June 9, 2010
The Exciters | “He’s Got the Power”
ART OF SONG
“He’s Got the Power”
He’s Got the Power b/w Drama of Love
United Artists | 1963′
During my last semester at college, I had a radio show on WNYU.org called HIGH-CLASS & BAD-ASS. Mostly a garage rock venture, I explored a lot of older music for it, and it left me with a deep love for Japanese group sounds and early 1960′s girl groups. It’s through the latter avenue that I discovered The Exciters. Based out of Queens, they’re not technically a girl group, since Herb Rooney – lead singer Brenda Reid’s future husband – joined the group. He can be spotted in the Scopitone film for “He’s Got the Power,” the song I’m going to expound on today.
I consider myself (among many other jumbled and sometimes conflicting labels) a feminist. Listening to the lyrics of some of these songs makes me feel a little bit strange inside, but that doesn’t undermine their power. “He’s Got the Power” is a chief example of this.
It starts off grabbing you with a “YEAH YEAH YEAH!” that I’m shocked hasn’t been sampled more often. I can get behind that. Who can’t? But then we get into the questionable territory. “He makes me do things I don’t want to do / He makes me say things I don’t want to say / And even though I want to break away / I can’t stop saying I adore him, can’t stop doing things for him / He’s got the power, the power of love over me.” Okay…that stanza makes me want to call the police.
But I know that’s not the point. What Reid is expressing, in her soulful belting voice, with just a hint of gravel (to show she really means it) is that she is so in love that she WILL do these things, because she cares. Not because she has to, but because she just loves her man so much. This sentiment is not gone from pop music, far from it, although I find it far easier to swallow when it’s penned in 1963 as opposed to yesterday. (You listening to me, Beyonce?)
I went into this wanting to write about the purity and undeniable power that radiates from this track, something you just have to listen to in order to really feel. Even watching the Scopitone (the 16mm jukebox precursor to music videos), you can tell that this band is about the music, not the image. The band looks uncomfortable lip-syncing to the track as they walk through a garden in matching dresses and white gloves. You can tell they would rather be on stage,
belting it out for an audience. And that purity is absent from most music today.
Brenda Reid and the rest of the Exciters had real soul, real power. This can easily be written off as a poppy girl group track that promotes pre-feminist ideals, but if you want a slice of authenticity from the time before music videos and auto-tune, I would recommend giving this a listen. The emotion is real, the sound is real, and Reid’s voice is realer than real. Trust me.
by allison levin