We the People — “You Burn Me Up and Down”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 24, 2022


495) We the People — “You Burn Me Up and Down”

This sizzling ’66 B-side by the Orlando, Florida, garage rock “super-group” is “one of the genre’s greatest songs ever”/“a very unique number with a wonderful slide guitar riff to open the song[, with g]ravely vocals and quizzical and suggestive lyrics” (On the Flip-Side, http://ontheflip-side.blogspot.com/2012/12/song-of-week-we-people-you-burn-me-up.html?m=1), “contain[ing] all the classic garage rock ingredients: wild drums, buzzing fuzztone guitars, swirling electric organ, wailing harmonica, and a hormonally charged lead vocal by 16-year-old Tommy Talton that’s a cocky hybrid of Jagger and Dylan.” (J.M. Dobies, https://www.orlandoweekly.com/music/garage-days-revisited-2259038). “Grinding guitar chords, organ, aggressive vocals, and crazed guitar distortion (particularly on the swooping noises and feedback that introduce “You Burn Me Up and Down”) were the[e band’s] initial trademarks.” (Richie Unterberger, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/we-the-people-mn0000816941) Yup. I am not sure that Rick James could have done “Super Freak” without this song. Power to the People!

Richie Unterberger gives some history:

One of the most versatile mid-’60s garage groups — indeed, they were for the most part too accomplished and pop-savvy to truly merit the garage band tag — We the People had some big hits in Florida, but never broke out nationally, despite releases on the large RCA and Challenge labels. Veterans of Orlando garage [bands] . . . all found their way into We the People, who made their first single for the local Hotline label, “My Brother the Man,” in early 1966. “My Brother the Man” was a smoking, almost-crazed, hard garage-punk number, a path the band continued to follow on their early Challenge singles “Mirror of Your Mind” and “You Burn Me Up and Down.” . . . Yet at the same time they could throw in gentler and more lyrically and melodically subtle originals . . . . Unusual for a garage band, they boasted two prolific and talented songwriters in Tommy Talton and Wayne Proctor. Proctor was the more interesting of the pair, penning one of the great raga rock tunes (the gutsy “In the Past,” covered by the Chocolate Watch Band), the Baroque-psychedelic “St. John’s Shop,” and “(You Are) the Color of Love.” . . .


J.M. Dobies gives a sense of the scene:

Summer 1966. At places like the Orlando Youth Center, Leesburg Armory, or the Coconut Teen Club . . . . [h]undreds upon hundreds of teens are dancing to the beat stomped out by one or more of the top local bands. . . . On Monday morning, the band members will be back in class, subject to being hassled by teachers about the length of their hair, but on the weekends, they are rock & roll stars. They’re totally boss, man.

Band members Terry Cox and David Duff later reflected on the changing scene, giving the most concise, incisive and hilarious analyses of the same that I have ever read:

Terry Cox: “I can almost pinpoint the day where everybody who was dancing around, jumping around, raising hell, packing the place, instead sat down on the floor and expected to hear ‘In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.'”

David Duff: “The mood changed. And it was a change for the worse. I can remember playing in Gainesville at the University of Florida. We go set up in one of the frat basements and play all night, and there’d be nobody in the room. Everybody was upstairs in their rooms, smoking dope and having sex. I liked it better when everybody danced.”


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