One of the more interesting pieces of music news I’ve read recently has to do with the release of the first “new” Sly Stone music in nearly 30 years. I’m Back: Family & Friends, which is due August 16, features the enigmatic and reclusive soul/rock legend performing his classics with a reconstituted Family Stone, with assistance from artists like Ray Manzarek of the Doors and Heart’s Ann Wilson. Given the fact that years of drug abuse and general craziness have most likely taken a severe toll on Sly (hell, there’s got to be a reason why the man hasn’t released an album in so long), not to mention that this isn’t an album of new material, I’m not holding out much hope for a quality project. However, this news caused me to catch a flashback to the last time Sly performed in a music video. Hell, it just might be the only time Sly’s ever appeared in a music video.
When guitarist Jesse Johnson decided to release his sophomore effort, Shockadelica (1986), he knew who to call to make the album’s first single an event. The former Time guitarist, like many musicians of his era, grew up idolizing Sly, and the two combined to make a fairly memorable video for “Crazay.” The totally Eighties clip is one to remember not just for the fact that Sly looks and sounds fairly lucid, but also for the amazingly quick cuts (I swear, the video made me dizzy), the very Eighties phenomenon of instruments being played in the video that definitely were not played in the song (like live drums, and … a cowbell?), and the numerous costume changes by the band members, topped off by Jesse’s collection of outrageously large hats. With fringe.
The video was supposed to kick-start a comeback for Sly, but an album he was working on at the time never materialized. He continued to make guest appearances on albums by other artists, including Earth, Wind & Fire and Bobby Womack, before disappearing completely in the early Nineties and not resurfacing until the middle of the last decade with live performances (including one on the Grammy Awards five years ago) that can charitably be described as odd.
“Crazay” was a moderate hit, narrowly missing the pop Top 40 but peaking at #2 on the R&B chart. It was Johnson’s biggest hit as a solo artist, and the guitarist went on a sabbatical of his own for a while before surfacing on Chaka Khan’s excellent Funk This album, which was largely produced by Jesse’s Time cohorts Jam & Lewis. Most recently, Jesse released an album called Verbal Penetration independently, and he’s currently working on the reunion album by
The Time The Original Time Band. Hey, with both Jesse and Sly on the road toward making music again, another collaboration just might be possible.