I was thinking about the Pointer Sisters today—The 1973 Pointer Sisters—and how their first album was one that rarely left my turntable that year. I was a child and mercifully I’ve held on to most of my records from then; curiously, this one’s in pretty good condition—too good—I’d say, to have belonged to a kid, which leads me to believe it’s not my original. You see, back then, I was in the habit of marking all my LP records with a DYMO tape sticker that said DENISE. Just like that, all caps, white letters on orange or green, sometimes red or blue though rarely yellow. But because the DYMO tape or any evidence of having been stuck by DYMO tape is missing (I like typing DYMO), I’m thinking the copy I’m holding of the Pointer Sisters’ self titled album on the Blue Thumb label was at some point reacquisitioned, between now and 1973.
It’s uncharacteristic of me not to know exactly when I came by a record, because that’s just how it is (people who collect records or collect anything know what I’m talking about). Obtaining the object is tied to the memory, which unless there is a record involved I find is selective and obscured by all kinds of clouds and things. Records are like the proverbial madeleine that takes me back to the land that time (and sometimes I) forgot; songs come and go, but the record is what helps me remember.
Opening the gatefold sleeve today, I recalled a few things, like how as a girl, I preferred the portraits on the outer sleeve to the stylized inner sleeve which I bitterly critiqued as being “staged.” As far as I was concerned, the outer sleeve was real, or so I thought in my kid head. I didn’t know that photos were done at a photo shoot, set up by a photographer (who looks to be called H.B. Greene according to the sleeve notes) who has something called an assistant. What kind of kid would know that in the early ’70s? Certainly not my kind. I just knew I preferred the sepia-toned “authentic” 1940s styling on the outer sleeve to the glossy, dolled up, what I know now to be the deco design on the inside. In my mind, the Pointers were regular people, not Hollywood people; they were local, from Oakland. This is how it should remain, I reasoned. I figured they lived in a Victorian-styled house and that the front cover was a picture of them in their living room, dressed like they would every old day. This is how deep I would go into these things; maybe all kids do, but I don’t know—I never talked to a single other kid about The Pointer Sisters first album so I couldn’t say, all I know is I thought the inner sleeve was show biz and faked. Flash to the present: Oh, what I would give for a dress just like the one June is wearing in the photo layout—it’s perfect in every way. Anyone who remembers these things properly will tell you that June, the youngest Pointer, had the style thing completely locked-up. It’s a wonder I didn’t take to wearing a turban like she did, though I guess I intuited it might not go over so well in the elementary school classroom.
As for the music, what can I tell you that you don’t know? Nuthin’, since 40 years later, everyone knows everything about everything and all I’ve got is a half-eaten madeleine from the early ’70s and my memories, though this I’d like to say: The first time I heard the Willie Dixon song, “Wang Dang Doodle,” it was not performed by Etta James. It was right there in my bedroom with the yellow floral wallpaper, when I got to the end of side two of The Pointer Sisters. For sure, that was also the first time I ever saw the name A. Toussaint on a writing credit. Allen Toussaint, is, as of course we all already know, a legend of New Orleans piano style and the songwriting giant who wrote the album’s opener, “Yes We Can Can.” Why do I waste my breath? You knew that. Heck, even I knew as a small fry that Lee Dorsey was known for doing the song first; he’d been around the prior decade with “Ya Ya.” I knew that one by heart for reasons that I can’t possibly relay right now without getting way off course, which is something I like to do but not now. Put it this way: “It may sound funny but I don’t believe she’s coming home” rung some bells for me. Back to the Pointers, I remember I liked the smooth vocals in “Jada”, one of the songs the sisters themselves are partially credited with writing. But really, what I was most concerned with in 1973 was getting hold of some old plastic fruit, likely cherries from the bowl at my great-grandmother’s house, so I could fashion a bunch into a pin that I could wear on the lapel of my Eisenhower jacket from Lerner’s, to be worn with some wide-bell high waisted pants and platform sandals—Pointer Sisters style—for real.
In closing, I was going to say I don’t remember what we did without You Tube but that would be a big fat lie. I remember perfectly well what we did and that is, we’d watch really bad video tapes that were hard to store and even harder to find on the shelf that was usually caked with dust, then after you got the tape in the VCR you had to fast forward and rewind it so many times, just so maybe you could find the segment of Soul Train you were starting to regret ever taping in the first place, since if you hadn’t a taped it, you wouldn’t be messing around with the stupid remote that never worked because the battery was like 10 years old. What was I thinking recalling this foolishness, wasting my own time and now yours? What I mean to say is, just try to imagine how I felt when I found this clip of “Yes We Can Can” today, because I couldn’t possibly describe the feeling—not in 250 words or less or without going way off course, I couldn’t—though I would like to add: If there is one song to have had burned into your consciousness, to have been etched onto your soul then sent on your way with, this one isn’t so bad. Bless you, Mr. Allen Toussaint and Ms. Pointers, Anita, Ruth, Bonnie, and June. Thank you for the record—and for my memory. Great gosh all mighty.