Listen: Harlem Shuffle / Bob & Earl
Harlem Shuffle / Bob & Earl
Talk about a period piece. ‘Harlem Shuffle’ makes me feel like I’m listening to late, well, very late night 60′s radio, when music this raw and blues based was kept off the air during the day…or more like, kept off the air almost entirely.
Released in ’63, then still considered race music, this record never got heard by white America. Wasn’t just the obscure English groups that had to sneak through via the late night airwaves ghetto, RnB had to as well. Growing up near Syracuse, we picked up AM stations from Boston and Ft. Wayne on our transistors, for rock that is. But we also managed a black station from Philadelphia and another from Baltimore. Not exactly Alabama or Mississippi, yet still very risky business for white bred upstate New York.
Got to hear a lot of seminal stuff that way, transistor under the pillow. In particular, Bob & Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’, which still feels like a night time record with every time it gets a play. This single created a fantasy world, whereby living on the wrong side of the tracks seemed way far away and rather dangerous to venture too near.
The single had a deserved second life around the early 80′s, when a batch of this type stuff was reissued by some UK labels and the hip college DJ’s were mixing it in with ska revival bands like Madness and The Specials. Earl Lee Nelson had a pretty big hit ‘The Duck’ a few years later (’65) as Jackie Lee.