Friday, February 11, 2011

A Brief History of Whitesploitation

The definition of a Whitesploitation film seems to be in the eye of the definer.  If you are writing for the African-American cultural site, The Black Table, Whitesploitation is an example of "urbanizing" white movies: "In Hollywood, black screenwriters are bringing old white scripts out for a ride around the hood. It's a significant role reversal that the big movie houses seem to be perpetuating with great frequency these days. The question is whether it's reparations for everything whites co-opted, from Elvis to Eminem, or just pure uninspired laziness" (Chris Fara1).

The AV Maniacs forum pairs Whitesploitation with Hicksploitation. This is the slice of cinematic genius where Burt Reynolds is the Orson Wells, and  Deliverance is the Citizen Kane. Other "classics" include, Two Thousand Maniacs, Poor White Trash, Shanty Tramp, and Smokey & The Bandit, according to these B-Movie experts. Here's a typical Whitesploitation/Hicksploitation poster...

My searches also led me to Brian C. Baer's blog, where he defines Whitesploitation as a formula based on Death Wish: " a white-collar family man, either inexperienced in combat or very out of practice, becomes fed up with the violence in urban America and decides to fight back. Things get bloody and darkly humorous, seeing as every character in it is a complete and insulting stereotype."

Next to enter the fray is Urban Dictionary:
"An exploitation film or book where white people invade and exploit non-white natives. They may nuke, rape and torture the inhabitants and make them slaves. So the whites can take over the land. Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, Avatar are one of the few examples of Whitesploitation films."
Finally, I found a site called adfreak that calls this Absolute Lemon campaign, Whitesploitation..

I'm not totally satisfied with any of these. I made my first Whitesploitation mixtape back in about 1995. My definition for this imaginary film  and soundtrack genre is like a photo negative of Blaxploitation. Over my blog life I have returned to the topic on a fairly regular basis and this is what I've got so far....

Whitesploitation-The Sound In My Head

At one point I imagined an alternate movie universe in the 1970's where white private dicks were the sex machines with all the chicks. Gritty suburban dramas were created with pulsing scores as smooth dressing detectives (with no ties to The Man), played on both sides of the law, without losing their cool. My imaginary trend was called Whitesploitation and the soundtracks I imagined featured the music of Tom Scott, Brian Auger, and the king of the genre, David Axelrod. Alas, this was just a dream, and all I was left with was a mix tape.

There was another record I heard recently that didn't quite fit the whitesploitation formula, but it did remind me of my dream. Funky beats, swirling strings, and charging horns combined with Brazilian flavors (which makes a lot of sense, since the record is Brazilian). Arthur Verocai's self titled 1972 record could have easily been the soundtrack to a hard-boiled detective thriller set on the streets of Sao Paulo.

I don't really know if this record is representative of this artist or this period in Brazil's music history, but it sounds a little different than what I've heard before. It incorporates some early electronic touches (thinking Stereolab/Shuggie Otis) , a smidgen of jazz funk, and what I can only describe as a lo-fi midnight movie sound. Unfortunately for my wallet, I have a feeling that records like this might be the tip of a Brazilian iceberg that is gonna send me to the poor house…happy.
Go Get Arthur Verocai

Musical Frottage:Bjork and Quincy Jones

Who's to say what films and music are the most influential. Folks would like to believe we get todays artistic awesomeness from folks who were influenced by Citizen Kane and Music from The Big Pink and Kraftwerk and Kurosawa, but its very possible that movies like The Adventurers (1970) were planting the seeds that became our future entertainment world. Movies like this, based on popular books (Harold Robbins in this case), with "major stars" (Ernest Borgnine,Charles Aznavour,Olivia de Havilund, Fernando Rey), a top flight producer, Jospeh E. Levine (The Producers,The Graduate, the Lion In winter), and major studio backing (Paramount)put fannies in the seats.

The movie was a popcorn muncher in its day..and it was released worldwide, generating at least 3 soundtrack albums: the original score (Jobim), a British version, and a "music from" version with Quincy Jones' name attached to it as an arranger. I'm betting, though I have no evidence, that there was a campaign to get folks to theaters and until word of mouth got around, regular moviegoers took in this very poorly reviewed film.

