Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dick Cheney's Favorite Band

Why doesn't War get more respect? I'm not talking about the geopolitical concept but the early-Seventies Latino-funk band out of Long Beach. They had a bunch of hits - seven in the Top Ten, twelve in the Top Forty - and a sound that was all their own, with instruments all working at cross-purposes but somehow flying down the highway in harmony, sounding like Fred Sanford's truck on its way to El Segundo. In the 1983 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, Dave Marsh calls War "perhaps the most underrated black band of the Seventies," apparently in ignorance of the fact that they weren't all black.

They were multiracial, politically conscious and fun. What more could you want?

The early War started out as a band called Nightshift that would back none other than Deacon "Multiblade!" Jones when he sang at nightclubs around L.A. The guys had never heard of Eric Burdon or the Animals when Burdon's producer suggested they get together with him, and the result was "Spill the Wine," War's first and worst hit. After recording two albums together (including a cover of "Night in White Satin" - actually, there are two different versions of that old warhorse on side two of The Black-Man's [sic] Burdon), Burdon left War in the middle of a tour, but they soldiered on without him.

Four War albums went on to hit Number One on the R&B charts, and the hits flowed regularly all the way through 1976. The best of them, of course, was "Why Can't We Be Friends?" Did you know they made a video for it? It's got a hilarious Village People vibe to it, and my favorite thing is that the biggest afro belongs to the white guy:

1 comment:

Scraps said...

During my abortive Seventies Survival Project, I mentioned that one of the biggest surprises to me was how good War was. I've since acquired most of he albums of their classic period, and they're very good.

Even better than "Why Can't We Be Friends", to me, is "The Cisco Kid".