Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Kool & the Gang - “Fresh”
Note: This an excerpt from my upcoming memoir Waiting for the Frost, which will be sent to the publisher once I finish the Joe Walsh Think Piece™.
It wasn’t even that I liked Kool & the Gang all that much. But I didn’t dislike them. I remember badmouthing them in high school to a math class buddy — “Celebration” had been played to death on the radio in the early eighties — while we were doing algebra in the library during a free period and he challenged me to name one specific reason why I didn’t like them. I was stumped. Rather than fight it, I decided to give them a shot.
I’m not sure where I got the poster, all I remember was that is was free. It probably came with a music magazine I had purchased. I slapped it up on the outside of my dorm room’s door, and anytime anybody would ask if I liked Kool & the Gang, I said “Hell yeah.” The dorm was filled with almost all white guys who liked AOR and usually didn’t like what they referred to as “black music.” My music collection at the time lacked diversity and I wasn’t well-schooled in old soul and rhythm and blues. But it just seemed like the right thing to do to embrace Kool & the Gang, their gleeful R&B was certainly just as worthy of a listen as whatever was on the radio or MTV. To this day I’ll gladly take something like “Fresh” or “Misled” over anything by popular mid-eighties whiteboy mediocrities like The Outfield or Mike + The Mechanics.
The poster ended up getting ripped in half in the midst of a prank war and was repaired with Scotch tape and continued to stay on the door. I proceeded to buy the “Fresh” 12-inch single.
By the end of the decade any time I came across a bar that had a ladies night of drink specials I would annoy friends by singing the chorus of “Ladies’ Night”. In the nineties I finally put my money where my mouth was (and dorm room door had been) and bought The Very Best of Kool & the Gang — “As seen on TV!” the sticker on the jewel box proclaimed — and added the Gang to living room dance party playlists for those times that there was no “job” in “day job”. My math buddy would have been proud.