Get It On / River

Released 1971 on Epic
The Seth Man, June 2020ce
Back in the earliest seventies, I watched a fair amount of television and therefore: seemingly hundreds of commercials. The best of all was a commercial for Bit-O-Honey that was so insanely psychedelic in its blindingly sub-“Yellow Submarine”-ness that it apparently caused seizures with some people, so it was taken off the air after some undisclosed period. But the tune was so catchy that (like a lot of things) I never forgot it: “Six chewy pieces / (something) six (something) / Six times the flavor / in a Bit-O-Honey bar!” It broke down with two characters having the following exchange:

“We’re honey!”
“And we are the nuts [or something]!”
“Beat it, you guys!”

And then melting or zooming off into a Peter Max-type horizon crowned with rays of the new rising sun that switched colors with the sky that produced a stroboscopic effect. Funny thing was, on the molasses/honey/peanut butter franchise front, I enjoyed Mary Jane far more than Bit-O-Honey. (Albeit not as much as vanilla B B Bats which were the best, even though it was taffy.)

There were also commercial for records. Some for classical, others for Elvis, John Lennon (“Roots”) or Slim Whitman, but mostly for K-Tel compilations: especially K-Tel’s “Super Bad,” “Fantastic,” and “Music Power.” But one that rotted in my head for decades due to its constant re-programming during the afternoons in the summer of 1972 was for a Columbia House double album called “20 Monster Hits.” The cover featured a photograph of the Woodstock Festival taken from the back or middle of the audience miles away from the main stage, so...What was so “monster” about it, I wondered. It was also confusing because as a listing of songs slowly passed up the screen, a voiceover announced “20 original songs by the original artists!” or some other such carney come-on but in terms of identification of the songs being played in the background as 4 second clips? Nothing. I knew a couple of songs from the radio because their titles were repeated quite often in the chorus. For decades I remembered one particular order of songs that ran thusly: “Are You Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds with an unknown track wedged in between that was sung so wildly manic, raw and guttural, I couldn’t make it out except it was “[several unknown words] in the morning now!!” Huh? It was about as impenetrable as the first line in “Layla,” which to my young ears wasn’t understandable as English and for years I thought it was a “put-on,” “man,” and not even comprised of real words. You couldn’t understand what was being shouted, sung, or whatever it was passing for culturally. Was it a rallying cry? Were they cursing? It was a deep and profound mystery, not only because there it was on television (so it must be important) but there was also no readily available answer and back then...a day passed like a month and a summer was forever.

Now, as terms like ‘monster hits,’ ‘groovy,’ ‘acid rock,’ ‘get it on,’ ‘stoned again’ and other smoldering embers of a once burning subculture flickered here and there in the background of my very young life in 1972, I became intrigued. What did it all mean? I’d flashed peace signs to long haired girls driving on highways during family camping trips, and be well pleased to see them peace signing me back with laughter and smiles. Wow -- Look at me getting down in the streets with the hippie chicks! They’re really friendly! This was even better than making signs with your pumping fist to truckers to make them sound off on their massive air horns. But they did, every time, and I knew it was only because I was just a kid. (I even once mischievously flipped the bird to a passerby in either Texas or New Mexico moments before getting caught in the act. It would be half a dozen years later that I would first hear someone use the word ‘uncool’ but had I known it then, I would’ve thought so of the repercussions that awaited me at the next rest stop.)

So it was all communication, and I was a child who turned into a communicating maniac. Usually of difficult, funny, or otherwise unpopular messages to the rest of the world. All that jargon that survived the Aquarian Age confused me as much as intrigued me. Even the first time an older teenage in my neighborhood kept on baiting me to say “Motherfucker” to my parents I somehow KNEW it was far more offensive than ‘hell,’ ‘damn,’ or ‘Goddammit.’ But unlike those words, I never, EVER heard ANY adults use that word, ever. It was the scorched earth policy version of curse words. Drop that and oh, baby, you were in for it, you were in motherfuckin’ TROUBLE.

Anyway, that song wedged in-between “Are You Ready” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was “Get It On” by Chase, a nine-piece horn rock band whose career was cut horribly short on August 9, 1974 when the small plane carrying their namesake leader Bill Chase along with three other members of the band crashed. There were no survivors. The nonet was over.

But back in 1971, things were looking up for Chase. They were signed to Epic Records, horn rock was still a fairly saleable pop music form, and Bill Chase surrounded himself with a phalanx of trumpeters plus an added on rock band as professional as himself. And like that other well-known horn rock group, Blood, Sweat & Tears, he also had a vocalist who possessed an impressive set of pipes (ones which can be heard testifying throughout “Get It On”) in the form of Terry Richards. He didn’t sing on every track of their first album and although he weren’t pretty, man, he sure gave both sides hell vocally on “Get It On.” The song is so crisp, punchy and tight it makes The Ides Of March’s “Vehicle” seem like a florid Renaissance madrigal. To top it off, ending this tightly scored, arranged, and performed paean to AM sexual congress with the front woodwind line’s collective embouchure edging into advanced forms of dystonia (prefaced by a brief gap of silence and then a pummeling drum fill) comes a shrill vamp on the coda to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Whaaaa?

It wasn’t until December of 2014 that I FINALLY identified the title and group that recorded “Get It On.” It wasn’t something I thought about regularly, I never got as far as double-checking Discogs, and it was lodged in a pretty obscure corner of my mind. But one night, as I was watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater (Experiment 521, “Santa Claus,” 1959) Tom Servo burst out with “Gotta get it on in the morning now!” over the image of Santa vocally accompanying his organ playing that shifted to geographic locations of various children worldwide. I was stunned, quickly paused what I was watching and looked it up. The band was Chase and the song was, naturally, “Get It On.” I immediately went to YouTube and yup: there it was in all its bombast, glory and shrieking four-ply trumpeteering. (Along with the coda from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” which I had previously been unacquainted with.)

All this digital trawling for something so analogue, shunted off into a corner of the playground of my mind. Probably because it was only a fragment of some music plus half a dozen words that was kept somewhere in my memory since the 20th Century and I suppose it was high time to nail it and move on. But as a one-time child of the latter-day 20th Century, I can only tip my hat to that fragment: a mere several seconds in length, a minuscule shard of a minor pop bottle, that just couldn’t quit me.

For those curious as to what Chase was like as a live band, there is footage that has survived from a live concert from Japan in 1972. Yes, they do “Get It On,” but prior to that is guitarist Angel South’s solo spot, which. Is. Unbelievable. I can’t describe it. It’s here:

...right at the 2 minute mark and it proceeds for over ten minutes. Once Angel’s finished with showboating his ass off, he just can’t stop, grabs a microphone and starts screaming at the Japanese audience that he’s just subjected to over 10 minutes of his unique brand of guitar histrionics, “Whaddya wanna hear?!!!” The answer being, of course, “Get It On.” Go ahead, I dares yas.