It’s humorous now to think about what a big deal it was that four black guys from New York City decided to start a rock band. No joke, shortly after the album’s release, we played the blistering track “Desperate People” from the band’s debut Vivid for a hard-rocking coworker, and we took great pleasure in waiting until he was hooked before giving up the twist: surprise, they’re black! Then we went over to his house for a party with his hard rocking friends, and he plays them the song, gets the same reaction we got from him, and then says, “They’re niggers!” Sigh. Hey, it was 1988. With any luck, he’s received some enlightenment since then, and hopefully not at the ass end of a pistol.
It’s with regret that we admit that about half of Vivid has not aged well, but the stuff that holds up really holds up, and “Funny Vibe,” the track that opened Side II, displayed the band’s ability to bring both the noise and the funk in equal amounts better than anything else. Even better is the hilarious-but-sad video assembled for the track, where the band pokes fun at the assumptions that all blacks are good at basketball or, worse, rapist thugs looking to cut a bitch. Who would have thought, though, that the shot of the guy dressed as Flavor Flav – who appears with Public Enemy cohort Chuck D in the break – would turn into a timeless joke? Never saw that coming.
Happy Friday, everyone. Rock on. But please, don’t be a racist like our ’80s coworker. That’s just no way to live.