Get On Down

Felix - Tiger Stripes b/w You Can't Hold Me Down (7")

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We weren’t too familiar with this 1984 Release on Sleeping Bag Records until reading Tim Lawrence’s Book Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992. What we learned, was the “behind the scenes” drama that went on during the recording of this single.

Arthur Russell and DJ Nicky Siano contemplated working together once again after their first collaboration in 1978 lead to a successful 12” single called “Kiss me Again” on Sire under the Moniker Dinosaur where David Byrne even played lead guitar. Their second collaboration “Tiger Stripes” came as the result of Siano convincing the father or a then girlfriend to fund the venture. Arthur wrote the lyrics, and while Siano remembers remembers the Demo tracks being promising, problems began to emerge as Studio time began ticking. Russell became annoyed by Siano’s hyperactive personality in the Studio, while the former Gallery/Studio 54 DJ grew impatient of his collaborator’s constant changes and money spent in studio time. However according Author Tim Lawrence the feud escalated when Arthur wanted to introduce a drum machine after the session drummer could not keep the time. As a result, he ended up scrapping the original tracks which included vocals recorded by Evelyn Thomas. However the nail in the coffin came when Siano assumed the role of lead vocalist at which point Russell quit appalled by how terrible he sounded. Although a perfectionist, Russell also suspected Siano had been using the project as a platform for himself as a vocalist. In any case their project went on with Siano as lead and newly recorded backup vocals by Maxine Bell. Released on Splash Records in 1984, Siano is credited as the artist and sole-producer while Russell only agreed to be credited under the alias Killer Whale.

Not too long after, Sleeping Bag released a 7” promotional copy of “Tiger Stripes” featuring only Bell as the sole vocalist, a different B-Side and Felix as the artist name. Although Russell did not credit himself by his real name, he credited the Killer Whale alias for all the writing and production on the single. There is a 12” on Sleeping bag which credits Siano for production on Tiger Stripes” but it’s clear from the release of the 7” that Russell wanted to make a statement. Beyond this peculiar story however, the music itself is worth the note. In a 2014 piece for The Vinyl Factory, Peter Zummo, one of Arthur Russell’s closest collaborators best describes this release:

Side A: ‘Tiger Stripes’, is a crazy editing job with lots of disparate elements. The opening beats give little sense of what key it will be in.

Side B: ‘You Can’t Hold Me Down’, is drum machine and conga, rhythm guitar, keyboard, female refrain and lead vocal, and male chant on “bad little kitten – pounce on you.” There’s no real bass. I like it not only for the way it sounds but also that it shows that you don’t have to follow the rules.

Tiger Stripes

You Can't Hold Me Down

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