Dec 162009

While conducting research for my next round of Thrifty Music offerings, I came across this number, enthusiastically performed by Allen Toussaint‘s favorite New Orleans soul shouter, Lee Dorsey — and backed up by Stax Records’ 1967 touring band!

As we always do in the Mach Schau series, let’s turn our attentions to what exactly it is that makes this performance so exceptional. I have a number of observations, but I’ll start the ball rolling with just one: the trumpet player rides his horn with gusto. Excellent! What do you see?

I look forward to your responses.



  31 Responses to “Mach Schau, Lee Dorsey!”

  1. Dude,

    Did you miss the embed?

    I love Lee Dorsey’s version of “Yes We Can.” I looked around for the collection of hits that included it for about three years before I found it. It was well woth the search.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    WOW! Talk about Mach Schau! How ’bout that point just past the 1-minute mark, when his amazing collar is stealing the spotlight until Dorsey rides his mic stand, only to have the stand collapse and Dorsey shoot dagger at the faulty stand. Masterful!

    I’ve got a Lee Dorsey collection that I love. I’m often put off by a lot of the “sophisticated” jamming of New Orleans R&B that Toussaint has his hand in, but Dorsey grabs the music by the nutsack and makes it move.

    Dorsey was part of that awesome oldies show that E. Pluribus and I attended in Atlantic City about 10 years ago, and he was one solid in his bits and role as MC.

  3. BigSteve

    I like the way Dorsey knows instinctively not to go down on his knees until right before he runs off stage and off camera, because he’s aware that his white pants will pick up dirt from the floor.

    It’s interesting how different the rhythm of the song is when the Memphis dudes play it, much less laid back

    And yes that collar is amazing.

  4. dbuskirk

    No mystery what Strummer and the Clash saw in this guy, this clip has intensity…

  5. His pants are definitely the “official pants” of R&B singers to groove in. Sam and Dave wear the same type.

    I like how the bassist either plays perpindicular or parralel with the band. Also at the end, the guitarist has an amazingly balanced stance – 2:35

    Great overall look to the clip. I may need to now go look at Tom Jones’ “See Saw”

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Gotta love the brunette as she begins dancing in her seat as soon as the band kicks in!

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    I for one deeply appreciate Dorsey’s ability to perform the “We’re off to see the wizard” skip and make it look *totally cool*.

    I also like how the bass player is actually playing the role that bass players usually claim they play: he’s keeping the band tight and in the pocket, locked to the groove. He does this through his rock-steady playing, his frequent chastising glances at the rest of the group, and his conservative approach to haberdashery and hairstyle. Bravo!

  8. Nixon’s Head should demand that all our shows have at least 20 yards of unencumbered stage space in front of the band to allow Andy to skip to my lou dance as much as he pleases. We can easily fit our audience into half the space they would normally get.

  9. alexmagic

    Thirding the awe for Dorsey’s amazing shirt collar. I have no doubt that the place must have exploded backstage before the show when he strolled in with that.

    I am pleasantly surprised to see that the bass player has already gotten his justly deserved praise from andyr and HVB. I was expecting that I’d have to make the case for him by myself.

    He could have easily been part of the set like the guitarist seems to have resigned himself to be, and I guess somebody has to be when so much is going on, so he deserves credit for being a good teammate. In fact, the guitarist’s decision to not wear a jacket so as to better fade into the drum kit/riser and thus not detract from Dorsey is probably a great example of someone Dressing Rhythm.

    But back to the bass player, that’s some seriously fine, low-key Mach Shau there. You can clearly see him acting as the lifeline between the horns and the drummer in the first half of things. He’s the band’s base coach. He spends the second half facing away from the audience, possibly to facilitate communications between the drummer and the other half of the horn section, but also a Sam & Dave-style bit of showmaking himself.

    You can really see the work the bass player is doing when they go to that alternate camera angle from around:30-:40. The director deserves credit for even having that angle ready.

    Also, I want to give a shout-out to the guy in glasses and a white sweater in the second row at the 2:19 mark, who the cameras catch totally checking out that blonde in the front row. We’ve all been there.

  10. alexmagic

    All that praise aside, I do have one thing that I’d like a review of and ruling on:

    What about Dorsey’s move at around 1:45, where he signals that he’s going to throw his jacket into the crowd, football-style, but instead hands it off to the trumpet player? Fair or foul? More importantly, is this the only time the Statue of Liberty Play has been used in a musical performance?

  11. The coat toss could be a very expensive move, especially if you have a couple of shows a night. I don’t like that he teases though.

    How about the trumpet player? He’s totally committed to riding the pony on his trumpet. I don’t think the horn touches his lips once. Good special teams play by him.

  12. I’d like to acknowledge two of the less showy players: the guys on either side of the trumpet player.

    They seem to recognize that the trumpet player has some great schtick going on, and rather than try to out do him, or even keep up with him, they go into a supportive, more subtle version of what he’s doing (a trot to his gallop, if you will). Furthermore, while the trumpet guy is rightfully absorbed in his own antics, the other two are watching him instead of focusing on themselves.

