JAMES BROWN / “Escape-ism” (Complete Take)

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 8th, 2007 at 1:03 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “JAMES BROWN / “Escape-ism” (Complete Take)”

chris defendorf Says:
April 8th, 2007 at 1:38 am

thanks for this.. i have to remake this song for my remake of "Don’t believe the hype" for my remake of "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back".

The info is helpful.

On a side note, i just ordered SOUL of the FUNKY DRUMMERS" dvd with Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. it’s probably going to be something you’ll want to check out.

Kayvon Says:
April 8th, 2007 at 9:59 am

While we’re on the topic of JB lyrics, would anyone happen to know the relevance of the Monaurail? As in the JB’s Monaurail. Always wondered about that one.

     Mtume says:     

I have a couple ideas about the record you’re talking about, "(It’s Not The Express) It’s The J.B.’s Monaurail," and about another inscrutably-titled J.B.’s record named "Transmograpfication." Both of those songs show up on the J.B.’s Hustle With Speed album. Look at the cover of that LP and think about the similarity between the words ‘monorail’ (a railway system using a single rail) and ‘monaural’ (of or pertaining to the ear). At first glance, both titles look like mispellings, but after thinking about it, I’m pretty sure they weren’t. Anyway, check back with us in the next couple weeks. We have more coming on the J.B.’s….


Rudolph Lewis Says:
April 8th, 2007 at 11:02 am

Mtume, the real work you have done in transcribing this “talking over a groove” must be applauded. For work creates value and shows the temper of the man. Like James, you have a worker’s impulse. His was from a working class background—a man of the people. That fact should not be overlooked. I slept uneasily on your commentary, however, and woke this morning thinking of your assertion James is “dropping some serious philosophical knowledge.” One must ask, Can Southern Negroes, a “backwoods Georgia cat,” do “serious” philosophy in a “broken English.” Language is always serious when there are communicants, people digging each other. And it’s obvious these cats are digging each other, even though James is the authoritarian maestro.

Midway you provide some context for this “nonsensical rambling” and “random gibberish.” It’s indeed a typical scene of Negro’s “jiving,” like what occurs on the corner with Richard’s or Colt 45 or in a joint over a fifth of Jim Beam. James is holding court. He’s improvising on the key word “escape.” He begins with, “when you forget that grits is groceries and that eggs is poultry, you lose your thing. Now, you can lose your thing out there wandering around.” He’s speaking about responsibility; the necessity of “taking care business,” of staying focus, of balancing aspects of one’s life, of working in unison with others—family, friends, lovers, one’s people.

In some sense this talk is autobiographical, which is emphasized by JB’s asking the question, “Where’re you from.” Here’s a bit of folk wisdom popping up here: “Don’t put on airs”—acting (talking) like you Mr. Charlie, when you ain’t. That is, don’t pretend you’re something that you’re not. Up North and out West, there was considerable mockery of “country niggers” (those from the South)—you can take the nigger out the country but you can’t take the country out the nigger.” For JB, that latter is a good thing; it is to be savored. There’s gold (value) in them backwoods. One resource is the church and the manner of worship—the sanctified and the holiness churches (where rhythm and the Beat were emphasized), also objects of middle-class mockery. So, Mtume, your impulse is on key. What we loved about James is that he was no phony, never became phony. He realized that he could not escape his history, his lack of formal education, his illiteracy. None of that, in any case, was the determinant of intelligence or insight into the “truths” about and joys of life itself. James exploited to the hilt that which he did know, that which was handed down—the music, the passion, the commitment to hard work. He embraced and expanded on that which was real and native in his people. And for that we loved him, even when at times he was comical and an embarrassment. If you wish to call that “serious philosophical knowledge,” then we jamming. — Rudy

Michael Dembinski Says:
November 25th, 2007 at 9:51 am

Thanks for this piece of transcription guys. I’d worked out the ‘grits is groc’ry’ but couldn’t for the life of me work out the ‘eggs is poultry’ bit.

I jes’ love this track!

fab Says:
November 26th, 2007 at 10:49 am

what a great job you did. Thank you for that part of james and his band’s life. And thank you for expressions explanation. i’ll know now where ” eating low on the hog ” comes from !! 🙂

April 18th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I loved james brown and his band the JBs. James and bobby bird both sounded or spoke simular. They both were geechee and spoke like the gullah people of s. carolina and parts of georgia.

Jerry Says:
May 13th, 2009 at 5:41 am


Being a JB fanatic who listens to JB’s Escape-ism – Complete take at least once every day I can only say that anyone that would transcribe this version is entitled to a drink on me. And although I didn’t personally need them, your annotations were both accurate and thoughtful. By the way, I have filled in some of the gaps in your transcription, e.g., where you listed the speaker as “unknown”. If you read this blog entry and want me to send it to you, let me know.

Thanks again for your great work!

Cap-tain Says:
March 28th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Correction: “S’cuse me Cap (Captain) while I rap.”
Darnit! I wish the file was still playable.

Frank Rossi Says:
March 28th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Thanks for a really great treat for a die-hard funk fan. Like jazz fans, we funk fans are quite protective of the genre. If sometimes gets brushed off as a gimmicky offshoot of R and B/soul instead of a genre in its own right that features possibly the greatest pure musicianship of the ’70s. The horn solos alone in “Escape-ism,” improvised or not, ring with effortlessness and mastery. The back-and-forth between James and the band provides the sort of character rarely seen in music. Only Springsteen comes to mind offhand. If you don’t care for this sort of session recording style, the JB’s “Aint It Funky Now” (live version) and “Can’t Stand It ’76” are guaranteed to blow even the most hardened skeptic away.

Anton Gorodetsky Says:
June 15th, 2013 at 7:10 am

Thank you so much for doing this hard-hard work! All those who have already written here in the comments are 100% right. You delivered quite a treat for all of us out there!
I’m from Russia, and I’ve been doing this research on Mr. James Brown for my friend – God bless you for doing this, it really-really helps me out!
Live long and prosper!

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