The Meters – Cissy Strut

7th July 2021 · 1960s, 1969, Funk, Music

The Meters defined the sound of New Orleans funk on this instrumental back in 1969. It’s still winning new friends in movies today.

This tune came back into my life this week, when I was at the cinema. It took me back nearly 50 years.

There’s a key scene in the middle of the Danish film Another Round in which one of the characters puts on his hi-fi and turns the funky music up LOUD. This is what he played.

An effortlessly funky affair that lodges in your head and makes your body start to move whether you want it to or not, was repeated over the closing credits.

It came out in 1969 but I didn’t hear it then. I didn’t notice it until it was featured in another film, Jackie Brown, in 1998. But its funky groove took me back further, to one of my earliest concert experiences.

In May 1976 I had a musical awakening. I had just seen my first big arena show – David Bowie in his Thin White Duke / Station To Station era at Wembley Arena. I still have the bootleg cassette I made. That was funky.

Three weeks later I went to Earls Court to see The Rolling Stones. They had just released Black And Blue and I loved it, with Jagger’s strutting Hey Negrita and Hot Stuff, and Billy Preston’s bluesy tour-de-force Melody. They were funky too.

But their support band The Meters… well, they were FUNKY!

I had never heard of The Meters. I probably didn’t even know what funk was. But they were funkier than anything I’d ever heard before.

Not for nothing is Ziggy Modeliste regarded by funk aficionados as the greatest of all drummers. Bass player George Porter Jr isn’t far behind him. Guitarist Leo Nocentelli and front man Art Neville are no slouches either.
Together they define that slippery, sinuous, sensuous sound of New Orleans funk.

It’s a different beast from the urban funk of James Brown and Sly Stone and George Clinton; it’s an earthier, sweatier, more primal kind of funk born in the tropical heat of a city where the fusion of soul, blues, jazz, swing, zydeco and all sorts of other Afro-Cuban sounds create a musical melting pot unlike any other.

It gets under your skin, right into your body, right down to your soul.
I didn’t follow up by exploring The Meters’ work. I was too mesmerised by the glamorous experience of seeing the Stones – “the greatest rock and roll band in the world” – in the flesh. I even took a long red cotton drape home with me as a souvenir and kept it in my room for years.

Still buzzing after the show, my friend Ben Buchanan and I went for a nightcap at just about the only place open after hours in London in 1976, a burger joint on the Fulham Road appropriately called the Up All Night.

Who should come in half an hour later and take up residence in a booth on the other side of the room but the Stones and their entourage. London had never seemed so exciting.

Not the Meters though. At least I don’t think so: I wouldn’t have recognised them. And I have no idea whether they played Cissy Strut that night. But I’m sure they did. They’d have been crazy not to.