Thursday, May 5, 2022

"I Like Girls" by The Fatback Band

This wickedly funky old-school joint by the Fatback Band features an absolute beast of a bass line. It’s one of the coldest bass lines ever laid on a track and that’s no joke. It’s complemented by an equally dope beat. And the smokin’ horns put an exclamation point on this ruthless groove. The song is about a pastime that dudes have engaged in since time immemorial–girl-watching. You can envision sexy mamas everywhere sashaying to this nasty groove. The track also makes effective use of rim drumming and cowbells. It’s the perfect jam to blast in your ride during the summer months with the windows down.

“I Like Girls” was a single from the Fatback Band’s ninth album Fired Up ‘N’ Kickin’ (1978). It was written and arranged by drummer/songwriter/producer Bill “Fatback” Curtis, the band’s founder and leader. The song was a big hit on Billboard’s R&B singles chart, rising to #9. The players on Fired Up ‘N’ Kickin’ were Bill Curtis (drums, percussion, vocals), Johnny "Flip" Flippin (bass, lead vocals), Calvin Duke (keyboards, lead vocals), Kenny Ballard (guitar, backing vocals), Fred Demery (saxophone), Gerry Thomas (keyboards), George Williams (trumpet, backing vocals), Lenny Fridie Jr. (congas) and Sam Culley (keyboards). The album was co-produced by Bill Curtis and Gerry Thomas.

“I Like Girls” has been sampled on four tracks, including “‘Cross The Room” by Monica, featuring Debra Killings and Afroman’s “Girls.” It was also featured in an episode of HBO’s landmark crime drama series The Sopranos. The episode was entitled “No Show,” and HBO originally aired it on September 22, 2002.

Bill Curtis formed the Fatback Band in 1970 in New York City. He was a veteran session drummer at the time with already 20 years of playing under his belt, which included session work and touring with various music acts. He had toured the country with renowned artists such as Sil Austin, Bill Doggett, Big Maybelle, Clyde McPhatter and Paul Williams. His concept with the Fatback Band was to meld the “fatback” jazz beat of New Orleans with dynamic West Indie and Caribbean rhythms. This unique fusion became the blueprint for the first disco beat. 

The original lineup of the Fatback Band was Bill "Fatback" Curtis (drums), Johnny King (guitar), Johnny "Flip" Flippin (bass), Earl Shelton (saxophone), George Williams (trumpet) and Wayne Woolford (congas). Curtis soon expanded the ensemble by recruiting sax players George Adams and Fred Demery, keyboardist Gerry Thomas and guitarist George Victory.

In 1972, the band signed with Perception Records, a New York-based imprint that focused primarily on jazz and R&B. They scored their first hit with the raw funk jam “Street Dance” in June of that same year. The song peaked at #26 on the R&B singles chart. The Fatback Band released three albums with Perception–Let’s Do It Again (which contained “Street Dance”), People Music and Feel My Soul–before signing with Event Records in 1974. 

By the mid-’70s, the band started shifting toward a more dance-based sound as well as incorporating jazz and Latin elements into their music. This revamping of their sound turned out to be a smart move as they scored their biggest hit to date during that period with “(Do the) Spanish Hustle,” released on Polydor Records in 1975. The driving, Latin-infused disco track saw significant chart action. It peaked at #12 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and climbed all the way to #5 on the U.S. dance charts. Additionally, it charted at #10 on the UK singles chart and just missed cracking the top 100 on the U.S. pop charts, at #101. 

The band landed another hit in '75 with the funkalicious “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop.” The track peaked at #37 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and rose to #15 on the U.S. dance chart. It also performed well on overseas, climbing to #18 on the UK singles chart and #26 on the Australian singles chart. In 1977, the band shortened its name to simply Fatback.

In the ensuing years, the band dropped more great music, including the seminal proto-rap track “King Tim III (Personality Jock)," released on March 25, 1979. It’s credited as the first commercially released rap single. The song was released nearly six months before The Sugarhilll Gang dropped their landmark track “Rapper’s Delight.” “King Tim III” boasts a powerful funk groove and a rousing rap performance from Harlem rapper Tim Washington, aka King Tim III. The track rose to #26 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and peaked at #62 on the U.S. dance charts.

In 1980, the band released the bumpin' party jam “Backstrokin.” It’s their highest charting single on the R&B charts, peaking at #3. And it climbed to #53 on the U.S. dance charts and #41 on the UK singles chart.

The Fatback Band had a major influence on genres such as disco, disco-funk, hip-hop and dance music in general. Their electrifying sound encompasses several different styles, including jazz, funk, R&B, disco, Latin, disco-funk and rap. Their music has been sampled on 352 tracks.

The Fatback Band are still going strong and have some tour dates lined up for this summer. The current lineup is Bill Curtis (percussion), Ed Jackson (saxophone), Isabella Dunn Gordon (vocals), Ledjerick Todd Woods (trumpet), Darryl McAllister (guitar), Zachary Guinn (bass, vocals), Montreal Parker (drums) and Marell Antwon Glenn (keyboards). Visit the band’s official site for more info.

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