Around the age of 10, I started discovering music that I felt that was meant for me for the first time. The first band that I ever latched onto was Faith No More, but that quickly turned into a strong connection to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. My friend Kaley and I were drawn to their high-energy aggressiveness in songs like Stone Cold Bush and Get Up And Jump1. Being from a little town of 3,000 people limits one’s exposure at that age to what you can get on the MTV; the Chili Peppers was IT for us.
We would slowly branch out to discover music through them. I became a lifelong Fishbone fan and my first concert was Firehose, both bands mentioned in RHCP songs. We knew that George Clinton produced the RHCP album “Freaky Styley” and found out that Kaley’s dad had Funkadelic’s “Standing On The Verge of Getting It On” on vinyl. Kaley would turn the RPM to 45 and yell, “IT SOUNDS JUST LIKE THE PEPPERS!”
One late night around this time, I turned the channel to PBS and caught this:
I was blown away and I called Kaley the next day to tell him about what I saw. At the time, I wasn’t resourceful enough to be able to find out who they even were. That added to their intrigue, but I soon discovered that it was Sly and the Family Stone and I was an instant fan. I wanted to know as much as I could about the man and his group.
Strange thing is, for Sly Stone (who led the group) being such an interesting story – stealing the show at what may be the most legendary concert of all time to hitting rock bottom while being on the run from the FBI – only little bits of info has come out about him in the last 35 years.2 In 2007, Vanity Fair did a seven-page article regarding his sabbatical and potential emergence; This last September was the first complete biography3, “I Want To Take You Higher“, of the man and the band was released. The book reveals a little, but upon my reading felt incomplete. UPDATE: I just learned of another bio that came out in Feb. of ’08 that I haven’t yet read.
BUT, what I’ve discovered after reading Higher is that the Dutch are NUTS for the man. I found that in 1992, two Dutch film students set out to document their search for Sly in “Let Me Have It All” (their results are below); Another Dutch documentary about Sly, “Dance To The Music” just finished completion and was aired on Dutch television. AND, another biography written by two Dutch twins that has been in the works since 2002 is set to be released in early 2010.
Back in ’97, when the web was still in its infancy, a Sly and the Fam fan-site webmaster4 was flown to LA by Sly specifically to teach him how to browse the web on a computer. During this time, he was allowed to hear Sly’s 15-year backlog of unreleased material. Since hearing this account5, I’ve fantasized of Sly coming back and releasing a huge backlog of unheard material.
These days, Sly is slowly making more public appearances; if only a few over the course of the last three years. While I’m sure that it’ll be tough to reach the level of his heyday, I feel that if I just am able to catch a glimpse of the man, however satisfactory, it’ll feel like I’ve completed something; regardless of whether it has any actual merit or not.
PS: The only site that I’ve found that publishes Sly & the Fam news is this one, but they don’t have an RSS feed. I used Feed43 to scrape the news off of this page into this feed: Sly & the Fam News Feed
Let Me Have It All (1994, 48 min)
Preview for the just released Dance To The Music (2008, 2 min)
The Skin I’m In (2000, 60 min)
- Because jumping is okay in a jumping kind of way (hey-hey).?
- Quite possibly by Sly’s own design. He apparently gets excited about the idea of being the Howard Hughes of the music world.?
- In ’98, there was a book by Joel Selvin called “Sly & the Family Stone: An Oral History”; in 2000, there was a documentary called “The Skin I’m In” that aired on Showtime. But these were relatively incomplete accounts compared to “I Want To Take You Highter.” For some reason, Jeff Kaliss, author of the latter book, decided to talk shit about these former projects; commenting on their negative tone about the subject matter, which seemed to give the impression to the reader that his book wouldn’t stoop to such lows. I’ve taken in all three, and I’d say that all of them regard the subject matter with much the same tone.?
- Remember when web developers were webmasters??
- Jon Dakss, the aforementioned webmaster’s account seems to have disappeared from the web. Anyone have any leads to an archived version??