Friday, May 12, 2006

Contort yourself

Play it: James Chance Irresistible Impulse (Box set sampler)

Sometimes I think the Rhapsody additions are mysteriously connected to what I'm reading. Take for example yesterday's addition of the box set on James Chance entitled Irresistible Impulse. It comes on the very day I read the No Wave New York chapter in Simon Reynolds' Rip it Up and Start Again: PostPunk 1978-1984. James Chance is the focus of the chapter, and his band The Contortions, while not the first, were arguably the best of No Wave. Besides The Contortions, there was Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (with Lydia Lunch,) Mars and DNA (which featured Arto Lindsay.) These bands were in the wake of punk, but were more influenced by acts like Captain Beefheart, Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band and free jazz of the time.

Chance (born James Sigfried) came to New York to play free jazz and really fell into the avante garde scene after seeing the band Suicide play. Besides singing and playing saxaphone, he wore a collection of loud suits and was famous for his confrontation with the audience. Chance would jump into the audience in the middle of a show and find himself in a fight for hitting on someone's girl, or just hitting someone. Listen to the live "Jailhouse Rock" to get an earful of some of Chance's confrontation tactics. Chance also had a strong appreciation for James Brown and saxaphonist Maceo Parker, which informed much of his freak-funk compositions (see the burning James Brown cover "Super Bad.")

There was hardly any recordings of the No Wave bands when Chance was approached in 1978 to release two albums, one as The Contortions, the other Chance's interpretation of disco, whatever he felt like doing in that context. Out of that came Buy by The Contortions, and Off White, by James White and the Blacks (he wanted to call the band James White and His Blacks, but that understandably didn't fly with the label.) The Contortionists never released another album, and Chance continued on as James White for a couple more albums, but never broke through like many thought he would.

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1 comment:

drake leLane said...

James Chance - Irresistable Impulse (Box set sampler)

* "Contort Yourself" - James Chance
* "My Infatuation" - James Chance
* "I Don't Want To Be Happy" - James Chance
* "Jailhouse Rock - (live)" - James Chance
* "Contort Yourself - (1st Version)" - James Chance
* "Stained Sheets" - James Chance
* "Almost Black, Part 1" - James Chance
* "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough - (live)" - James Chance
* "Irresistible Impulse" - James Chance
* "Sax Maniac" - James Chance
* "Sax Machine" - James Chance
* "Super Bad" - James Chance
* "The Natives Are Restless" - James Chance