Friday, October 12, 2012

Black Crowes -- "Remedy" (1992)

Can I have some remedy? . . .
I need a remedy
For what is ailing me

You're not the only ones, Black Crowes.  So take a number and wait your turn.

(By the way, Chris Robinson -- the lead singer of the Black Crowes -- has been married three times.  Wife #2 was movie star Kate Hudson, and the other two are major babes as well.  Chris has had more than his fair share of remedy . . . so ix-nay with the itching-bay, Chris.  OK?)

This song is freakin' great because of the two three-chord progressions -- let's call them F, E, C, and E-flat, D, B-flat -- that open it and which are repeated every so often throughout the song.  That pattern is so perfect that I could listen to this song about a hundred times in a row and still want to hear it again.

I can't explain why that is so.  No one can explain why that is so.  But it most definitely is so.

So I'm going to listen to it again right now.  Why don't you join me?

This is a live performance from 1999.  Chris Robinson is wearing the silliest hat ever worn.  But the back-up singers (who I'm guessing must have backed up Tina Turner at some point in their careers) make up for that -- shake those moneymakers, ladies!  

"Remedy" was released 20 years ago, the second track on the Black Crowes' second studio album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.  It hit #1 on the Billboard "Album Rock Tracks" chart (shouldn't that be "Rock Album Tracks"?) and stayed there for eleven weeks.

It would be fine with me if it had stayed at #1 for 20 years and was still there.  The lyrics are nothing special when you read them on the printed page, but they work just fine with the music.  The finished song is as perfect as perfect can be -- thanks primarily to those two three-chord figures. 

I pity the fool who tries to cover this song, unless that fool is smart enough to play it note-for-note the same.

I was amazed to learn recently that the two three-chord progressions were "borrowed" from "Night of the Thumpasorus People," the last song on Parliament's classic 1975 funk album, "Mothership Connection."

Here's the Parliament song.  After a 40-second instrumental introduction, the Parliament singers sing "I am high . . . we are high" (I think) several times.  Listen closely:

See what I mean?  The chords that the singers progress through -- a new chord for each word of that line -- and the rhythm of the chord progressions is exactly the same the Black Crowes use.

The Black Crowes didn't really sample the Parliament song.  Sampling (the sine qua non of rap music) usually entails using a brief snippet from someone else's recording in your own recording.  What the Black Crowes did is like sitting down at the piano and playing a piece of sheet music that someone else wrote, while sampling is more akin to flipping the on-off switch on a player piano.

Here's the official "Remedy" music video.  It was released back in the day when MTV (the "M" stands for "music," you know) actually played music videos, and wasn't just a vehicle for Snooki, JWoww, and other assorted reality-show misfits.

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:


  1. They sampled it. The only difference is that that riff wasn't prerecorded. It was created via guitar. The song still kicks ass, though.

  2. Anyone know why "the girls" sang the chorus mainly in a harmony key?