Videohound sez:
"Set In South America, it tells the tale of a rich playboy who uses and destroys everyone around him.His vileness results from having seen his mother murdered by bandits..blood,gore,revolutions, and exploitive sex follow..."

Whoa..that doesn't sound so sounds like the Whitesploitation movie I've always dreamed of making.
Nelle Hooper, who was in on the production of Bjork's first record, might have seen it, but more than likely he picked up the soundtrack cheap and just had to sample those drums from Go Down Dying. In fact, when I heard the soundtrack, I found all kinds of goodies. A great orgasm tune, Coming and Going, and a psyche-funk, blue movie vibe throughout. Polo Pony has appeared on more than one ultra hip 'mood music" comp.

The Ray Brown Orchestra (who knew they'd be so funky) was augmented by Tom Scott, J.J. Johnson, and of course, Q. Forget the film, this non-soundtrack has its fingerprints all over todays jet set.  Who knows what you're gonna get when you rub two things together? Bjork's Human Behavior holds at least one answer.

Go get The Adventurers Soundtrack...
Quincy Jones - Go Down Dying

 Mr.Whitesploitation-David Axelrod

Nowadays the producer often outshines the stars in pop music. Timbaland, Dre, and Neptunes have become huge because of their ability to create the music that moves the masses. But producers have always been around pushing sonic boundaries.One of my all time favorite knob twiddlers did his best work in the 60's as the house producer for Capitol Records. David Axelrod cut records with Lou Rawls, Cannonball Adderly, and just about anybody who walked through the doors of Capitol in the 60's, including The Electric Prunes. The Prunes had scored a gigantic hit with, "I had too much to dream last night," and then imploded,broke up for the most part, but the name remained, and Capitol wanted to use it to milk as much money as possible, before the name cooled. So, Release of an Oath was a called an Electric Prunes record, but really it was a David Axelrod record. No original Electric Prunes appear on the record, and it is basically your typical quasi-religious, psych, guitar driven, Jewish mystical mantra record, with a beat.In fact Axelrod's Beats have been sampled by producers like Dre, RZA, Shadow, aw hell, everybody samples David Axelrod. But Why?Pristinely recorded fat sounding drums (usually Earl Palmer), screeching guitar (Harold Roberts), and booming bass (Carol Kaye) provided by the LA session elite. It was all about the sound and feel, and David Axelrod sessions have those qualities in spades.
Go Get Release Of An Oath

If Barack Is President...
Will the underground film genre I've always dreamt of become a reality? If THE MAN is a black man, can Whitespolitation be far behind. I have posted on this topic before, but it was really only in the abstract. Recent events,though, have inspired, yet another mixtape. A compilation of classic Whitesploitation film music.

1. The Smile - David Axelrod 
2.Sneakin In The Back - Tom Scott
3.Lies - Asha Puthli 
4.Ballett - Karel Krautgartner 
5.Stone Fox Chase - Area Code 615 
6.Mucho Chupar - David Axelrod 
7.Elegy - Colosseum 
8.Algo Mais - Os Mutantes 
9.Ince Ince - Selda of a toy - The Soft Machine 
11.Spoon - Can 
12.Memory Band - Rotary Connection 
13.Night On Bald Mountain - Bob James 
14.Chicano - Dennis Coffey 
15.Dr.Jive (Part2) - Flora Purim 
16.Mathar - Dave Pike Set
17.Turning Point - Lalo Schifrin 
18.Love Love's To Love - Lulu 
19.Marai's Wedding - Brian Auger's Oblivion Express 
20.Red Clay - Jack Wilkins 
21.Sylvia - Arthur Verocai 
22.Light My Fire - Julie London

I hope I've presented my case and I can finally fulfill my dream of naming a genre.  I'm ready for my peer review..have at me.


Chris Heilman said...

Flipping amazing. Dude, when do you have time to do the research or are these things floating around your head all of the time.

Cody B said...

Just google and an overactive imagination...thanks brother Chris. hope to be coming down to Philly next month to see Ivy and Mark..I'll let you know. Oh..and the time comes from being unemployed, though I'd probably make the time if I had a job.

Chris Heilman said...

I'd love to see you guys. Maybe I'll bug Bill to give me specifics.
Seriously, awesome post.