Taking Adele To DC’s Go-Go

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.

39 Replies to “Taking Adele To DC’s Go-Go”

  1. Hi Twin!
    Thanks for that background on go-go music. I remember “The Godfather of Go- Go” RIP.

    I love it.

    To me, Chuck Brown is to the DC area as James Brown is to the Deep South.

    One might say they were two ‘cousins’ innovating music and making the whole family get up and move.

    I was hoping you’d talk about go-go since it’s native to your neck of the woods.
    I’d love to read more from you on that style.
    Very well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, and thanks! I’ve been looking for a way to put go-go on the blog for awhile now, and I finally found it when I heard that Backyard Band cover. What I tried to do was give a thumbnail sketch of the music on this post. I don’t really have all the history, but I know quite a bit of its high points, so I can kind of connect the dots. Plus, it’s great music, even if it’s mostly covers of other songs, the beat just does something to you, especially when you hear it live.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Food for thought, twin! I will definitely give it some consideration. There were definitely a few songs (the E.U. song being one) that I thought about giving that “first go-go” feature to, but I always held it back because I wasn’t sure I could describe the music very well to the outsider, and yet sound like I knew what I was talking about to someone who knows what it is. This post today, I felt, did the job well enough, and it was a song that everyone should already know.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep. You did a wonderful job here.

        If you keep putting up go- go songs people will get used to the rhythm and percussion. Once they do they will start to recognize it when they hear it.
        I’m all about recognizing unique rhythms/ sounds.
        Go for it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, I do like some house music! I just haven’t posted much, if any of it. Another style of music that is regional to the nearby area is called Baltimore or BMore club music, and it is built off of much of the backbone of house music. Perhaps I’ll feature something in that style soon, much like I did today with DC’s go-go.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in DC in the ’80s-’90s, went to local shows — from straight-edge hardcore to go-go — nearly every other night. Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, and E.U. are some of the shows I remember most fondly. Oh! And, Junk Yard Band!! I think I have to go dig up some old cassettes today and listen again. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Someone else who knows go-go! I had wanted to feature it on the blog, but I was afraid I didn’t have the right “entry point”, because if you aren’t from here or near it, you don’t know about it. So, with the Adele cover I had a song that people should know, and the Backyard Band killed it.

      Junk Yard Band! Sardines, no?

      Thanks for your comment, Bloggess!

      Liked by 1 person

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