Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Charlie Feathers
Why Don't You/Jungle Fever

Released 1958 on Kay 1001
Reviewed by fauny fergus, 27/04/2007ce

(I’m not interested in the A-side, if you like Buddy Holly you’ll like it. No, my friends, the B-side is where you’ll have to dig down to find the fucking unholy sounds we’re interested in here…)

Okay, so I've just put 'Jungle Fever' by Charlie Feathers on auto repeat. It's a live version from some time in the primordial past; it's not the recent version produced by Lux and Ivy. It is definitely from some time but there is no guessing which nexus between the worlds played host to this unearthly sound...

There's a quality to certain rockabilly records which has the same effect on me as some of the most outrightly lysergic psychedelia, haunted folk or shamanistic doom. It takes me places, transports and transforms, it reminds me of the infinite and that as part of the infinite, that infinity is available to me but that the infinite can be overwhelming...

At the beginning of 'Jungle Fever' there's thin, metallic applause followed by a cymbal struck to sound like a gong. Except it doesn't sound like a either, it's the sound of your faltering connection to reality being rent asunder by a primal sound unlike any you have previously heard. The drums stutter in, shuffling like rabid pony with a three foot long flyblown erection, this is the sound of luxurious decadence, of a world cut off from a declining civilisation in which there is no fall from grace but continual bliss, somewhere in there the bass picks out those rythyms your aching groin is finding amidst the pony sex and then you realise that your mind is already drifting towards outer space on the seductively simple patterns of the rhythm guitar. And then it hits you that whilst the drums and the bass are speaking to your lower instincts, the guitar (and vocals, but, oh gods and goddesses, let's leave that warped voice to one side for a moment) is snaking its sinuous way along neural pathways you'd long since forgotten about and is dripping like quicksilver down your chakras until the world below and the world above is united in a shivering snakedance AND THEN the lead comes in, echoing the trembling timbre of your nervous system and it becomes evident that this isn't simply music, this is an old, old magic which makes sense in a way that you're never going to be able to tell your confessors about.

It puts me in mind of Lee Perry's most intense productions; you start off listening thinking that there's a hell of a lot of space in the song and revel in the way in which space gets strung out into the sparseness between the instruments and then you slowly realise that what you can hear is sparse and simultaneously dense, thick with an unholy stew of sound, full of forbidden flavours (think 'Cornfish Dub').

And then the vocals come in.... "Darkness, creeping thru' the green," 'darkness' dragged out in a near-hysterical falsetto which is just downright unsettling. You get the feeling that you're hearing a frontline report from somewhere very dark indeed and that darkness is spreading. "Jungle fever got a hold on me," every syllable turned into a strangulated threat/promise. And he makes it sound so familiar that it seems only a matter of time until you're dragged into the darkness yourself. The throaty rattle of, "hold," is enough to tell you that it's not something to relish; it's a hold that never lets go.

"The lion and the leopard.... Creeping through the grass... Only the Lord above.... Know how long these hunts are gonna last," To be honest with you Charlie, I'm pretty certain that only the good Lord above knows what the fuck is going on at this point, and you never even said he was Good. There is something invidious being suggested here and language isn't enough to convey it and so we're left with the lion and the leopard creeping through the grass, hunts eternal. And this is meant to be a simple country song of a guy seeking for his lost love. We're in the realms of strange allegories here, strange allegories and a primal, invasive backing. Light the fires and sanctify the earth, I'm not sure where Charlie's taking us but if you follow the pathways it offers up you will not come back the same. Forget psychobilly posturing, this is real voodoo rockabilly.

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