― brains, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― mike (ro)bott, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― M Matos, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― Ron, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― your null fame, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― Paul, Saturday, 13 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― Martin Skidmore, Sunday, 14 July 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link
― Ian John50n (orion), Thursday, 7 July 2005 21:03 (sixteen years ago) link
― Shakey Mo Collier, Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:15 (sixteen years ago) link
― Ian John50n (orion), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:21 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:29 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:30 (sixteen years ago) link
― hstencil (hstencil), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:30 (sixteen years ago) link
― Ian John50n (orion), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:37 (sixteen years ago) link
― Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:37 (sixteen years ago) link
― hstencil (hstencil), Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:48 (sixteen years ago) link
― Keith C (kcraw916), Friday, 8 July 2005 02:12 (sixteen years ago) link
― Hurting (Hurting), Friday, 8 July 2005 04:11 (sixteen years ago) link
― I.M. (I.M.), Friday, 8 July 2005 04:28 (sixteen years ago) link
by Jeff Chang, Special to The ChronicleMonday, November 14, 2005
On a good day in a little corner of West Oakland, over the crow of backyard roosters and the low whoosh of cars passing on Interstate 880, you might hear a little bit of New Orleans heaven. Drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste is laying down that famous second-line beat with a smile on his face and an extra little snap on his rolls. His band, the Meters, one of the most celebrated in the Crescent City’s storied musical history, is finally back together.
“God gave us a gift,” Modeliste says, “and we should be doing it.”
For many hip-hop, funk and rock fans, the reappearance of Modeliste with his original bandmates — keyboardist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli and bassist George Porter Jr. — at April’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was a stunning moment.
It was billed as a farewell show. But after their set, Modeliste teased the crowd, saying, “We’ll see you again.” (They play two dates this weekend at the Fillmore.) As New Orleans tries to recover from Hurricane Katrina, many see the band’s return as a sign of hope for the suffering city’s cultural revival.
But bringing the beat back wasn’t easy.
Emerging in the late ’60s as the house band for producers Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, the Meters gave Labelle, Lee Dorsey and Dr. John their biggest hits. They cut their own strikingly original songs, including “Sophisticated Cissy,” “Thinking,” “Just Kissed My Baby” and “Fire on the Bayou.”
All were propelled by what hip-hop producer Lucas “Cut Chemist” MacFadden calls Modeliste’s “less is more” drumming. Public Enemy’s Hank Shocklee says, “That was the formula for funk and hip-hop as we know it.”
But after eight acclaimed albums, the Meters fell apart in 1977, and their albums went out of print. Modeliste, whom some called the best drummer of his generation, dropped out of the music biz and left for the West Coast.
“It’s a fact that when we got the instruments in our hands, everything is harmonious,” says Modeliste. “It’s when we put the instruments down, that’s when it got kind of hairy.”
Born in New Orleans, Modeliste moved into the music-filled 13th Ward when he was 12. People called it Neville-ville, after the uptown district’s most famous family.While still precocious teens, Modeliste, Nocentelli and Porter were recruited to play in Art Neville’s band. They worked six nights a week at an integrated Bourbon Street club called the Ivanhoe. The hours were long, but Neville says, “What we didn’t know was that we were really getting a chance to tighten our thing up.”
Toussaint heard them one night and brought them in to record. In 1969, one of the Meters’ first songs, “Cissy Strut,” became a top five R&B hit. They quickly signed with Toussaint and Sehorn, who gained control of all of their sources of income in one fell swoop. That’s when the joy and the turmoil both began.
Toussaint and Sehorn allowed the band lots of time to experiment and jam alone in their studio. As a result, the Meters’ albums were full of funky masterpieces, featuring stupendous grooves and hairpin changes, performed with uncanny cohesion and rhythmic subtlety. “Each one of those songs we did had a thousand songs in them,” says Modeliste. “You could take off bits and pieces and make them into other songs.”
