It’s the summer of 1964. America is knee-deep in The Beatles, of course, not to mention Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Dave Clark 5, the Animals, and the rest of the cavalry mounting the British invasion.
But there are plenty of great American things breaking on the August 15 chart: the Beach Boys are reaching their full potency; the Drifters are “Under The Boardwalk” in the Top 10 and Dionne Warwick is new in the Hot 100 with “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart).”
Joining Dionne among the new entries is the Hardest Working Man In Show Business. “You got your high heel sneakers on…” he sings, to the backdrop of some slinky horns. James Brown is on his way to some pop crossover, and he’s “Out Of Sight.”
By this time, Mr. Brown had been having R&B chart success for eight years. He scored his first soul hit with “Please Please Please” in 1956 and his first No.1 two years later with “Try Me,” one of ten Top 10 soul entries to this point in 1964.
A soulful stepping stone
Pop crossover appeal was proving harder to establish, with only one Top 20 showing thus far, for 1963’s “Prisoner Of Love.” The next wouldn’t arrive until “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag“ broke him into the Top 10 in 1965. But en route, “Out Of Sight” was a huge stepping stone.
Credited to James Brown & His Orchestra and debuting at No.73, the track would rise as high as No.24 by the end of September, and hit No.5 R&B. It came to represent one of the Godfather’s signature pieces before he practically invented the heavy funk sound from the second half of the 1960s onwards. It also features on the 1964 album of the same name.
“You can hear the band and me start to move in a whole other direction rhythmically,” Brown said of ‘Out Of Sight’ in his 2002 autobiography The Godfather Of Soul. “The horns, the guitars, the vocals, everything was starting to be used to establish all kinds of rhythms at once.”
Reaching across the Atlantic
His UK chart debut didn’t happen until “Brand New Bag,” either, but Brown’s larger-than-life persona had certainly attracted attention across the Atlantic, and not just from his early advocates, the Rolling Stones. Record Mirror’s Guy Stevens had written the previous December: “James Brown is almost as unbelievable off-stage as he is on.
“Apart from the three Famous Flames vocal group, the comics, dancers, singers, and musicians in his show, he also employs his own hairdresser, tailor, bus driver, personal driver, road manager, publicity man, personal secretary, and bodyguard.
“He recently bought a £14,000 bus to transport his complete entourage from show to show. In addition, in any 30 day period, he wears over 120 shirts, performs over 4,800 minutes on stage, sings and plays over 960 songs; and plays more shows and dances than any other singer or musician active in American show business!”
Buy or stream “Out Of Sight” on the James Brown album of the same name.