It took me longer than it should have to hear this cover of Adele’s monster hit “Hello,” but I also should have known there was one of these floating around. The normal way I would have found it would have been listening to one of the several radio stations out of Washington, DC, where this type of music called “go-go” can be heard over the airwaves. But I usually don’t listen to the terrestrial stations all that much; I do listen to satellite radio at times, but mostly I listen to my own music or stream it from a service.
How I came to find it actually involved a blog I follow that is written by Rob Pegoraro, who formerly wrote about tech issues for The Washington Post, but now does freelance work with occasional pieces at Yahoo! Tech and USA Today. He was doing a post on entrance music for the Washington Nationals and listed the Backyard Band’s go-go fueled cover of Adele’s song as one of his choices. From there, I was led to this article by the Post’s pop music critic Chris Richards who wrote about the cover and it also gives a brief history of the sound, as well of the current scene, which also included the track. According to the article:
The cover is currently enjoying regular airplay on the District’s radio waves; it’s clocking serious views on YouTube; and it has enjoyed some pixelated ink from the likes of the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, the Fader and other online outlets. It’s a hit, but also a postcard.
Here is Backyard Band’s cover of the song:
For those who don’t know, go-go is a music that lives and breathes primarily in the Washington, DC area. It was created by the late Chuck Brown, also called the Godfather of go-go, for his contributions to the genre. The story goes that he wanted the beat and the music to keep playing between songs, so the band would continue to play. Some of you may remember his hit from the late 70s, “Bustin’ Loose,” which may have been one of the first recorded versions of his style of music. Perhaps go-go’s biggest national splash was performed by Experience Unlimited (aka E.U.) with it’s song “Da Butt,” which was a #1 R&B hit back in 1988, and was featured in Spike Lee’s film School Daze.
It is a music based on drums, timbales and congas, and has a lot of call and response vocals, but lately has made some noise taking pop songs and giving them the go-go touch.
A sample of Mr. Brown in his element, playing his music live, and a cover of Ashlee Simpson’s “Pieces Of Me” by local go-go band Rare Essence, give some examples of the sound itself and it’s success with pop covers follows.
If you’ve never heard it, it is a music that is made to make you move. And as good as it is on record or studio-made, it is nothing compared to hearing it live. I can testify to it; at a concert where major rap acts were on the same bill with some of the local go-go artists, it was the go-go that had the crowd going crazy. I had never seen people just stop where they were in the arena—from walking to and from their seats, in the aisles, standing up from their seats just dancing, non-stop. The big name rap acts couldn’t compete that night.
As far as the Adele cover goes, I love it. The head nodded and the shoulders shrugged about as soon as it started, then graduated to movement once the first chorus kicked in. I love Adele’s version of the song, but this is something else. Perhaps you may feel differently; after all this is a regional music that you learn to love once you hear more of it.
Are there musical sounds or styles that are concentrated around the area in which you live? Tell me about them, or your impressions of go-go, in the comments.