Listen to this song by self-effacing Scottish funk disciples Average White Band with their horntastic early-1975 hit, “Pick Up The Pieces” as taken from their album AWB. If you don’t feel the need to shake yer thang while this is playing, check your pulse – if you have one.
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“Pick Up the Pieces” is one of my favourite pieces of music by anyone, just a powerhouse of unstoppable joy; sweaty, funky, sexy, fun. I love the tightly knit JBs-influenced horn section, the rhythmic guitar figure, the popping bass, and the crisp backbeat that pushes the whole thing along. I love the call-and-response horn shots during the tenor sax solo. And I love when the groove hits its stride and someone loses control of their enthusiasm, giving it up into a great big ‘WOOOOO!!”
Average White Band, indeed. If only.
There’s a story about the recording of this song, which I kind of hope is true, and wouldn’t surprise me if it was. I read it in The Mojo Collection: The Greatest Albums of All Time, in which AWB is listed. The band, under the leadership of drummer Robbie McIntosh, recorded the track and gathered together in the booth to listen to the playback. On hearing it, each member of the band turned to the next: “That’s Us!” And then they started jiving around the studio, knowing that they had a hit.
The success of the single, and the album would be marred by tragedy. McIntosh would die not long afterward as the result of taking a lethal dose of heroin at a Hollywood party, thinking it to be cocaine. The band would go on without him, making some of the finest funk ever to be made on either side of the pond.
For more information about Average White Band, check out Average White Band on MySpace.
And for all of you hardcore musos, check out this article detailing the anatomy of the song.