Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks were the unofficial successors to Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band. They were smart, weird, catchy, fun, and highly musical. And they sounded entirely unlike the Kweskin band, or anyone else for that matter. In an era dominated by snot-encrusted, bellybutton-gazing, semi-literate, mirror-fixated, testosterone-deprived, over-medicated, self-appointed prophets of a particularly lifeless strain of homogenized, lyrically depraved, self-indulgent faux-poetic songcraft (John Denver, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, and that ilk), Dan Hicks stood out from the crowd. And remember, we are not even mentioning the ocean of mediocrity that was 70s rock (a few exceptions notwithstanding). If the ’70s singer-songwriter scene had a single saving grace, musically, it was Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks (Tom Waits running a close second).
Hicks was supported in his eccentric folk-jazz efforts by a stellar group of musicians including John L. Girton (lead guitar), Sid Page (electric violin), and the Lickettes, who offered off-kilter backup vocals and percussive asides. While, with the exception of the fiddler, virtuosity is never a focal point, the group has a fully-developed sound that is totally integrated and unified.
But it was really his songwriting that made the band. His lyrics were some of the sharpest-tongued, dryest-witted, and subtly hilarious bits of irreverence ever committed to rhyme. And he set these lyric gems to quirky, quiet, quagmiric tunes that traded on a bagful of jazz chords and an irresistibly propulsive rhythm. This music gets under your skin, and the lyrics are set loose upon your unsuspecting brain. It’s one hell of a good time. In his delightfully demented music, Glenn Miller-style vocal harmonies mesh with cowboy songs, Hot Club swing meets the laid-back groove of an opium-drenched Hawaiian harem. Add a cast of bizarre characters to populate his narrative songs, a East-European classical bolero flair, and ironic choreographed dance steps, and you have the makings of a beloved freak show, fully deserving of the cult following they garnered. And, of course, like Kweskin, Hicks broke up the band at the height of its popularity because he “just got tired of being a bandleader.”
There was no one who sounded at all like Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, and remarkably, 35 years later, there still isn’t. We are again in an age of introspective sensitive singer-songwriters. Our current age prides itself on its eclecticity, with the new wave of freak-folk becoming dubiously popular. But the king of hipster-sheik will always be Dan Hicks (though Tom Waits, Leon Redbone, and Captain Beefheart hold their own beside him).
Luckily for us, he has emerged from the cloudy waters of obscurity, re-assembled the Hot Licks, and is recording and touring again. Show us the way, Dan.
Recorded live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, “Where’s The Money?” was originally released on Blue Thumb Records. It is now available on CD from MCA Records. The innovative LP cover has a fold-over flap at the top, and the album cover opens to reveal the song lyrics.
“Where’s The Money?” introduced us to the best-known Hot Licks lineup, including Lickettes Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg. The album also features some classic Dan stage-patter (“You probably think it’s easy being up here. Singing and everything, and playing. It’s not. It’s not easy. Thank you.”).
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks – Where’s The Money?
Label: Blue Thumb (reissue by MCA)
where is it?
mp3 160kbps | w/ cover | 45mb
& here’s a radio ad for Where’s the Money, as performed by Hicks&Co
This studio album was originally released on Blue Thumb Records, and is now available on CD from MCA Records. The original LP cover is designed to resemble a matchbook, and indeed, “Striking It Rich” matchbooks were distributed by Blue Thumb as promotional goodies. The album sleeve showcases Dan’s talents in prose and graphic art, including an entry coupon for the “Dan Hix Lookalike Contest”.
One of Dan’s most-covered tunes, “Walkin’ One And Only”, appears on this album. The most familiar versions of “I Scare Myself” and “Canned Music”, arguably Dan’s best-known songs, are also here.
Maryann and Naomi each take a solo turn, with (respectively) “I’m An Old Cowhand” and “Presently In The Past”. John Girton wrote the instrumentals “Flight Of The Fly”, “Philly Rag”, and “Fujiyama”. Jaime Leopold’s “Skippy’s Farewell” features a memorable “Meet The Band” rap.
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks – Striking it Rich
Label: Blue Thumb (reissued by MCA)
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 58mb
this zip has two versions of track 1: one cd rip with a minute missing from it, and one vinyl rip of the whole song. sorry. if you want the whole album in a better bitrate (but vinyl), get it at Pecks Spet Rips or buy the damn thing.
oh, and if you like him, you’d better go check out his incredibly hip website and get some of his new albums. I posted these because I have a funny feeling MCA isn’t giving him squat for royalties, and the exposure should serve him well. But really, his new recordings are just as good, and his singing is better.