Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Craziest Show

I'm not sure how many heads are really familiar with UTFO, beyond "Roxanne, Roxanne," these days. But certainly to anyone who was, it's pretty well known that Doctor Ice wound up leaving the group to pursue his solo career, and in 1991, for their final album, the famous four-man crew became three. But it's been well less publicized that, in 1986 for the period of their second album, the four man crew was also reduced to three when EMD, The Educated Rapper rather mysteriously went AWOL. He returned four their third album, Lethal. But for their one EP, Skeezer Pleezer, they were briefly one man short, consisting only of two MCs: Kangol Kid and Doc Ice, and their DJ Mixmaster Ice. But they still managed to produce one hit single, "Split Personality."

"Split Personality," like the rest of Skeezer Pleezer, was produced by their parent group, Full Force; and it's already a damn fun song. Kangol tells light-hearted anecdotes of being afflicted with not only split, but constantly reverting, personalities:

"Help an old lady across the street...
Then trip the crab by sticking out my feet!
But then I'd pick her up before she dirties her dress...

And charge her five dollars for all that mess!"

And Doc Ice in particular uses it as a platform to segue from one silly impression to another. He becomes Miguel, the Chief Rocker MC or his larger than life ragamuffin personality Dread Doc, which he actually maintained throughout the rest of his career.  He not only rocks crazy foreign accents, from Chinese to... Eddie Murphy, but even raps in foreign languages.

But the zany heights soar even higher on this 12" single, where it's been remixed by Howie Tee. It's about a minute longer, and most notably features the infamous organ refrain from Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," known throughout the world for being the theme of The Phantom of the Opera. Again, this dropped in 1986, and evidenced by the big programmed beats and crazy voices and free-for-all nature of the songwriting, this is clearly their entry in a long line of "The Show" knock-offs.  But the fact that they tie everything together with the concept of multiple personalities - there is a coherence to what the MCs are rapping, if not a lot of actual sense - plus some of the darker themes, lyrically and instrumentally with the Phantom theme, give this almost as much in common with songs like "Haunted House of Rock" and "Amityville (House On the Hill)." This makes it just as much of a Halloween party record as another record in "The Show" mini-genre.

So either version of the song is a good time, and most of the elements of the song are featured in both versions. But the 12" version just goes that extra but further, making it easily the definitive version.  I can still clearly remember back in the 80's when I bought Skeezer Pleezer, and being disappointed that the Phantom theme never played, "this isn't the right version!"

There's only the remix on 12". The B-side is the The Remix Dub. Fans should also know that Doctor Ice also wrote a bit of a sequel to "Split Personality," somewhat darker (but not without its own sense of silliness) for his second solo album in 1994. It's called "Possessed," and while it doesn't fully recapture the magic of this near classic, it's pretty enjoyable in its own right - especially if you're familiar enough with the history to appreciate it. But of course, nothing beats the original.

No comments:

Post a Comment