Why did I buy this record? Man, where to begin? It is not funk. It is not soul. It is not psychedelic rock. Yes, it is. As a kid, did you ever toss a bunch of stuff in the blender, ingredients that on paper do not seem a good fit for each other, turn on the high button, pour out a concoction of interesting hue, and find that it tastes really damn good?
My blender concoctions from Hell were indeed Hellish. “Funk Monkey Right On” is the opposite. The song is a 3-minute mash-up-mishmosh of musical stylings, and it works to a tee. The song starts with a hi-hat tapping that makes you think for a moment, “oh, another one of THESE songs”. And then Liggins’ re-verbed shouting comes in, “hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey”. I hope your safe person is with you, the trip is starting.
There are two guitars, and sometimes it sounds like they are playing on a different planet. The riffs are psyched-up and far-out. The lead guitarist is playing something that could have been played on a fiddle, and every so often it comes out to the front of the mix, like a skeeter flying close to your ear. Other times he’s just going off on some tangent that is… wherever it is going is a good place. The rhythm guitar is basically the same 8-bar chord progression over and over again, played with slight mellow distortion. For some reason this part is further up into the mix. During the break, they switch over to pulsing, strobing notes that put any drum machine to shame.
The rhythm section plays it tight and simple. Their purpose is to tether the song to reality so the guitarists can go hog wild. To top it all off, Curtis Liggins provides strong vocals, equal parts Ronald Isley, Jackie Wilson, and James Brown. If you were seeking mind-expanding lyrics on this soulful trip, move along. You will not find them here. “Funky Monkey Right On” needs not such depth. This is a three-minute dance freak-out.
This 45 is of a type I call a “one-off”. A band works out a good song that goes over at shows. They scrape together enough money to get into a studio, lay the track down, and then hastily assemble a throwaway B-side. Pressing runs were extremely limited, typically between 200-500 records. Records were given away to club owners, DJs, and fans to promote the band; occasionally they would drop a few copies at local record stores.
Local promotion was the main intent of these one-offs. The big dream for most bands like The Curtis Liggins Indications was to see the song gain regional traction and get picked up for national distribution by a larger label. That did not happen to “Funky Monkey Right On”, and The Curtis Liggins Indications remained a popular local club act in Kansas City and surrounding states until Liggins was killed in an automobile accident in 1972.
“Funky Monkey Right On” is one Helluva song to leave behind as a legacy.