[acid-jazz] ON THE CORNER

From: Bob Davis <earthjuice_at_prodigy.net>
Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2006 09:28:50 -0500

It's been so long now that I can't remember:
Was it Ray Brown? Or maybe it was Steve Bishop? Maybe it was Kevin Amos?
Maybe it was someone else? Here in 2006 I honestly can't remember who it
was, but at some point during the spring of 1974 I was 17 years old and one
of my friends at the University of Pittsburgh turned me on to an LP called
"ON THE CORNER" by Miles Davis and it changed my life and that's when I
officially became an "MF" ("Miles Fan"....take your minds out of the

I wish that there was a way for me to describe in text what it felt like for
me the very first time I heard the LP "ON THE CORNER" by Miles Davis,
however text is too limited of a medium to describe it except to say that


- In some ways "ON THE CORNER" by Miles Davis is the "ultimate freakout"?
- It's a "dark and disturbing" album
- It's "FUNK +"

Hell, I don't know how to really describe it.

"ON THE CORNER" was the first Miles Davis album that I ever listened to from
start to finish with total concentration of mind and spirit. Oh I had
listened to all of the other "Electric Miles LP's", but my listening to them
was really only "casual". That wasn't unusual; there weren't many 17 year
old Black kids who were listening very deeply to Miles Davis LP's at that
time. Of course everyone knew who Miles Davis was at that time. We knew that
he was a great Jazz trumpet player who had started his career in the 1940's,
learning his craft at the knees of people like Charlie Parker, Dizzy
Gillespie, Billy Eckstein, Max Roach and others. We knew that Miles had
become a full blown Jazz star in the 1950's/1960's. We knew that all of the
sudden young white boys had started liking him in the 70's. We knew that
Miles had become a heroin addict at some point and kicked it. We knew that
Miles Davis was not only a key figure in the history of Jazz, but also a key
figure in Black history. And of course we knew that Miles Davis had once
been married to the actress Cicely Tyson and had also been married to then
current Funk music "Amazon Queen" Betty Davis.

But in reality most 17 year old Black kids that I knew at that time wouldn't
be caught dead listening to Miles Davis or any other Jazz artist in 1974. In
1974 ours was a world that had as its epicenter the world of "commercial
funk music" that we listened to on weak signaled Black radio stations,
located at the far right hand side of the radio dial. We dug artists like
Mandrill, Ohio Players, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Al Green,
EWF, Edwin Birdsong, War and others. You might ask why Funkadelic isn't on
the list. Well in reality at this point in time, Funkadelic was really a
"cult band". In 1974 the music of Funkadelic wasn't really played on
commercial radio and it wasn't a part of the mix for the average Black
teenager. Much like the music of Miles Davis it was completely outside of
the musical scope of most Black teenagers who didn't live on college
campuses. The average Black teenager in 1974 hated the music of Funkadelic
(if they were exposed to it at all) because it sounded like "rock sh*t".

In 1974 I was living on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh and got
turned on to first Funkadelic and then more importantly to "ON THE CORNER".

To the "naked ear" "ON THE CORNER" sounds like a muddled mess of disparate
sounds. I have played the album for many people over the years who have
asked me to take it off within the first 60 seconds and imply that I was
crazy for even listening to it myself.

The whole thing about "ON THE CORNER" is that your mind and spirit has to be
open to it and most people don't have open minds. However if you were a
college student at the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 walking around in a
"purple haze" most of your waking hours, then your mind was automatically
"open" to this music.

What Miles did was to take the concepts of Sly and the Family Stone
(specifically the song "SEX MACHINE" from the "STAND" LP) and expand it into
what is really one extended jam that takes up both sides of an album. The
groove is so awesome that it takes repeated listening in order to actually
break it down. But it's not easy to listen to the first time and by the time
I heard it for the first time in 1974 the album was already two years old.

