Band: James White and The Blacks
Warning: NSFW! While it’s not so much bluntly explicit as it is lewdly suggestive, this remains quite a rude little number. I’m delighted to have rediscovered its peeling linoleum, low-rent appeal. This lurid song smacks of cheap pulp novels and chemically-induced underground cool. The dubious vibe is heralded by the slithering arrival of a profoundly insolent baseline, followed by dyspeptic horns and intermittent snippets of snaky, bent guitar. James White is the surly protagonist who picks up the insistently ringing phone at the song’s beginning and barks: “who is it and what do you want.”
White’s career began in NYC with the No Wave music scene in the late 70s. The sax and keyboard player staked his claim in free jazz and punk rock, weaving manic connections between the two streams. This vividly blue number is more of an exercise in disjointed punk burlesque than a proper song - there’s no verse, chorus or bridge, just a single modal vehicle bearing all the weight. Stained Sheets is off the White’s 1979 album Off White. He’s joined by Lydia Lunch appearing as Stella Rico: she handles the wordless telephonic female vocals that so define this thing. The mood the track wallows in reminds me variously of Tom Waits, Marc Ribot, Nick Cave… there’s an insinuating, impudent pulse that won’t be denied; the keyboard line that regularly stamps out a jarring atonality, the snotty horn runs, and Stella’s pandering, lust-crazed vocals - well, the net effect is so over the top it’s tough to take it seriously. I have to think there were more than a few nudges and winks recording this one… but then again, White and Co. were never particularly reverent or well-behaved. Thankfully.