During the late 1990s I was a politically-charged soul radio DJ in a punk rock town. I didn't feel very punk myself because my musical passion and area of study has always been based in jazz, blues, soul, and R&B. However, once I began working at the local independent record store and was forced to eat, breathe, and live punk/garage rock every day, I came to realize that my approach to "my art" and the punk approach were very similar. Before long I was wrapped up in the scene. I first observed it as an outsider, then soaked it up like a Viva paper towel. I was saturated in the punk ethos and it became a part of me.
My greatest moments of joy during that period were the rare instances was when punk and soul seamlessly fused together. It made me feel like I could be a part of this revolutionary musical movement that surrounded me. And in the early days of George W Bush era it really did feel revolutionary.
It all began when my friend Chris Sutton introduced me to the music of Mick Collins. Chris and I worked together at the record store and we connected through our shared passion for soul, jazz, blues, and funk. Chris is also a punk though and he (along with my other coworkers) did their best to recruit me (unintentionally I'm sure) to their cause.
One day Chris showed me that in spite of what I thought, there's something for me in punk rock. He told me all about one of his musical heroes, this guy Mick Collins out of Detroit who started a legendary blues-influenced punk band called the Gories. Chris was right, I loved it. There WAS something for me in punk rock!
Then came Ultraglide in Black by Mick's band The Dirtbombs. In the wake of what felt like a stolen election, Ultraglide In Black felt timely. It fused the music of the Civil Rights era with turn-of-the-21st-century punk rock. For me, that record sounded like a musical assault on the recent political catastrophe, a strike back at the powers that actively disenfranchised and exploited scores of people. It proved to be even more potent after 9/11 which occurred within 3 months of the album's release. While a national tragedy was being used to strip away remaining civil liberties and the government doubled down on its war on many U.S. citizens (POCs, LGBTQs, poor people, women, etc) Mick's jagged-edged cover of Sly Stone's "Underdog" as well as Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" seemed to be the perfect soundtrack for the times. It remains one of my favorite soul LPs of all time.
Chris would go on to become an accomplished and revered musician in the punk world and his band COCO would tour with the Dirtbombs. And then incredibly enough, Chris ended up playing IN the Dirtbombs and even recording with them (because he's Chris and he lives the dream). BTW, they are still cranking out great stuff!
So happy birthday Mick Collins! Thanks for the artistic illumination and thank you for getting this underdog through 2001 and 2002. Those were some trying times. And thanks to Chris for helping to guide me to a whole other musical world and for inspiring me to live my musical dreams as well.