What I didn't know was that "ON THE CORNER" had been a commercial failure
and was widely regarded as an artistic failure by most fans and critics.
What I later discovered was that the album had never reached it's intended
marketplace and that was probably part of the reason for it's commercial
failure. You see, Miles Davis had conceived of the album "ON THE CORNER"
specifically to reach Black teenagers. It's now famous album cover looks
like a scene straight out of a Blaxploitation movie. However what Miles
should have known is that since most Black teenagers at that time listened
only to those low powered Black radio stations at the end of the dial,
chances were between "zero and none" that they were ever going to even get
to hear "ON THE CORNER". It's probably the most "radio unfriendly album"
ever made!

The Miles Davis Band (now including Lonnie Liston Smith un credited) is the
tightest grooviest funk band known to the universe. "ON THE CORNER"
originally came out in 1972, the same year as "MILES DAVIS IN CONCERT". The
song "BLACK SATIN" appears on both albums so if you have both albums, you
will have in your possession both a live and a studio version of the song.
"BLACK SATIN" is bass player Micheal Henderson's and Tabla drummer Badal Roy's
"tour de force" and the song is truly powerful in the way it acts on one's
mind and spirit. It's probably the sickest, most super nasty example of what
Henderson calls "buttholeFUNK". "BLACK SATIN" was the very last song at the
end of the first side of the LP and as soon as it would end, someone in the
room would immediately run over to the turntable, lift up the tone arm and
drop it right in the groove between "VOTE FOR MILES" and "BLACK SATIN".
Today whenever I get a chance to see my friends from the University of
Pittsbugh, we ALWAYS sit back, have a few "iced teas" and play the album "ON
THE CORNER". And when the song "BLACK SATIN" comes to an end, we ALWAYS hit
the replay button on the CD player. So in effect the song "BLACK SATIN"
became a part of the fabric of the lives for me and my friends. It's the
ultimate "freakout". In fact this song is so POWERFUL that it became the
underlying basis for an entire movie. Go and rent the movie Finding
Forrester, starring Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin,
Busta Rhymes, April Grace, and you will see (and hear) what I mean.

Since the advent of the Soul-Patrol.com website (and me actually putting
some of my thoughts about this album down on paper) I have become friends
with Michael Henderson, Badal Roy, Lonnie Liston Smith and James Mtume and
have discussed with them the album, the intent of Miles Davis, it's history
and implications for the future many times.

If you go to Amazon.com and look up the album "ON THE CORNER" you can read
no less than 73 reviews of the album, most of them glowing and going on and
on about it's artistic brilliance. One might ask where all of these people
were back in 1972 when "ON THE CORNER" was first released? Well I strongly
suspect that most of those 73 people weren't even born yet back in 1972 when
"ON THE CORNER" first came out (ok maybe a few of them were in pre-school or

To me that speaks volumes. "ON THE CORNER" was so far ahead of it's time
that "it's time" probably still hasn't yet been reached.

Revisionist history sure is a "motherf*cker", isn't it?
(And I can't even imagine what Miles Davis himself would have to say about
"revisionist historians" if he were around today)

Back in 2002 Micheal Henderson, Badal Roy and others formed a
reunion/tribute version of the Miles Davis Band that created "ON THE
CORNER". They released an album called "REBIRTH" which contained updates to
the songs from "ON THE CORNER" and played a series of concerts on the west
coast of the United States to launch the new album. And as perhaps the
ultimate fan of this album, I traveled to Los Angeles to see one of the
concerts at BB Kings nightclub. Intrestingly enough I was to meet an
"internet friend" of mine at the club who also happened to be an "MF". I had
never met writter Scott Galloway (of the Urban Network) in person before, so
I didn't know what he looked like, nor did he know what I looked like.
However Scott and I knew each other immediatly, because we were both wearing
our Miles Davis t-shirts. It's always a pleasure meeting another "MF"...

Bob Davis
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Received on 2006-03-05 15:31:24