For the past two decades, that’s just what hip-hop producers have been doing. Early this year, a thundering sample of Modeliste’s drums powered Amerie’s “1 Thing” to No. 8 on the Billboard singles chart. The Meters’ Mardi Gras standard, “Hey Pocky A-Way,” is the rhythmic engine for Tweet’s salacious R&B song “Sports, Sex & Food” and the Diplomats’ hard-core rap track “Dutty Clap.” Hip-hop artist Zach “DJ Z-Trip” Sciacca says the Meters catalog remains required material for any aspiring turntablist. “They’re like DJing 101,” he says.
Sundazed Records’ sales and publicity director Tim Livingston, whose label reissued the band’s albums on CD and vinyl in 1999, says the Meters audience now includes “jam-band followers, hip-hoppers, R&B collectors, rock fans, soul-and-funksters and drum enthusiasts.” Neville jokes, “My son Ian, his classmates and his friends know more about me and the Meters than I do.”
According to Nocentelli, young fans have not only learned from the band’s music but from their business problems, too. “All these new rappers, they learn about the business before they even learn to do anything musically,” he says. “Basketball players now are getting paid 20 times what Julius Erving got. But in order for them to get that, there had to be a Julius Erving. In that essence, there had to be a Meters.”
In the early ’70s, Toussaint and Sehorn signed the band to Warner Bros.’ Reprise label, while retaining all the rights to the band. The band retooled itself into a rock-and-funk unit with Neville as the lead singer. They developed a fanatical following, including stars like Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Lowell George. Rickey Vincent, a KPFA DJ and author of “Funk,” says, “In and outside of New Orleans, people came to understand that they were the core of a revolution in rhythm.”But by the mid-’70s, frustrated by their lack of commercial success, the band began to implode. The end came in 1977. “The story was never finished,” says Porter. “I thought there was a lot of music still left undone.”
Neville achieved success with the Neville Brothers. Nocentelli and Porter became in-demand session players and formed new bands. Modeliste toured with Keith Richards and Ron Wood.
He then began scrutinizing the group’s contracts. “When I found out how we was pillaged, how we was misused and abused, I couldn’t get over it,” Modeliste says. “I just completely put the drums in the closet.”
In 1984, he persuaded his former bandmates to join him in a lawsuit against Sehorn and Toussaint to void the contracts and regain control of their music. Nocentelli says, “We started looking at contracts about 15 years too late.”
But in 1989, Nocentelli, Neville and Porter settled out of court, winning back some of their publishing rights and masters, and received a small cash amount. Sehorn sold the Meters’ publishing and master rights to third-party companies.
At the time, the Meters’ music was becoming relevant to a new generation of hip-hop producers. “The settlement was very timely in a positive sense,” says Nocentelli. “If we didn’t settle, then we wouldn’t be in the position to gain some of the financial benefits.”
But Modeliste vowed to carry on the suit by himself. More than two decades later, he continues his litigation. Royalties and publishing moneys are stacking up under Modeliste’s name, but he says he will not accept them until the lawsuit is resolved.
“He’s been pretty beat up,” Porter says of Modeliste. “My heart goes out to him because I absolutely see the wear and tear that this event has taken. I’ve seen it make him so bitter that he just didn’t want to play no more. And Zigaboo should never, ever not play. If there is a 13th wonder, then he is it.”
When Modeliste first heard Amerie’s “1 Thing” on the radio, he chuckled to himself. “I said, ‘Wow! That sounds just like something I would do.’ ” By now, it has become a familiar experience for him.After Modeliste moved to Los Angeles in the late ’80s, he began hearing himself on records by rappers like N.W.A., King Tee and Compton’s Most Wanted. “All of Compton,” Modeliste says, “seemed to know about the Meters.”
Around the same time, Porter convened the Funky Meters with drummer Russell Batiste and guitarist Brian Stoltz to play and update the band’s music. Neville and Nocentelli even joined the Funky Meters for some dates. But Zig was still missing from the picture.
He was donning a suit and tie every morning for his job as an assistant manager at Kinney’s Shoes. When his father developed cancer, Modeliste brought him from New Orleans to his small two-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood. But his father died soon after.
