Album: Greatest Hits
. . .
For Sly & The Family Stone, 1969 was a year where they went from triumph to triumph to triumph.
It started off with “Everyday People” riding high on the charts, on its way to being their first #1 hit single. That was followed by the springtime release of Stand!, their first undisputedly great album. In the summertime, they played fantastic sets at the Harlem Cultural Festival — sadly not properly documented until Questlove’s fantastic Summer of Soul documentary came out last year — and, of course, Woodstock. In between those two performances, they put out “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” which peaked at #2.
And finally, at the end of the year, they put out the double-sided single “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” / “Everybody Is A Star,” which was yet another monster. There was clearly no way that Sly & The Family Stone wasn’t going to continue killing it in 1970, even if the opening verse of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” were pretty fucking dark for a pop single.
Lookin’ at the devil
Grinnin’ at his gun
Fingers start shakin’
I begin to run
Ooh, bullets start chasin’
I begin to stop
We begin to tussle
I was on the top
I mean, going hand-to-hand with the gun-toting devil isn’t usually how major hit singles start, but the music underneath — led by Larry Graham’s innovative bass slap — was so funky and catchy, I’m not sure how many people paid attention to that opening verse, especially when followed by the group text chorus:
Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin
I wanna thank you falettinme be mice elf agin
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” is one of those songs that is all about the repetition — I’m not sure drummer Greg Errico ever switches up the beat, once it’s established — but also rewards close listens with extra goodies. The horn section — Cynthia Robinson on trumpet and Jerry Martini on sax — pop in and out of the song, commenting on the words, as Sly further documents his disintegration.
Stiff all in the collar
Fluffy in the face
Chitchat chatter tryin’
Stuffy in the place
I wanna thank you for the party
I could never stay (I could never stay)
Many thangs is on my mind (Many thangs on my mind)
Words in the way
Hey, hey, hey
In the third verse, the immutable law that all Sly & The Family Stone singles were always about the fact that they were Sly & The Family Stone singles takes hold, as they reference a bunch of previous songs — “Dance To The Music,” “Everyday People,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “You Can Make It If You Try — and turn them into a verse, as if to say, you know what, those days are over, which sets up the final verse.
Flamin’ eyes of people fear
Burnin’ into you
Many men are missin’ much
Hatin’ what they do
Youth and truth are makin’ love
Dig it for a starter
Dyin’ young is hard to take
Sellin’ out is harder
By this time, though, the vocals are buried in the mix, stretched out to the point of think, weary of trying to get their message across, as if they know that you’re just waiting for the chorus anyways. Which they then obliged, as the last minute is Sly & The Family Stone thanking you falettinmme be mice elf agin over and over and over.
These words must have meant something to Sly Stone, as nearly two years later, they will be reprised as the lyrics for the last song on There’s A Riot Goin’ On,, “Thank You For Talkin’ to Me Africa,” which the bass is reduced to a slow pulse beat, and the vocals are even more broken down.
But of course, nobody — including Sly Stone himself — knew that was on the horizon, and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was yet another one of those songs that sound like nothing else on the radio, and (with a little help from its much less weird other side) became Sly & The Family Stone’s second #1 on the Billboard charts. And despite all of my foreshadowing, not ever their last #1.
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” Live on Soul Train
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” Live on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert
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