Sample This!

Tonight I finally watched the 2012 documentary Sample This, which delves into the story of the making, and the impact of the 1972 track “Apache” by the Incredible Bongo Band (more accurately “Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band).

A cover itself of a 1960 record by Burt Weedon (almost simultaneously covered by pre-Beatles British rock stars The Shadows), Apache went on to deeply infiltrate the DNA of hip-hop, first in its own recorded version spun by pioneering DJs such as DJ Herc and Grandmaster Caz, then later cut up with and without samplers. Listen starting about 30 seconds in to Grandmaster Flash’s “Adventures…on the Wheels of Steel” for the former, and see for the 730! credits of the latter.

Loved this!

I have long been aware of the impact on modern culture of the Incredible Bongo Band’s 1973 cover of “Apache.” I have the 45 single in a display with some other influential 45s framed on my wall. I’ve followed its use by early hip-hop DJs and then into the age of samplers. It’s one of the top three sampled (or interpolated) records of all time.

A framed display of three most-sampled 45 rmp records: Amen, Brother (The Winstons), Apache, and Funky Drummer (James Brown) on my wall.
Amen, Brother (The Winstons), Apache, and Funky Drummer (James Brown) in a display on my wall.

What I didn’t know was who was behind its making, and who were the “members” of the IBB. (Members in quotes because it was never an actual band, but an assemblage of top LA session musicians.) They included Jim Gordon (Derek and the Dominos, “Pet Sounds,” “Classical Gas,” Traffic, Harry Nilsson, and many more), King Errisson (James Bond’s “Thunderball”, etc), Dean Parks (Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, etc), Joe Sample (Jazz Crusaders, etc), Bobbye Hall (Motown, Quincy Jones, Pink Floyd, Stevie Nicks, etc) and others.

This documentary did a great job of filling in their (sometimes tragic) stories, and some of the crazy connections between people. I also learned what befell Jim Gordon in a tragic epilogue to his career.In addition to the studio musicians and hip-hop pioneers, we hear from NFL star and RFK confidante Rosey Grier, and see the connections to people like Charles Manson, movies like The Thing with Two Heads, and James Bond’s Thunderball. And then of course we hear of the impact on hip-hop.

Definitely worth a watch.