Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jaggerz -- "The Rapper" (1970)

So he starts his rappin'
Hoping something will happen
He'll say he needs you
A companion, a girl he can talk to
He's made up his mind
He needs someone to sock it to

Who coined the phrase, "Sock it to me"?  As far as I know, its earliest use was in "Sock It To Me, Baby," the 1967 Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels hit.  Aretha Franklin's backup singers sang it in her 1967 hit, "Respect," but the Mitch Ryder record was released a couple of months earlier.

Of course, it was the NBC television series, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (which aired from 1968 to 1973), that popularized the catchphrase.

Even Richard Nixon, who would be elected President later that year, appeared on Laugh-In to say "Sock it to me!"

The Jaggerz got to the "sock it to me" party a little late.  Their classic one-hit wonder single, "The Rapper," came out of nowhere in 1970, zooming all the way up to #2 on the Billboard pop charts.  The obscure Pittsburgh group caught the public's fancy with this song, but never came close to repeating their success.  It was one and done for the Jaggerz.

"The Rapper" was written by Donnie Iris (real name: Dominic Ierace), who put together the band that eventually became known as the Jaggerz while he was a student at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.  Here's what he told Carl Wiser of www.songfacts.com about the origin of the song's lyrics:

The song itself was just something I wrote watching people in nightclubs and all the bars we were playing in. I'd see these dudes go over and start rapping to all the chicks. In those days, we used to call trying to pick up chicks "rappin'." What they were doing though was basically just hitting on them. That's how the song came about. Just watching these guys and all their moves.

I'm sure Donnie Iris overheard a lot of lame pickup lines when he and his pals played at frat parties and local clubs, and he worked several of them into the song.  ("What's your sign?" is notably absent from the song, but it may have been a little early for that line.)

The lyrics sound like they were written in 1960, not 1970.  By 1970, it wasn't usually necessary for a man to hornswoggle a woman to get her to sleep with him -- often as not, she made the first move.  (At least that's what I'm told.)

But "The Rapper" seems to be from an era when no unmarried woman would have agreed to a liaison with a man unless he had gotten her drunk or manuevered her into a position from which she could not make her getaway (or both).

The Jaggerz worked another famous catchphrase into "The Rapper":

He's made an impression
So he makes a suggestion
"Come up to my place
For some coffee, or tea, or me"

In 1967, Donald Bain -- who worked in American Airlines' public relations department -- wrote Coffee, Tea, or Me?  The book purported to be the memoirs of two lusty young airline stewardesses.  

In those days, stewardesses were second only to Playboy bunnies as quintessential American sex symbols.  I remember going to the Key Club district convention in Kansas City in 1970 -- about the time "The Rapper" was popular -- with a number of my high-school friends.  All of us started quivering with excitement when we learned that the hotel we were staying at was also home base for TWA stewardesses who worked flights to and from Kansas City.  (As I recall, more than one pair of binoculars was packed for that trip just in case.) 

Southwest Airlines stewardess (circa 1968)
Coffee, Tea, or Me? was a huge best seller, and it is a work of great anthropological value, reminding us of what life was like in the swingin' sixties.  Bain wrote several sequels featuring the same characters, and went on to write (or ghostwrite) about 80 novels.  He is best known for the 39 novels based on the Murder, She Wrote television show that he has written since 1989.  (Those books were ostensibly penned by Jessica Fletcher, the fictional mystery writer portrayed by Angela Lansbury in that very popular TV series.)

"The Rapper" was on the second Jaggerz album, which was titled We Went to Different Schools Together.  (The title might not seem funny to you, but I guarantee you would have found it hilarious if it were 1970 and you were high as a kite.)

As previously noted, the band is from Pittsburgh, and gets its name from a Pittsburgh slang term.  It seems that "jagger bush" is what Pittsburghers call a bush with thorns or stickers.  (The band was going to call itself the "Jaggers," but its manager saw a magazine ad for another band that was using that name, so he suggested changing the last letter to a "z.")

Here's "The Rapper":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

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