’ Turn off the Lights or Close the Door or Pour Some Hot Oil On Me. (By the way, the rumors about him were true. I met his chauffeur.)

Theme From ‘Which Way Is Up’ – Stargard
from Stargard (1978)

      I used to love to dance to this one too. It made my mangina itch. It’s from a 1977 film starring Richard Pryor which I think I saw back then. Stargard had crazy space-age headgear. They had another fun song called What You Waitin’ For?

Your Kiss Is Sweet – Syreeta (featuring Stevie Wonder)
from Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta (1974)

      They were married then and you can still feel the love. Thanks to Luis for playing it for me last year on our road trip to see Stevie in Baltimore. What a show! He’s funny as shit. Like Dean-Martin-Roast funny.

I Gave You Everything – Irma Thomas
from her album Something Good – Muscle Shoals (1990)

      Irma recorded this at Muscle Shoals studios for Chess in 1967 after a long tour. She said she was tired and the tracks were judged unreleasable til 1990. This is my favorite one cuz she gave it everything.

He Called Me Baby – Candi Staton
from Candi Staton (2004) [originally from Stand By Your Man (1970)]

      Another supercreamy song recorded at Muscle Shoals. Sounds like some of the same players.

Shaggy Daddy – Lightnin’ Hopkins
from King of the Texas Blues (2003) [recorded 1965]

      This song makes me think proto-Muscle Shoals plus trombone. My favorite lyric from another of his songs: “Give me back that wig I bought you, black woman. Let your doggone head go bald.”

Something You Got – Alvin Robinson
from The Daisy/Tiger Records Story: Everybody Come Clap Your Hands! (2003) [recorded 1965]

      This is a great cover. I had it on an unlabelled cassette someone gave me in 1989. Couldn’t find the artist or the recording til the internet. I love the internet sometimes. I also love the Chuck Jackson/Maxine Brown version.

You’re Gonna Make Me Cry – Staple Singers
from Staple Swingers (1971)

      Probably my favorite soul group of all time. Mavis Staples was going to cover our song Wig in a Box as the title song of our Hedwig charity album but then she didn’t have time! Then Dolly Parton was gonna do it but then…didn’t have time! So Polyphonic Spree did it…real good, but still….


      (Part 2 coming soon!)