    A modified version of this kind of selfless stage move was later used to great effect by Ronnie Hawkins in the Last Waltz when he stooped down so that he could get a close look at Robbie Robertson’s fingers during the solo of Who Do You Love. (Cautionary Note: The Hawk ended up having to fan those very fingers with his hat after he realized that he had ventured too close to the flame).

  13. Chicken, Would you have blown that trumpet knowing it would smell like ass? What we don’t see is the dude getting a new trumpet after the song.

  14. Good point AndyR! I’ll leave you with this Hannukah horn punch line. “If the bride is blowing the Shofar, who’s driving the limo?”

  15. alexmagic

    The cost factor may have played into Dorsey’s decision to only pretend to throw his jacket into the crowd, but I bet Sam & Dave burned their suits after sweating through them every show. Gotta keep up, Lee.

    I wonder if any of the crowds ever turned on Dorsey for this stunt. If there’s a lost “Stax Revue Riot” tape floating around anywhere featuring a bunch of suddenly irate Swedes charging the stage after Lee Dorsey pulled his jacket-toss fakeout, that would probably be a cherished Rock Holy Grail.

  16. BigSteve

    When I saw Leonard Cohen recently he skipped on and off stage. I like the ‘we’re off the see the wizard’ concept.

    The whole thing of singers entering while the band is already playing and leaving the stage to applause while the band continues to play — that’s a lost art. It’s kind of showbiz and not rock & roll, but there are exceptions. I wonder what are the conditions that make that set-up work.

  17. Mr. Moderator

    alexmagic asked:

    All that praise aside, I do have one thing that I’d like a review of and ruling on:

    What about Dorsey’s move at around 1:45, where he signals that he’s going to throw his jacket into the crowd, football-style, but instead hands it off to the trumpet player? Fair or foul? More importantly, is this the only time the Statue of Liberty Play has been used in a musical performance?

    I reviewed this in slow motion and from multiple angles. I’ve got special software, like they have on NFL broadcasts, you know. It’s not actually a Statue of Liberty play, which I imagine The Boss might have initiated once while handing off his Tele to a roadie rather than Holstering it. What the referees need to determine regarding Dorsey’s jacket is whether he fumbled it or it should be ruled an incomplete forward pass! I would have ruled it an incomplete pass. His arm has come forward – perhaps he wanted to tuck the ball away instead at the last moment and dropped it or perhaps he meant to pull it down into a shovel pass – and the jacket clearly hits the ground. The play is dead. The band should have stopped and reset at the previous chorus.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    You guys both missed the critical element of the jacket non-throw: Dorsey clearly plays it as a gag. Look at that big grin on his face, and the exaggerated swoop of his arm as he throws it, not out to the audience, but to his trombonist’s feet. It’s all part of one clean motion that takes the arc of his passing motion and extends it to a new receiver. In other words, it’s a fake — a trick play for added yardage. Totally legal, and stylish to boot. First down and goal, Dorsey!

  19. alexmagic

    No way. The trombonist has no idea that Doresy is going to make that toss. Dorsey clearly wanted to run a trick play there and called an audible without letting the band know it was coming, so he tries to run the Statue of Liberty play and the hand-off is fumbled.

    That said, Dorsey and the trumpet player are pros, and they both cover up for the mistake and keep going hoping they don’t get called on it, shades of Franco Harris on the Immaculate Reception. In all, a smart move, since no one reviewed the play for 42 years.

  20. misterioso

    Re: the fake jacket toss, I believe the locus classicus for this move is JB on the TAMI Show at the very end of the beyond-human performance of “Night Train.”

    See the concluding seconds of this clip

  21. I think Lee realized a split second before he tossed the coat that his car keys were in the pocket.

  22. BigSteve

    Misterioso, my man, I’m with anyone who knows what the term ‘locus classicus’ means and how to wield it.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    That was impressive, misterioso. You’ve been making a strong, late-season bid for RTH Rookie of the Year. Thanks for finding us.

  24. misterioso

    Well, thanks. But wasn’t “Locus Classicus” the unsuccessful follow-up to “Hocus Pocus” by Focus? I like to think that everything I know I learned from whacked-up Dutch prog-rockers.

    Speaking mach-ing schau, see these flying Dutchmen in action here.

    If you aren’t laughing your fool heads off by about 1:15 in, then something is seriously wrong. It says there have been 3,797,186 views of this video. I swear that only half have been me.

  25. Wow, that has to be the greatest gap between energy expended and Mach Shau provided that I’ve ever seen. That guy is a perfect example of the “work smart, not hard” school of thought.

  26. hrrundivbakshi

    About that Focus clip: I would give my left nut to know what Gladys Knight was saying offstage while they were delivering the Dutch-rock goods.

  27. misterioso

    My guess is that she was making some calls to the Pips telling them to seek new employment because she was going to be hiring Focus as her new band.

  28. BigSteve

    That Focus clip proves conclusively that Europeans have always been superior to their over-rated American and British counterparts when it comes to bringing the Rock!

  29. Focus! How can he possibly top his yodeling vocals? Flute Solo! Top that? Whistle solo? That? Tea Kettle whistle solo! He should tap dance and spin plates too.

  30. mockcarr

    Really, there’s nothing left but a fart solo after that.

  31. hrrundivbakshi

    Trust Mockcarr to come up with the last, and best, word in an otherwise fine thread.

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