What The People Say
"People Say" (Leo Nocentelli, Art Neville, Joseph Modeliste, and George Porter, Jr)
The Meters, Reprise, 1974
Wish I didn't have to say it's gone
Have we got a right to live?
It just needs to be the Meters now. A protest song you can shake what you mamma gave ya to. Flat out fonk This is the single version of “People Say”, with over two minutes edited and faded off the song as it appeared in 1974 on their Rejuvenation album (which you should own, no excuses). In his liner notes for the Sundazed CD reissue of the LP, New Orleans artist, cartoonist, journalist (currently with OffBeat), hometown cultural know-it-all, and occasional drummer Bunny Matthews calls it, with his usual lack of understatement, “the funkiest album ever recorded”. And it’s hard it argue with that, because this record is so strong and burnt up with funky fiyo.
Even it its shortened form, “People Say” delivers the goods on what the Meters have to offer at their best. The drumming of Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste here is a masters class in syncopation, hesitation and push/pull groovelation. And he sings this one, too! Bassist George Porter, Jr. keeps it simple and essential, locking into the rhythmic riff that Leo Nocentelli’s guitar opens with. Leo’s picking and scratching style defines funk guitar; and, when he and George do that fast, tight ensemble run in the middle of the song – perfection. Throughout, Art Neville plays a distinctly New Orleans piano figure and adds a touch of organ to the mix. The uncredited horn section (arranged by Toussaint?) pops in and out, at play with the beat. Production is credited to both Allen Toussaint and the Meters; but, I don’t think Toussaint ever needed to work with the band much creatively; so, he more than likely helped with the horns and oversaw the recording process.
Being the go-to band in Party Town, USA from the late 1960’s through the late 1970’s,
the Meters didn’t usually delve into the state of the world with their lyrics (their spin-off band, the Neville Brothers, would run with that); but “People Say” definitely has something to say. It may not be very eloquent or even totally coherent here, as there is another verse on the full length version (again, go get it). But I think the basic question asked in the chorus is universal, vital, and applicable 30 years later to what has happened to their brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors in desolate, deluged New Orleans.
Don't forget, as far as I know, the orginal Meters should still be on tour this fall. Don't miss 'em.
(l-r) Leo, Zig, Art, and George