Sunday, March 30, 2008

Flea Market Music

There's almost nothing to learn on the internet about The Mighty Sparrow's 1978 synth-happy calypso album, Pussy Cat Party. One presumes that means it's either rare or thoroughly disinteresting to the bulk of humanity. But it was only $1 at the flea market (passed over by a flock of dorks raiding the boxes for Genesis and Ted Nugent LPs), so I figured what the hell, the guy's a calypso legend. It was pressed by "Charlie's Records," a likely defunct label located on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, not far from where I used to live in Clinton Hill.

Turns out, there's plenty to love on this record, not least the amazing band, all 19 players individually pictured on the back sleeve (including Carlton Joseph on triangle). The highlight is "Robot," a fantastic calypso get-down sung from the perspective of a music-powered robot built in a hut by a scientist named Albert. The robot narrator tells us he has a laser and a radar and a "small sensitive computer." When his circuit breaker gets hot, we're told, he can "whine better than John Travolta." Makes sense. Reverse Scientology.

Robot - Mighty Sparrow

Then there's "Rip Off," a Soca tune that sounds like the theme song for Ralph Nader's presidential campaign.

Rip Off - Mighty Sparrow

When you reach the last song, however, you understand why this album is obscure: the title track, "Pussy Cat," is completely disgusting and offensive. The song elaborates in excessive detail on gynecological cleanliness under the nearly-nonexistent veil of talking about cats (who are given voice by a "cute" synth fill). Suffice to say, ignorant and misogynistic fear of female anatomy didn't tap the Zeitgeist of American dance floors when this came out. I don't think it went over in Trinidad either. I noticed that in a later interview, Slinger Francisco, a.k.a., The Mighty Sparrow, disowns the album: "We're past that stage. It was an attempt to be funny. Boy, times do change."

Pussy Cat - Mighty Sparrow

You'll notice the "SH" logo on the album cover -- that stands for Sparrow's Hideaway, his club in Diego Martin in Trinidad.

1 comment:

Pelle said...

Hi! Thanks a bunch for the obscure Sparrow songs you posted. If you ever plan to post the whole album, I'd be most grateful. I'm sort of a Sparrow collector. Best regards from Sweden,