The Godfather of Soul had somethin’ that made him wanna shout, he announced. He had somethin’ that told him what it was all about. “I got soul,” he announced with his trademark braggadocio, “and I’m super bad.” Who were we to argue with James Brown?
So it was that the Billboard Hot 100 for October 3, 1970 played host to a new entry by the hardest-working man in show business. Incredibly, it was already his 61st entry onto that chart. “Super Bad (Part 1 & Part 2),” written and produced as ever by Mr. Brown himself, had been recorded at the end of June in Nashville and was a prime example of the “new, new super heavy funk” of which he was the self-ordained minister.
The track had something to live up to, as the follow-up to one of the Godfather’s cast-iron greats, “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine (Part 1).” But “Super Bad” was well up to the task. Whereas most Brown singles featured Part 1 on the A-side and Part 2 on the flip, this time the nine-minute groove was divided differently, with two parts on the top side and a Part 3 on the reverse.
The first pressings of the King single had the song named as “Call Me Super Bad,” before it adopted its more familiar title. Bass-playing prodigy William “Bootsy” Collins was among the star band, with the star’s right-hand-man Bobby Byrd on organ, and John “Jabo” Sparks on drums.
“Super Bad” climbed to No.13 on the Hot 100 and, entering the R&B chart a week after its pop debut, rose to the very top, spending two weeks at the soul summit in November. When Mr. Brown played the stately surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall in London the following March, emerging for the second half in a grey and black catsuit, the song was part of a typically high-energy set by Soul Brother No.1.
Buy or stream “Super Bad” on the album of the same name.