Monday, 7 June 2010

Rose Royce 'Car Wash'

Chart Peak: 20 (4 in 1976)


I can't really remember, if indeed I ever knew, why this was re-released, but it certainly wasn't the last time: this re-working showed up a decade later, and in 1990 a solo version by Gwen Dickey tickled the lower regions of the Top 75.

You can see the sense of sequencing it next to James Brown (perhaps putting it next to S-Express would just have been too obvious) but at the same time this is different in that it's the unadulterated original version (or at least the original 7" edit - apparently the soundtrack album has a slightly longer version). 

I have to admit it's not a song I've ever really been that keen on. It might not help that when I first heard it I was unfamiliar with the concept of a carwash as a place where people actually worked, as opposed to those things at petrol stations with the big rollers. And we never used those anyway, although I used to have a little toy one I could drive my little Matchbox cars through. Anyway, Norman Whitfield's production is very slick and clever, and the band themselves, already established as backing musicians for many other Whitfield clients, play very well: Duke Jobe's bass playing is especially strong. Between them they produce many fine moments, several of which have been extensively sampled on later hits.

The fault seems to lie more in the material itself (Whitfield again, though apparently he wasn't that keen on the idea at first and agreed to do it for the money and as a launchpad). Somehow it doesn't convince as a whole, possibly because it's hard to reconcile the smooth funkiness that the music is aiming at with the rather stupid lyrics. Perhaps it works better in the film.

Available on: Music For Movies

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