Tuesday, September 18, 2012
PHIL PHILLIPS - THE EVIL DOPE
A big part of the music industry is drugs. Oh, did I shock you? Didn't think so. Over the years, some of the best (and worst - Grateful Dead, anyone?) records have been made due to the influence of drugs, whether directly or indirectly. Whether it's a drunk-out-of-his-mind Screaming Jay Hawkins tearing out his classic version of "I Put A Spell On You", The Byrds experimenting with LSD (and John Coltrane) in "Eight Miles High", Roky Erickson finding new (and more damaged) plateaus of the mind in his work with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, or the Beatles' Rubber Soul LP (which John Lennon once referred to as their "pot album"), drugs are an integral part of the fabric of rock and roll history.
Then you have the ANTI-drug songs, great ones like "Kicks" by Paul Revere and The Raiders and, uh, well, most of the other ones suck. But not the platter I've selected for this blog post. "The Evil Dope" by Phil Phillips is the greatest anti-drug record ever made, even if it's for all the wrong reasons.
"The Evil Dope" is sort of like the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" or "Manos: The Hands Of Fate" of the music industry; the message is sincere, but the production is so amateurish that it takes up a life of its own, completely obscuring the intent. The responsible party in this case (or the "Ed Wood" of this record) is producer Buddy King, who is most likely NOT the Buddy King who sang lead with The Magnificent Men. As a matter of fact, THAT Buddy King would have been too smart to put his name on this incredible monstrosity.
Yes, this is the same Phil Phillips (born Phillip Baptiste on March 14, 1926) who had the big hit in 1959 with "Sea Of Love", and he lets you know it, too. At the beginning of this record, Phil gets right in your face - "Lil' BOY, and lil' GIRL! This is THEEEE Phil Phillips, KING of the WORLD!! The NAAAAME of this story lilboylilgirl.....is THE EVIL DOPE."
Then Phil starts to tell the story of Josh, a good kid who had worked hard and now, at the age of 17, has saved up $2000 so he can go to college (he obviously didn't pick a New Jersey school....that wouldn't pay for the textbooks). His mother throws her wonderful son a birthday party (for some reason Josh's dad is never mentioned), and afterward Josh, good boy that he is, walks his girlfriend home. But on the way back, fate steps in as Josh decides to stop at Rag-Nose Sam's place, and that's where Josh meets ol' Gap-Mouth Joe (hmmmm......wonder how they got THOSE nicknames). Rag and Gap tell Josh they've been waiting to throw him a party of their own. They go next door (why Rag-Mouth and Gap-Nose weren't there already, I don't know) where EVERYBODY is smoking MARIJUANA!!
(By the way, while Phil is telling us all this, there are snippets of funk instrumentals and drum tracks mixed waaay in the back, and they're thrown together willy-nilly, with no rhyme or reason.)
Josh is a smart kid. He tells Gappy, "NO! I understand those marijuana cigarettes are bad...." But he's soon talked into taking a puff.....and his life changes! Suddenly, the only thing Josh can say is "WHOO!!! I feel GOOD!!!" Then, the next day, Gap-Mouth tells Josh he's got something better! So he lays him down on a couch and shoots him up with heroin!! Josh has gone from the "gateway drug" to mainlining in ONE day!! "WHOO!!! I feel GOOD!!!"
Josh's mom gets suspicious. She says, "I hear you been hangin' with ol' Gap-Mouth Joe!" Josh says, "aw, Mom, leave me alone!". Then, a few minutes later, he begins to feel cold and sick (withdrawal already??) and Mom comes upstairs and asks if Josh has been "foolin' around with that DOPE". Josh gets P. O.'d, and runs away from home - and back to ol' Gap-Mouth Joe's. "WHOO!!! I feel GOOD!!!"
Well, he keeps going back to Gap-Mouth's house (Rag-Nose Sam disappears at this point; maybe he OD'd already) until he's blown his $2000 that he saved up (now maybe Gap-Mouth Joe can see an orthodontist). Now Josh has no money, but he's got to get that DOPE, so he comes up with a plan. He sees an old lady walking down the street one night, picks up a stick, and whacks her in the head! It is at this point where Phil Phillips describes the attack: "ba-DOOOOM!! Bip! Bop! Bip! Bop! Went to kickin' the stuffin's a' her! And finally the old lady was.......DEAD! STONE DEAD!" By now, the background music sounds like Ornette Coleman records being played backwards. Josh takes the money and runs to Gap-Mouth's house once again. "WHOO!!! I feel GOOD!!!"
But a few days later, the law catches up to Josh, and he gets thrown in the can. While he's there, he begins to think about all the wrong he did, and how he should have listened to his mama. Then the old withdrawal pains come up again, and Josh starts screaming, "I feel so cold, so sick! Looks like I'M GONNA DIE!!!!" Phil then says, "He fell to the floor.......he was DEAD! STONE DEAD!!" This is followed by a loud horn blast, right out of an old Universal horror picture, like when someone opens up the door and a dead body comes falling out.
Phil ends the record by happily reciting all the ways that Josh completely screwed up his life (even the background music gets happier) and (sounding like a black Criswell) ends with, "stay away from MARIJUANA, and stay away from the evil NEEDLE......STAY AWAY from THE EVIL DOPE!"
At the time he recorded this, Phil Phillips was working as a disk jockey in New Orleans (which probably accounts for the low production values - it was probably put together hastily in the radio studio), so this was probably meant as some sort of public service message. But Phil wanted to get back to singing, so he signed with the local Lanor label in 1971 and recorded a decent soul number he'd written called "It's All Right". He probably needed a B-side, and stuck "The Evil Dope" on the flip, figuring no one would ever hear it anyway.
How wrong he was. WHOO!!! I feel GOOD!!!
Phil Phillips - The Evil Dope (Lanor 559) - 1971