“That kind of really took it all out,” he sighs. “So I took my drums out of the closet.” He quit the Kinney’s job, joined bluesman Roy Gaines’ band and was soon gigging six nights a week again.
At one point, he was hired by Dr. Dre for a session with an Italian American saxophonist Eazy-E was interested in signing. “I went in, and all they had was double turntables, some Meters records and George Clinton records to sample,” Modeliste recalls. “I said, ‘This is weird.’ ” The recordings were never released, but he was impressed by the hip-hoppers’ interest in him.
After the Rodney King riots, he moved to Berkeley and worked full time at Stepping Stones Growth Center, a job-placement center for disabled adults. He was consumed by the lawsuit.
Yet he also found time to play with Los Lobos and Bill Laswell, even punk hero Richard Hell. He met his wife, Kathy Webster, who later became his manager. Together they bought and restored a railroad house in West Oakland. Soon he was leading his own bands, the Aahkestra and the Funk Revue.
Modeliste reconciled with Porter, Nocentelli and Neville, and even played with them in different settings. But they never all played together. Then in 2000, a big offer enticed the band to come together for a one-night stand at the SF Weekly Warfield. Hopes were raised for a more permanent reunion.The other band members and their management teams were not interested. So Modeliste released an album, “Zigaboo.com,” on his own independent label, JZM, and another, “I’m on the Right Track,” last year. The latter featured guest appearances by Dr. John and Bernie Worrell, and became a critical favorite.
After seeing the 2002 film reunion of Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers, in “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” Modeliste says he and Webster tried to bring the original Meters back together but were thwarted by management problems. As late as last December, Modeliste was telling reporters he had given up hope the band would ever reunite again.
That’s when Quint Davis, producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, stepped into the picture. Davis was an old friend of the Meters and had helped organize the first JazzFest in 1970 when the Meters played in Congo Square. In the wake of a disastrous 2004 JazzFest, which suffered a $1 million loss, Davis became convinced that a Meters reunion would reignite interest in the festival.
“I started out against all odds. Everybody associated with them told me, ‘It can’t be done,’ ” Davis says. But early this year, he had a long discussion with Modeliste. “Zig said, ‘You’re gonna open up Pandora’s Box,’ and then he said, ‘It’s gonna be like “Jurassic Park.” You’re gonna bring the old dinosaurs back to life.’ That talk was a key turning point.”
Davis, the musicians and their managers came to the table, put aside their differences and hammered out the details. “Magically,” Davis says, “the camaraderie came back.” Their headlining appearance at JazzFest overshadowed an appearance by Brian Wilson, and performances by platinum-selling artists like James Taylor and Nelly.
In June, Modeliste and Webster bought a shotgun house in New Orleans’ Garden District and feverishly made plans to move back to the Big Easy. “I could be closer to the Meters, work on some ideas and that kind of stuff,” he says. “And then the storm came, and that changed everything.”
Porter’s house in Gert Town was flooded. The Nevilles’ home was burglarized after they fled to Nashville. Nocentelli relocated 15 family members to Southern California, including his 86-year-old mother, who drove all the way from New Orleans. Modeliste’s family escaped to Texas. His new house was miraculously left untouched.
Davis says, “Does the Meters reunion take on a larger significance now? Yeah. They’re trying to survive. They’re victims of the storm, and they have to provide for their families and their relatives.
“But of all the things of New Orleans that have been destroyed, the spirit in the music is one of the things that must be carried on,” he adds, “and if there’s anyone that carries that spirit of New Orleans music, it’s the Meters.”
All of the band members insist that they are not symbols for the Big Easy’s renewal. They’re just four guys trying to put it all back together. But for Modeliste, the reunion offers him a kind of closure.
“It’s always good to go home,” he says. “I wish it could have been a lot sooner that we would have made this decision, but it wasn’t. Better late than never.”
Jeff Chang is the author of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.”
― Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Thursday, 19 January 2006 12:02 (fifteen years ago) link
― The Day The World Turned Dayglo Redd (Ken L), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 02:27 (fifteen years ago) link
― Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 02:30 (fifteen years ago) link
― team jaxon (jaxon), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 02:36 (fifteen years ago) link
― Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 02:38 (fifteen years ago) link
― Stormy Davis (diamond), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 03:22 (fifteen years ago) link
― team jaxon (jaxon), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 06:44 (fifteen years ago) link
― js (honestengine), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 14:36 (fifteen years ago) link
From the "Bands that EVERYONE Loves" thread:
I could totally live without the Meters (and I like lots of New Orleans r&b! They always seemed like funk for jam band fans to me.) -- xhuxk (xedd...), March 15th, 2006.
Weird. I find the Meters to be one of the least jammy funk bands -- especially since all their songs were so short. -- Abbadavid Berman (Hurtingchie...), March 16th, 2006.
Well, their songs usually just never seemed to me to have SONGS attached, which was the problem, I guess. They always just seemed like clinicians to me, laying down Funky Grooves in a workmanlike fashion I couldn't imagine why anybody particularly cared about (better for sampling, I guess, than for actually listening to.) -- xhuxk (xedd...), March 16th, 2006.
(then again, admittely, it's been a while since i tried listening to them. maybe i'd think differently if i listened to them today. but when i've tried before, they seemed way less fun than people said.) -- xhuxk (xedd...), March 16th, 2006.
i was playing a meters tape in my car once and a friend asked "is this the grateful dead?" -- o -- (...), March 16th, 2006.
"better for sampling, I guess, than for actually listening to" this has occurred to me, too. so good for sampling that it's probably true even if you like them. -- Lee F# (fsharpashar...), March 16th, 2006.
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:17 (fifteen years ago) link
Apart, from a few notable exceptions, I don't like their songs (i.e. those with vocals) all that much. First album is my favourite, I think it's a total classic. Never really been all that bothered about their 70s stuff.
― Dadaismus sinks his soul in Mother Nature's bower (Dada), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:22 (fifteen years ago) link
― xhuxk, Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:25 (fifteen years ago) link
I guess I like workmanlike funky grooves.
― Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:38 (fifteen years ago) link
― Abbadavid Berman (Hurting), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:41 (fifteen years ago) link
― Dadaismus sinks his soul in Mother Nature's bower (Dada), Tuesday, 28 March 2006 15:51 (fifteen years ago) link
In 1979, "Sophisticated Sissy" went top 40 for one week, peaking at #34, then "Cissy Strut" went top 40 for three weeks, peaking at #23. And that's it, top-40-wise. Were they much bigger on the r&b chart? Given those songs short staying power, I'm wondering if even those two were mainly regional.
― xhuxkx, Tuesday, 28 March 2006 16:19 (fifteen years ago) link
― a full playlist of presidential sex jams (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 28 August 2016 21:27 (five years ago) link
Inspired by this revived thread, I looked up some Meters discography. Counted 16 versions of The Meters out there, including Josie LPs and various reissues. I remember a good collection of the Josie singles that was around in the late '80s, when a lot of people were rediscovering their early stuff. It was probably taken from vinyl sources. The late-'90s Sundazed reissues are the ones I've got, and honestly, as much as I love the Josie instrumentals--in particular, "Dry Spell" and "Pungee" and a few of the tracks where Modeliste really gets abstract and the band creates an amazingly spacious anti-groove--I think a reasonable person could get by with The Meters and esp. Look-ka Py Py, which I think's their best album. You could probably get both of them for under 20 bucks somewhere. The Real Gone set does look great, remasters and all, but I'd go with the original configurations and pick up Rejuvenation, the only other Meters record I like. Their vocal shit is not good and they lost something when they became a regular group as opposed to an instrumental band kicking around some ideas with Modeliste doing his thing. I love their work on Lee Dorsey records, too, and now I've gotta check if Yes We Can on Polydor is still in print.
― Edd Hurt, Sunday, 28 August 2016 22:43 (five years ago) link
Three versions of Dorsey's Yes We Can--Polygram, Raven (with Night People, and 2015, on Fever Dream.
