Friday, October 31, 2014

W.O.C.K On Vinyl - Carl Douglas: Kung Fu Fighter (1974)

Before things get too serious here at Rock On Vinyl, I thought it might be fun to post a song / album at the end of each month, that could be categorized as being either Weird, Obscure, Crazy or just plain Korny.
Carl Douglas' 1974 song "Kung Fu Fighting" was such an unlikely smash hit that the T.V show Soundcheck features it in the intro theme for our occasional series That Was A Hit?!? But the song itself has gone unexplored. Until now.
Back in the early 70's there was a T.V series called Kung Fu that caught the attention of Australian audiences hungry for anything related to Martial Arts after the success of the Bruce Lee movies.
Kung Fu was an American action-adventure western drama television series starring David Carradine. The series aired on ABC from October 1972, to April 1975 for a total of 63 episodes. Kung Fu was preceded by a full-length feature television pilot, an ABC Movie of the Week, which was broadcast on February 22, 1972. 
The series became one of the most popular television programs of the early 1970s, receiving widespread critical acclaim and commercial success upon its release.  
I can a test to this, as I would watch the show religiously each week and found the story lines to be sufficiently entertaining in between the Kung Fu fights and flashbacks to when Caine was just a 'grasshopper'.
The series followed the adventures of Kwai Chang Caine (portrayed by David Carradine as an adult, Keith Carradine as a teenager, and Radames Pera as a young boy), a Shaolin monk who travels through the American Old West armed only with his spiritual training and his skill in martial arts, as he seeks Danny Caine, his half-brother.
Keye Luke (as the blind Master Po) and Philip Ahn (as Master Kan) were also members of the regular cast. David Chow, who was also a guest star in the series, acted as the technical and kung fu advisor, a role later undertaken by Kam Yuen.
Flashbacks were often used to recall specific lessons from Caine's childhood training in the monastery from his teachers, the blind Master Po (Keye Luke) and Master Kan (Philip Ahn). Part of the appeal of the series was undoubtedly the emphasis laid, via the flashbacks, on the mental and spiritual power that Caine had gained from his rigorous training. In these flashbacks, Master Po calls his young student "Grasshopper" in reference to a scene in the pilot episode:

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not? 

Caine's Challenge - Lift the red hot caldron with his bare hands
And so, on the popularity of anything related to martial arts, the Jamaican-born artist Douglas and his Indian producer Biddu wrote the song "Kung Fu Fighting" after walking past a group of kids shadow-boxing to the music coming out of a pinball machine. Douglas remarked, "It looks like everyone is kung fu fighting," and he immediately heard the whole song in his head, and had to write it down.
The song was actually recorded as a throwaway B-side in ten minutes, but became a number one hit in more than a dozen countries, and made Douglas the first Jamaican to top the American charts. "Kung Fu Fighting" has sold more than 11 million copies. 
Despite attempts to capitalize on the song's success (ie. his 1975 follow up "Dance The Kung Fu") Douglas remains a one-hit wonder. The song's place in the cultural consciousness seems secure, however; witness the recent remake of the tune by Cee-lo Green and Jack Black for the Kung Fu Panda film franchise. 
So this Month's W.O.C.K on Vinyl post certainly has the Korny factor and of course the Kung Fu element as well, and it's just a little bit frightning too.....
The usual of course - MP3 (320kps) with full album artwork plus a bonus non-album B-Side single.
Track Listing
01 - Kung Fu Fighting
02 - Witchfinder General
03 - When You Got Love
04 - Changing Times
05 - I Want To Give You My Everything
06 - Dance The Kung Fu
07 - Never Had This Dream Before
08 - I Don't Care What People Say
09 - Blue Eyed Soul (Instrumental)
10 - Gamblin' Man ( Bonus B-Side Single)

Kung Fu Link (78Mb)