Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Abaco Dream—
Life And Death In G&A/Cat Woman


Released 1970 on A&M
The Seth Man, December 2000ce
Fans of driving, ass-in-the-air power funk will thrill to the A-side of this single because despite the misleading alias, it is none other than Sly & The Family Stone. Apart from the ‘Sylvester Stewart’ songwriting credit, from the first seconds of the opening snare/machine gun firing all trademarks become recognisable at once: Sly’s vocals (or Joe Hicks making like he’s Sly), sister Rose’s back up vocals, Larry Graham’s bass, everybody -- the gang’s all here. And they set up a multitude of higher and higher rhythmic hurdles that they scale with the utmost funky grace and ease. The simple precision and sweatless pace of the bass line is everything to love Larry Graham for as it snakes in and out of the arrangements while deftly dodging a horn arrangement of speeding rush hour traffic and powerful drumming, doubling up ever so subtly near the end: Where, by the way, Sly’s vocal delivery gets really worked up, chanting “Life ‘n’ death!! Life ‘n’ death!!” as he trades lightning fast call-and-responses with his Sis, Rose. Pretty soon, Sly’s doing both the call AND response as the mysterious “In G&A!! In G&A!!” gets belted out. Further coked-up gospelisation that turns the heat all the way up with sexually charged, imperative: “All the way!!/All the way!!” as the ever-repeating horn section blasts through and churns everything into a locomotion of rotary piston and ass grinding. It delivers a life affirming, no-nonsense grooving that could make even Andy Williams stand up, tear off his V-neck sweater (and maybe his Y-fronts to boot), do a back flip and testify to the power of love, life, soul and all the messy sex on the dance floor he can grab through the body-animating rhythms of this unassuming 45.

If the B side is Sly, then it’s like nothing they ever did before or after. What it does sound like is an instrumental Silver Apples, except for the ridiculous spoken Cockney voiceover that is mercifully absent for most of this knob-twiddling space-scaping excursion set upon brief, syncopated drumming sans cymbals. An odd, early Moog and drum pattern exploration, but probably not Sly at all. Was this the work of The Simeon? And if so, why weren’t The Family Stone on both sides, and why wasn’t it on Epic instead of A&M?

But most importantly, what the hell does “G&A” mean (except maybe ‘good & ass-shaking’)? Ah, but I see we’re too busy dancing to care.