Listen: The Witch Queen Of New Orleans / Redbone RedboneWitch.mp3
Just a hunch here, but having worked at Columbia, Epic’s sister label, I’m betting the culture at those two companies in the 90′s and early 21st century was one that had prevailed back when Redbone were signed and molded for success. Keep it commercial. Even when they didn’t think they were doing just that….they were.
The marketing angle of a Native American band, named Redbone, was probably a bit risky, but could go off. Just polish it and get it onto the radio….it can happen. Now admittedly, the band’s music incorporated R&B, cajun, jazz, tribal, and Latin. Still, it always had a safe sheen to it.
Opinions on this will be extreme, but I’ll go to my grave believing that’s how the company saw The Clash. Punk that could be polished. It sure is how I saw them.
I recall when MTV had a daily interview/music show for a while. This would have been around the late 80′s, maybe early 90′s. No, I don’t recall it’s name. But one afternoon, The Ramones were the guests so I went along with them to the taping (Marc Almond was on that day as well). Band plays song, sits for interview like on Leno or whatever, then plays another song. That was the program’s format. It was quite good fun and really loud, with the audience full of fans.
One of the questions they asked Joey: “So you brought punk to England in ’76 and met the The Clash?”, implying that something about that meeting inspired The Ramones. His response was quick and simple “No, they met us”.
Sums it up perfectly, including my outlook on The Clash: corporate punk. Perfect for the CBS Records group.
And likewise, I’m sure Redbone would have, could have been way more earthy and dirty in the recordings, packaging and imaging if left to their own devices. Pick up an early album or two and just look at those song titles. They tell it all.
I’ve never met Redbone, or had conversation about them with anyone even remotely connected to the band. But my speculation is they were produced in every sense of the word, until the band, through the years, just gave in and went along. Eventually it paid off, hitting it out of the park with ‘Come And Get Your Love’, which I do love by the way, good pop single. Nonetheless, sadly the thing that was special about them was gone, and they comfortably blended into the assembly line of mainstream formula rock, which in two short years, would start to crack and crumble.
But the early singles, ‘The Witch Queen Of New Orleans’ being one, hint at a much darker sound and cryptic lyric that was still allowed to spill through a bit in the beginning.