― Edd Hurt, Sunday, 28 August 2016 22:52 (five years ago) link
I talked to George Porter Jr. about the different versions of the Meters a couple of years ago.
― Edd Hurt, Sunday, 28 August 2016 22:56 (five years ago) link
The god Art Neville has left us.
― Ned Raggett, Monday, 22 July 2019 17:31 (two years ago) link
RIP. Figured this was coming sooner rather than later, but still, losing him and Dr. John in the space of a few weeks really feels like the end of the great New Orleans R&B era. Hang in there, Irma...
― confusementalism (Dan Peterson), Monday, 22 July 2019 17:48 (two years ago) link
Yeah and Dave Bartholomew in between. What a sad time.
― Ned Raggett, Monday, 22 July 2019 17:51 (two years ago) link
Yeah, Dave was 100 though, so that came as no surprise. So happy I saw all of them in New Orleans while I could.
― confusementalism (Dan Peterson), Monday, 22 July 2019 18:28 (two years ago) link
― calzino, Monday, 22 July 2019 20:07 (two years ago) link
I've never heard Trick Bag before and I wish I hadn't. It's truly awful, irredeemable shite.
The previous 6 go from good to great, so how did they end up making this?
― Pfunkboy AKA (Oor Neechy), Wednesday, 13 October 2021 20:27 (two weeks ago) link
Luckily the last album New Directions is much better.
― Pfunkboy AKA (Oor Neechy), Wednesday, 13 October 2021 21:12 (two weeks ago) link
Is it? I don't think I've ever heard it. Lack of significant commercial success led them to grasp at straws by that point, imo. "Disco is the Thing Today" indeed. I love Allen Toussaint, but he was certainly not immune to over-arranging and schmaltz.
― Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 13 October 2021 21:14 (two weeks ago) link
Compared to Trick Bag it is!
― Pfunkboy AKA (Oor Neechy), Wednesday, 13 October 2021 21:15 (two weeks ago) link
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 21 October 2021 18:23 (six days ago) link
― change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 21 October 2021 18:39 (six days ago) link
was just reading an article about "walk this way" and apparently joe perry was listening to the meters a lot at that time and it was inspired by them
― Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 21 October 2021 18:40 (six days ago) link
https://www.offbeat.com/news/recently-unearthed-album-by-leo-nocentelli-from-early-70s-released-by-light-in-the-attic-label-2/― curmudgeon, Thursday, 21 October 2021 19:23 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 21 October 2021 19:23 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink
― Tracer Hand, Thursday, 21 October 2021 20:35 (six days ago) link
Cabbage Alleytook Ziggy Modeliste's very own rehearing of strict LA tempo, through bursts and tight corners and flexible reflections through originals like "Fade Away" (which kept bouncing back) mellow reverb harmonies of Neil Young's "Bird," lots more--think it might have been the first album where they sang, and worked for me and my friends, for quiet listening and at parties, though not for everybody (like xgau). Don't know if or how it is on CD, but got a clean vinyl copy many years later, and it still sounded right, not dated atall.I've heard others from that era in passing (mostly at loud parties), and they seemed good. Bummed that Ziggy wasn't with the others backing LaBelle's Nightbirds, but what the hell it's another distinctive, creative, arty, fun album of the 70s, sort of glam funk: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightbirds Bowie prob liked it.They, incl. Modeliste, also worked w other Toussaint clients, like omg Lee Dorsey, as noted here:https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Lee+DorseyCissy Strut collected a lot of their early prime instrumentals, and of course, Funkify Your Life, which has its own poll thread, is a good career overview.
― dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:55 (two days ago) link
Shit! strict NOLA tempo I meant; El Lay should be so lucky!
― dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:56 (two days ago) link
Neil Young's *"Birds"* of course on my god
― dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:57 (two days ago) link
There was a CD collection of pretty much everything called "Getting Funkier All the Time" which has the 8 albums and singles etc. that came out a couple years ago. It's all pretty ace to me.
― earlnash, Monday, 25 October 2021 21:42 (two days ago) link