I got my first Bob & Gene record about ten years ago. A disarmingly lo-fi, minimally backed rendition of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "If This World Were Mine" on the MO DO label, it sounded less like an actual produced record than a rehearsal someone fortuitously taped. You didn't hear the record so much as felt like you walked into a room and overheard it, such was its intimacy.
My friend Dave Griffiths gave me that 45 (a throw-in in some record transaction we'd consummated). At that time Dave had began documenting soul recordings from upstate New York, and was already knee-deep in the Buffalo, NY soul duo's history. In '06 via his Daptone imprint Eversoul, he put together a collection of Bob & Gene's '60s recordings, appropriately enough entitled If This World Were Mine , which included a bunch of previously unreleased material. Much of it maintained the same uniquely sparse, dream-like quality as the title track.
The above "new" (as in previously unreleased) Bob & Gene single - which dropped a few weeks ago and has quickly become a favorite amongst the soul 45 cognoscenti - isn't like any of that other stuff. From its beefier "What's Going On"-esque groove to its more cynical lyric, "It's Not What You Know (It's Who You Know)" is clearly of a time, place and mindset distinct from If This World Were Mine 's romance and musical fragility. I could speculate as to why this is, but asking Griffiths - who A&R-ed the release - seems like a much better idea. Here's what he had to say:
"'It's Not What You Know (It's Who You Know)' and 'Lonely Nights' were yet another planned release that, along with Bob & Gene's If This World Were Mine LP, never left tape back in its day. [Daptone's] Gabe Roth and I were surprised when we put this up on the machine on day a few years ago while processing the MO DO reels. It didn't fit with the other Bob & Gene recordings we'd heard. Bobby recalled that he and Gene had made this record during a period of frustration, towards what he referred to as 'the end of the Bob & Gene era,' when the two felt their musical efforts weren't taking them where they'd hoped. Gene said it wasn't a perceived weakness in the quality of their material - both thought they could have had a hit in one of the songs. This seems totally reasonable; these two sides would have made a powerful demo.
"The first time I heard 'Lonely Nights' I mistook it for a cover of a popular song, but both songs are original compositions. Unlike other Bob & Gene records, which always feature live musicians playing together, Bob & Gene were alone in the basement for this one and had to build these tracks up by themselves on the tape machine. They played all the instruments, made all the sounds we hear. There were no drums in the studio at the time. Bobby recalled that they improvised with household items, recording one sound at a time, building up a virtual kit. The resulting instrumentals almost sound like loops. Bob & Gene never became a popular recording act, but this record - perhaps the last one they did together - really shows off how capable the two had become at realizing a song, start to finish, words and music."
You can and should buy this record here .