Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"Stool Pigeon" by Kid Creole & the Coconuts

Kid Creole & the Coconuts seamlessly meld funk, Latin, and big band swing for this dynamic tribute to old-school mobster lore. The track showcases the band members’ prodigious musical abilities. The powerhouse horn section lights up the track with some spectacular brass fireworks, and Carol Colman brings some heavy funk to the mix with a wicked bass line. Guitar ace Jimmy Rip serves up some sweet guitar licks, while Kid Creole infuses the lead vocals with his usual flair and brash charm. And that bridge is a killer. The song is about an old ex-con who becomes an informant for the FBI and snitches on his gangster buddies.  

“Stool Pigeon” was written and produced by August Darnell (stage name Kid Creole), who’s a musician, singer, songwriter, producer and bandleader. It was a single from Kid Creole & the Coconuts’ third album, Tropical Gangsters (aka Wise Guys), released in 1982. The song had a strong showing on the U.K. charts, peaking at #7. And it reached #25 on Billboard’s Club Play chart in the U.S. The song also charted well in Ireland (#15), the Netherlands (#19) and New Zealand (#8). The album Tropical Gangsters also performed well on the charts. It peaked at #3 on the U.K. album chart, and it spawned three top-ten singles in the U.K.

Some of the personnel for Tropical Gangsters included Jimmy “Rip” Rippetoe (guitar), Carol Colman (bass), Dave Spann (drums), Charles Lagond (saxophone), Peter Schott (keyboards), Dutch Robinson (vocals), Coati Mundi (vibraphone, vocals), Adriana Kaegi (vocals), Andrew Lloyd (percussion), Taryn Hagey (vocals), Ronnie Rogers (synthesizer), Cory Daye (special guest vocalist), Clarence Banks (trombone) and Cheryl Poirier (vocals).

Kid Creole & the Coconuts were formed in 1980 in New York City. The band’s founders were Darnell, Andy Hernandez (better known by his stage name Coati Mundi), and Darnell’s then-wife Adriana Kaegi. Hernandez is a talented percussionist, with his main instrument being the vibraphone. He was also musical director and arranger for the band, as well as Kid Creole’s comic foil onstage. Kaegi was the leader of the original lineup of the all-female trio the Coconuts, who provided background vocals for Kid Creole and performed entertaining dance routines and skits during live performances. As Mama Coconut, Kaegi’s duties included singing, costume design and choreography. The other original members of the Coconuts were Cheryl Poirier and Taryn Hagey.

Kid Creole & the Coconuts’ music is quite eclectic. Their sound encompasses a wide variety of styles, including Latin pop, disco, Afro-Cuban, funk, big band, R&B, new wave, and tropical. And the band always creates a fun, exciting, and party-like atmosphere at their concerts. Kid Creole is a charismatic frontman who’s known for his over-the-top stage antics and stylish retro attire. He often wears colorful Cab Calloway-inspired zoot suits onstage. The band’s stage shows also contain theatrical elements and  musical comedy. 

Kid Creole was born Thomas August Darnell Browder on August 12, 1950 in the Bronx, New York to a Dominican father and French Canadian mother. Growing up in the multicultural Bronx, Darnell was exposed to a myriad of music styles and developed a deep interest in music. In 1965, Darnell and his half-brother Stony Browder, Jr. formed the band the In-Laws. But the band broke up so Darnell could earn a master’s degree in English, which he used to become an English teacher. 

However, in 1974, the music bug bit Darnell again, and he, Stony Browder, singer Cory Daye, Andy Hernandez, and drummer Mickey Sevilla co-founded the big band and swing-influenced disco outfit Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Darnell played bass, provided lyrics for songs, and contributed vocals. Stony wrote the music, played keyboards, and contributed vocals. Daye was the lead singer, and Hernandez was the band’s percussionist. 

The band scored its biggest hit with the infectious big band-flavored disco song "Cherchez La Femme” in 1976. The song topped Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart; it reached #27 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #22 on the Adult Contemporary chart; and it peaked at #31 on Billboard’s R&B charts. The song also saw significant chart action in Canada (RPM Top singles #23, RPM Adult Contemporary #18), Australia (#49), and the Netherlands (#2). However, they were unable to replicate the huge success of "Cherchez La Femmeme" with subsequent recordings, and Darnell, Hernandez and Daye exited the band in 1979 to explore other music opportunities.

After leaving Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Darnell began writing and producing for other artists. During this period, he co-wrote the 1979 hit “There But for the Grace of God Go I” for disco funk group Machine. Darnell also produced the track, which is now considered a disco classic. In 1980, he and Hernandez linked up again to form Kid Creole & the Coconuts. Darnell’s stage name Kid Creole was inspired by the 1958 Elvis Presley film King Creole.

Kid Creole & the Coconuts have released tons of great music over the years and have influenced a slew of artists in the process, including none other than the Purple One himself, Prince. And many believe that Morris Day’s cocky, flamboyant persona as the Time’s frontman was inspired partly by Kid Creole’s flashy Latin lothario. 

Darnell still tours occasionally with the current Coconuts; and the band released its most recent album, I Wake Up Screaming, in 2011.

The band performing "Stool Pigeon" live at Rockpalast in 1982

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