Monday, April 05, 2004
A while ago I posted an excerpt of Scott Johnson's John Somebody, and promised that I'd put up the whole thing at some point. This isn't exactly the whole thing (which has several parts, some of which don't use the main vocal loop) but it's all of part 1, which is enough to get a sense of the piece.
If you didn't read the earlier post, basically John Somebody starts with a woman saying "You know who was in New York? D'you remember that guy J-John somebody? He was a, he was a sort of a..." Scott Johnson loops the phrase and then starts adding instruments that mimic and then play off of the natural melody of the speech. The liner notes point out that you probably won't notice the melody when she first speaks the line, but it becomes inescapable after you've heard the piece. Some of the other parts use different vocal samples, none of which are quite as catchy as the main loop. I wonder if the ambiguity of the sentence (we don't know who John is or what he was a kind-of-a or how the speaker knows he's in New York, etc.) makes it more compelling than the more fragmented pieces of speech that Scott Johnson used elsewhere.
I don't know of any real precedents for John Somebody other than Steve Reich's work with tape loops . I was kind of surprised to hear Madlib sampling a Reich tape loop piece (Come Out) on the recent Madvillain album (it's on the track America's Most Blunted). I wonder if anyone has gotten around to sampling Scott Johnson.
I should probably mention that there's a strong rock element to John Somebody, so don't expect something like Steve Reich. The album came out in 1986 originally, and to the best of my knowledge it's currently out of print.