Ann Peebles – Breaking Up Somebody’s Home / Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness (1972) *
70s Soul. Queen of. Ann Peebles should really be as popular as Al Green; in the early seventies both singers were signed to Hi Records where both benefitted from the gorgeously gritty grooves of the genius Willie Mitchell, his crack house band and the Memphis Horns, but choice of material was probably the reason Peebles was a less commercial proposition than Green. The sound is exactly the same, but the songs are often darker; in Peebles’s Memphis pretty much all the men are bastards, everyone seems to be cheating on everyone and it’s always raining.
The a-side of this particular single is just 2½ minutes, but it manages to perfectly distil the moment where late (rainy) night loneliness tips over into bitterness and desperation. And what a title too; I’ve never quite decided whether she wants to just drive round to her beau’s house and do something to split him and his wife up, or if she’s actually thinking about smashing shit up. Peebles does the other woman and woman-done-wrong-and-fighting-back better than pretty much anyone. ‘I Will Survive’? pffft, Ann’s gonna break things and tear your playhouse down.
I originally came to this one via a mixtape from a friend, where the track was obviously recorded from the radio, a clipped syllable from a DJ’s voice coming in at the end over the fade-out. Even better, the voice was clearly John Peel’s! You can’t help wondering what he was playing either side of this, Napalm Death? The latest Fall record of the time? Anyway, this became my favourite track on the tape (I can’t remember anything else that was on it now), its brevity demanding continual rewinding.
For some reason I didn’t initially investigate any further into her catalogue, but then one Friday at work I was talking to another friend who loved Ann Peebles. The next day, on my way into town to the shops, I decided I simply had to buy a Peebles record. My first stop was Reckless in Berwick St, which still had a basement where a box of soul singles sat on the counter. Having inherited not only my dad’s hoarding tendencies, but his acute sense of relative value, I’ve never bought many 7″s (or “45s” as we must trendily refer to them now) and 9/10 times I deliberately avoid looking beyond the LP and 12″ sections in any shop. I was on a mission this time though and miraculously, as I began to flick, there it was, second record in the box, as if I’d just willed it there. I excitedly parted with my £3 and while I have no memory of what if anything else I bought that day, I remember it was definitely raining. Getting the record home, I had a bonus discovery with the equally brilliant b-side, part of whose intro is the backbone to a GZA track I was a bit obsessed with at the time (a huge proportion of early RZA production relies on the Hi back catalogue). In contrast to the a-side, the song is much more positive than its title indicates: she’s bidding goodbye to her troubles and sadness, or rather, as is more customary for Peebles, telling them to piss off.
I now have all this stuff in digital form, having bought an ex-girlfriend the Complete Hi Recordings CD set and copied it, but if you see the Straight From The Heart LP going cheap, please pick it up for me.
* I’m abandoning the countdown numbers, I don’t need the trouble, sadness and heartaches they’ll surely bring.