Monday, July 02, 2007

“Wrap It Up” / The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Like most of America, I’d never heard of the Fabulous Thunderbirds before their 1986 album Tuff Enuff; like most of America, I stopped paying attention to them afterwards. But this one album – man, did it rock.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that this was the one Dave Edmunds produced, keeping that Texas roadhouse-rockabilly sound true to its roots. Jimmie Vaughan was still on guitar, Kim Wilson belting out those powerful vocals, and the material was sublimely congenial – like this lovable soul standard written by Isaac Hayes. It’s been performed variously by Sam & Dave and Archie Bell & the Drells and even the Eurhythmics (!), but I don’t think anybody else ever got it to sound this joyous and boozy and just plain happy.

The guitar hook that kicks in right from the start is key. Listen to how the notes twang and circle around, just like fingers deftly tying a bow around the song. There’s a nice little solo partway through, too; Jimmie Vaughan may not be as great a guitarist as his brother Stevie Ray was, but then few people ever were – Jimmie’s still no slouch. The drums are way forward in the mix, keeping the dance beat emphatically in its groove, irresistible and yet somehow relaxed – relaxed enough that you could hang onto your Corona and lime and take a few swigs while dancing.

Yes, it’s true, the lyrics are somewhere this side of sophisticated – “I've been watchin' you for days now baby. / I just love your sexy ways now baby. / Ya know our love will never stop now baby. / Just put your lovin' in my box now baby.” In my what? And that’s not even the most suggestive line in the song – that honor goes to “I’m gonna treat you like the queen you are / Bring you sweet things from my candy jar,” with that coarse shiver in Kim Wilson’s voice just boldfacing those classic double entendres. The chorus doesn’t go much beyond, “Wrap it up / I’ll take it,” repeated four or five times, but with that guitar thrilling in the background, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t think about this song much in the winter, but in the summer, it’s inevitably on my playlist. Maybe that’s because it was the summer of ’87 when we played this thing nonstop -- there were some nights with our fussy newborn baby when the only way to stay sane was to play the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and play them LOUD. (My other favorite track for this same reason: “Why Get Up.”) It’s your quintessential feel-good party song, the absolute definition of “upbeat.” That's what made the Thunderbirds Fabulous.

Wrap It Up sample


G12 said...

Jimmie is opening for Dylan these days, and plays some nice stuff. Poor guy will never emaulate his brother though I guess - a dead guitar hero, how do you compete with THAT?

George said...

Love the group and have for years. Jimmie is opening for Dylan tomorrow at the Montreal Jazz Festival (jazz, blues, worldbeat is closer to the truth) ... 500 concerts in 11 days, 350 of them free.