Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let Me Tickle Your Fancy by Jermaine Jackson, featuring Devo

This song marked one of the more unusual collaborations in pop music:  Velvet-voiced R&B star Jermaine Jackson teamed up with two members of the innovative, eccentric new wave band Devo. For some odd reason, this unlikely pairing reaped winning results. The song is an infectious mélange of funk, rock, pop and new wave. And Devo members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale’s rigid and robotic backing vocals provide a nice contrast to Jermaine’s smooth, soulful lead vocal. The percolating groove boasts some cool synth parts and funky rhythm guitar licks played by acclaimed axeman/composer/producer Paul M. Jackson, Jr., who also serves up a wicked guitar solo. The track reminds me a bit of the funk/new wave/rock hybrid tracks that Prince was recording at the time, but not quite as boldly creative or adventurous as his excursions into that area.

“Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” is the title track from Jermaine’s ninth studio album, released in 1982. It was the vocalist/bass player’s final album with Motown before he signed with Arista Records the following year. The track was written by Jermaine, Marilyn McLeod, Paul M. Jackson, Jr. and Pam Sawyer.  Jermaine is also credited with the track’s funky rhythm arrangement. And it was his idea to have the Devo members sing the backing vocals to enhance the new wave feel of the song. Mothersbaugh and Casale are credited as Spud and Pud Devo on the album. Neither of the Spudboys played any instruments on the studio version of the song, but you can certainly hear their influence throughout. Singer/songwriter Stephanie Spruill also helped out with the backing vocals, as did Jermaine.

The song performed well on the charts, peaking at #5 on the U.S. R&B charts and at # 18 on the pop charts. The song doesn’t seem to get a lot of love these days and is not as recognized as some of Jermaine’s other hits as a solo artist. I’ve come across some R&B music lovers who have never even heard of the song. But it’s a really great cut as well as quite an interesting collaboration between two very different artists.

Jermaine performing the song on a TV special with the Spudboys

Let Me Tickle Your Fancy at Amazon

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