Wednesday, 2 May 2012

So Long, Skip

I had the pleasure of meeting Skip Pitts over dinner in 2005, backstage at the Barbican. He struck me as a very animated person, with a mischievous sense of humor. I can clearly remember, as I'm sure others of my age can, too, the first time I heard the opening bars of "Theme from Shaft." The combination of the insistent, swishing hi-hat and the electric rattlesnake whip of the wah-wah guitar was both alarming and exciting. I loved that song from the very first time I heard it, and I was not alone - my hopeless 8th grade band class at Lester Jr. High in Binghampton used to love murdering it (as opposed to the rest of our limited repertoire, which we merely battered), and it was a real point of honor among the percussion section to be the guy playing the hi-hat figure. Never mind that the school's dilapidated instrument store contained no hi-hats - the resourceful kids of Binghampton would replicate the sound by placing a small crash cymbal on the floor, alternately muting and un-muting it with their feet. Surely Skip's opening wah-wah figure here is one of the most instantly-recognizable "sound logos" of the modern age, all over the planet. Rest easy, big man.

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