The Beat Book Excerpts
The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington, DC
by Kip Lornell and Charles Stephenson, Jr.
University Press of Mississippi in 2009.
One of the first books on Go-Go, The Beat set the stage for how we understand Go-Go. The Beat was originally published by Billboard Music in 2001.
In some very fundamental respects, a go-go bears striking parallels to an African American Pentecostal church service. Both events, for example tend to be long, extending for hours with no predetermined endpoint. Nor do they hand out nearly printed programs detailing the event when you enter a Holiness church or as they check your ID when you come through the door at Deno's Club in Northeast. A go-go and a sanctified church service also blur the clear demarcations that separate performers from the audience. ...both a go-go and a Pentecostal church service succeed only when the majority of the people in attendance fully participate and become integrated into the event.
The Washington Post, in particular, generally continues to report only negative stories on go-go. The Washington City Paper sometimes covers go-go events, mainly live performances and the occasional compact disc release. The city's other daily, the Washington Times, doesn't even seen seem to now that go-go exists.
The latest information about D.C.'s go-go scene can be found on the internet....most folks turn to Kato's [ Kato Hammond's] "Take Me Out to the GoGo" website. Most go-go fans, have TMOTTGoGo.com bookmarked.
I am a woman who happens to love and appreciate go-go music. I happen to be a woman involved in music. I also happen to be a woman at the go-go. My being a woman should not be an issue in go-go, but it is. Go-go is a man's world, a man's music, according to men. They may not say it, but they think it for sure. I'm here to dispute that, to debate it and to prove that the men are wrong about the women in go-go....
Percussion, not only the conventional drum and traps set but congas and timbales, remains one of go-go's core elements. Here is where the educational system in the District of Columbia helped to further the cause. In the 1960s the rivalry between the city's high schools really heated up, particularly on the athletic field. In the District of Columbia, marching bands are as much a part of the football field as the team itself. A Darryll Brooks observed, "There used to be a lot of competition between uptown bands and Southeast, like Spingarn and Eastern bands. We were very educated, musically." Go-go benefited from this phenomenon because so many of the students were involved with marching bands....
The role of the D.C. public schools did not cease with the involvement of young men (and they were mostly males) with percussion. The junior and senior high school marching bands at Taft, Woodson, Coolidge, Cardozo, Dunbar, McKinley, and others included horn and reed players...and many of the first generation of go-go bands utilized saxophones and trumpet players (part of the soul and funk legacy).
The high school band experience helped the aspiring musicians in a number of ways. First, it taught them how to read standard musical notation. Secondly, they were placed in a context where they made music in large ensembles that required a great deal of cooperation. Finally, it reinforced the (essentially African American) concept that motion and music are highly compatible.
The public schools' musical instruction received strong reinforcement from the D.C. Department of Recreation, which also played a vital role in educating D.C.'s aspiring musicians. The Department of Recreation also provided music lessons, especially for horn players, and assisted in sending a "Showmobile" with musical groups into the city's neighborhoods.