June 9, 2009

ESG//You're No Good

Remember it’s Chain Reaction Week!
Yesterday’s last word was: You.

ESG, which, without much explanation stands for Emerald, Sapphire and Gold, was a much-sampled no-wave/post-punk band from the South Bronx consisting mostly of the Scroggins sisters and occasionally of some of their friends.

Actually, Update: Trusty old All Music Guide explains the name:

The four Scroggins sisters -- Deborah (bass, vocals), Marie (congas, vocals), Renee (vocals, guitar), and Valerie (drums) -- formed a group with the support of their mother, who bought instruments to keep her daughters busy and away from trouble; at the time, each sibling was teenaged. Basing their sound on a mutual love for James Brown, Motown, and Latin music, the sisters went through a number of name changes before finally settling on ESG. "E" stood for emerald, Valerie's birthstone; "S" stood for sapphire, Renee's birthstone; and as for "G," well, neither Deborah nor Marie had a birthstone beginning with that letter, but they did want their records to go gold. After permanently adding non-relative Tito Libran to the lineup as a conga player (some male members came and went prior to this), ESG was officially born.

I think it must be cool to be a much-sampled no-wave band. You don’t get to say that every day. “Hi. My name’s Gina. I’m in an oft-sampled now-defunct (maybe) no-wave band. Yeah, you probably already heard some of my stuff in your favorite hip-hop hits. Yes, I said, ‘no-wave.’ Yeah, I meant that.”

There’s a reason everybody likes to sample ESG and that’s because they’re AWESOME. Started in the late 70s/early 80s, the sound has a lot of weird stuff going. Analog quality, rattle-y weirdly-rhythm-ed drum lines and heavy bass characterize the sound, in addition to a unique genre mix of funk, R+B and avant garde (not so unlike the man I saw last night, although a lot more low-energy).

There’s also this very funny story, via Wikipedia:

On May 9, 2007, ESG drummer Valerie Scroggins was indicted by a Brooklyn grand jury on charges of taking more than $13,000 in workers' compensation payments. Scroggins, then working as a bus driver for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York), told them that she suffered a shoulder injury in September 2006. In November 2006, Scroggins went on tour with ESG, where an MTA investigator filmed her playing "drums for an hour or more and on every song the band played, doing things very similar to actions she told her employers she could not perform," according to the Brooklyn DA's press release. Scroggins asserts that her injury is legitimate and that she could not safely drive a bus.

Maybe not the smartest thing to do on her part, but doesn’t this make you hate the MTA just a little bit more (I didn’t know this feeling was possible!)!?How many “investigators” are they paying to spy on former no-wave band members, instead of just running the fucking G train? The MTA, you’re no good.

You’re No Good.mp3

But you’re no good.
You’re no good.
You are no good.
You’re no good.

Chain Reaction is also an album by Canadian singer Luba, a song by Diana Ross, covered by Steps and a 1970s band.

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