McClain Approved: The Meters “It Ain’t No Use.”

The Meters

The Meters (image via http://www.kalamu.com)

McClain Approved is a column where I give you the rundown on an artist you need to know and share a track from them.

“I know some people who think that KC and the Sunshine Band is funky and that’s just WRONG,” my friend said with disdain. It’s true. Once you have seen the glory of real funk, it is a complete game changer. A lot of people are funk deficient and they don’t even realize it. I consider myself a funk evangelist. Seeing something raw and real can forever change your outlook.

Tapping into New Orleans and NOLA funk helped me transcend my squareness. NOLA reshaped and upgraded my personal understanding of funk. Funk itself can be hard to define, because there are so many subtleties and varieties. However, for me, it is all about the groove. I call bad funk “flaccid, sad trombone funk.” WAHHHH WAHHHHHH. This is unacceptable. A person can become a funk snob, and that is a beautiful thing. It’s like learning to speak a whole new language. New Orleans expands your idea of what funk can be and how funky things can become. We have seen shows were the funk goes beyond reality and into a whole different level. Once you know, you know. It is like a funk enlightenment. There is no going back.

You might ask, “McClain, who is the funkiest band to ever come from NOLA?” It’s the Meters, of course. The Meters helped to invent funk. They took second line rhythms and R&B grooves and injected them with their own brand of real, organic funk. Their loose but tight sound could only come from NOLA. The Meters were formed in 1966, in New Orleans. The members of the Meters are keyboardist Art Neville, bassist George Porter Jr., drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, and guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville joined the group in 1970. I have been fortunate to have interviewed several members of the Meters over the years. They are gracious, passionate about music and truly tapped into another way of thinking. Their musical innovation and positive mindset are inspiring. Even today, the members of the Meters are still pushing funk forward. The group disbanded in 1977, but have reunited several times since. They are playing a night show at the Orpheum Theater, in New Orleans, during Jazz Fest 2016. The Meters are beloved by many musicians, but seem overlooked by a lot of music fans.

The Meters have a song that serves as a mission statement for me, “Funkify Your Life.” The lyrics almost act as a manifesto, “Fukify your life, get on down. You can be the funkiest in town.” I mean, why the hell wouldn’t you want to be the funkiest in town? When you sit down and think about it, being funkier is the only sensible option. Be better, be more, funkify your life!

I wanted to share a deeper Meters cut with you. This 1975 live version of “It Ain’t No Use” was recorded on the Queen Mary. The band’s interplay is really on point here. George and Zigaboo take the funk into new realms on this version. THEY GET DOWN! Once you learn about the Meters, your life will forever be funkified.

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