Zen And The Art, George, Leo, and Zig Of Funk
"Here Comes The Meter Man" (Nocentelli-Neville-Porter-Modeliste)
The Meters, Josie 1005, 1969
There he goes. . . .
I suspect that most of the visitors to this blog are stone Meters fans; and, if you are at all interested in the music I focus on here, you should have at least some of the Meter’s catalogue on various media. So, I’m sure many of you have heard “Here Comes The Meter Man” before. It’s not a rare song and has been comped often; but I think it is one example of how much the group brought to the table when Allen Toussaint started recording their studio jams while they were working as his production band starting around 1968. Early on, they had a sound like no other, and grooves to match. For those who may not yet have discovered their sublime delights, this is a damn good place to start; and it’s one of my favorite tracks.
Like many of the Meters’ early instrumentals, “Meter Man” is a group composition. That it is the B-side of “Cissy Strut” on just their second single shows how strong their material and chops were. It also appeared later on their first LP, The Meters. The laid-back, mildly spicy funk of their first single, “Sophisticated Cissy” b/w “Sehorn’s Farm” in no way prepared listeners for the second 45’s salvo of pure fonk in sauce picante that shot up the chart to #4 soon thereafter, pushing their under-performing first single up into the Top 20 to boot. Who in the world was ready for what Joseph ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste could do with the beat, other than hometown clubgoers and fellow musicians of the day? Not to detract at all from the talents and synergistic contributions of his legendary bandmates. They created the perfect context for those beats. But hearing Zig’s drumming for the first time is like discovering a new law of Nature (The Funk Quotient?). It’s easy to experience, but can be mind-boggling to think about. Fortunately for listeners, it immediately makes you feel good and move your rear, bypassing the intellect to carry you deep into the groove. Just listen to “Meter Man” and marvel how that seemingly off-balance drum syncopation can be so right-on, moving with stutter-steps, somehow both holding the song together and suggesting that it might fall apart at any time. This is the Zen-like paradox of true, high-form funk drumming and ensemble playing: loose is tight, what you leave out is as vital as what you put in, simplicity can be oh so complex.
The Meters' unique take on funk, soul and rock has gained them legendary status. This month, three of the four celebrate birthdays: Zig’s is the 28th; Art Neville’s is the17th; and George Porter, Jr. came in on the 26th. They are miraculously touring again on a limited basis - see my friend Cathy’s report here earlier, or the Reaper’s and his links. What better time to heap on more props? I’ll try to come up with another cut before the year ends. Until then, go out a get yourself some (or some more) Meters and meditate on ‘em.