2007 APRIL 25 #115
Jim Dandy and The Sugar Beats - From Dust To Dust/Warm Up
1. From Dust To Dust (3:46)
2. Warm Up (3:00)
This was the first truly odd record I ever bought back in 1981. I found it in a pile of singles gathering dust in a dubious shop in my home town (Watford, Herts, famous for George Michael, Geri Halliwell, Gene lead singer Martin Rossiter and Elton John's football team!). The shop mainly dealt in porn mags and 'marital aids' but begrudgingly also sold old paperback books and records. It struck me as a suitably seedy home for such a strange disc. I bought it hoping that it might be a rare southern soul effort but I kind of knew it probably wouldn't be. However I was not to be disappointed because it was in a category all of its own with a special kind of magic as you'll hear...
Jim Dandy seems to be a pseudonym for singer/songwriter Richard Wisniewski who was based in the Saginaw, Michigan area in the early 1970s. The A-side credits Jim Dandy and The Sugar Beats 'From Sugar-Beet Country' while the B-side also credits the intriguingly-named Patsy's Pickle Patch Coir. The label credits the publisher as Dialtone music (BMI).
After years of searching I have also discovered two other equally odd Jim Dandy singles, namely: Hot Pants/Move It Around (1972) and She's Tuff/Bring Us Together (1973) all on the Dadjo label. The writer and producer on all three records is credited as Richard Wisniewski and so I am guessing/assuming that he is Jim Dandy. If anyone knows of any other singles or albums by Jim Dandy (or other records on this little label), or has any information about the band and/or Richard Wisniewski, I would be very interested to know.
My tongue-in-ceek review of this undiscovered classic appeared in Record Collector magazine last year in the 'Digging For Gold' section. Here's what I said:
Jim Dandy and The Sugar Beats 'From Dust To Dust' / 'Warm Up' (Dadjo 5572, 1972).
With absolutely no connection with the lead singer of country rockers Black Oak Arkansas or the LaVerne Baker R&B classic came this mysterious single from Jim Dandy and his band The Sugar Beats - "from sugar beet country"- or Saginaw, Michigan to be precise. This highly obscure record is so much a private pressing that very few people knew of its existence, and even the ones who recorded it are in denial! Both songs have a deliciously dubious home-made quality about them, evocative of not so much a field recording as a swamp. The A-side is not an ad for Hoovers as you might think but uses the old Christian burial idiom as a moral look at life and death. "What are we made of, people are asking, we live our lives from dust to dust" creepy Jim oozes with an awkward and shaky vocal delivery, not helped by the staccato rhythms of the verses and the over-use of the word dust. "We eat the same bread, we are each other" he continues offering perhaps a bit too much information.
But you can only smile when you hear the chorus which ends in a clumsy, but obvious rip off of Billy Preston's organ coda from The Fab Four's 'Let It Be'. However any comparison with The Beatles is soon forgotten once the truly bonkers fairground-style organ solo kicks in which is in complete contrast to the somber mood of the rest of the song. Drowned in reverb and tape delay, and with more bum notes than a colitis sufferer, this uniquely unpleasant keyboard sounds like it was once entered in a piano smashing contest - and lost!
Whether it is Jim himself at the keys or one of the ironically sour-sounding Sugar Beats isn't known, but in combination with the ludicrously overlabored drum fills and Phil Spector-esque harmony backing (courtesy of the wonderfully-named Patsy's Pickle Patch Choir) it all adds to the unintentional comic effect.
However it's 'Warm Up' the barmy B-side which will have most jaws dropping. In a complete u-turn Jim and the gang get all groovy on a dubious dance number, where the home made harmonium is in competition with an equally ham-fisted harmonica. "You gotta let go and dig the crazy beat" yells Jim somewhat unconvincingly not letting himself go, or warming up in any shape or form. And when he continues with the immortal line "You gotta start jumping and clap your feet" you know he's a sugar beet short of a refinery. Either that or the only dust-to-dust he'd been sampling was the white stuff you shove up your nose!