Jheri Curl June: Tom Browne’s “Funkin’ for Jamaica”

Surprise! I know it’s been a minute since we did… anything for Dystopian Dance Party, but the weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and the sounds of funky synthesizers are echoing in the distance; so we couldn’t resist coming back for another Jheri Curl June.

For the uninitiated, Jheri Curl June is our annual celebration of a particular strain of wet, silky ’80s R&B that defies all non-hairstyle-related description (and no, we haven’t heard of post-disco… or boogie… or electro-funk… or…). We’ve explained the term several times in the last nine years: in our original 2014 introduction post, a 2016 video, and a 2018 podcast. We know it’s never going to catch on, but damn it, we’re in too deep to stop now.

Having been at this for almost a decade, as you might imagine, we’ve begun to expand the boundaries of the pseudo-genre we coined, touching on City Pop and even reggae. This year, I think it’s finally time to unleash a new mutation that’s been sitting in my “JCJ ideas” playlist for years: I’m talking, of course, about Jheri Jazz.

Tom Browne released “Funkin’ for Jamaica (N.Y.)” in July 1980 as the lead single from his second solo album, Love Approach; the song’s irresistible jazz-funk fusion hit Number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart in October, where it remained for three weeks. This puts it more solidly in what we might call the “proto-J.C.M.” category, which is probably why we didn’t feature it until now; for one thing, the lead instrument is Browne’s trumpet, and as we all know, Jheri Curl Music traditionally lacks non-synthetic horns.

And yet, listening to the airtight groove of “Funkin’” today, it fits right in with our usual fare: particularly the razor-sharp muted rhythm guitar by Bobby Broom and that nasty bassline by a 20-year-old Marcus Miller. And did you catch that Flex-a-Tone straight out of 2017 JCJ honoree “Cutie Pie” by One Way? I rest my case.

If you want an in-depth look into the story behind the inspiration and recording of “Funkin’,” I highly recommend this excellent article from Wax Poetics. In the meantime, I’ll just say that the music video above is the most concentrated dose of fun I’ve experienced in quite a while; everyone–Browne, Broom, Miller, singer Toni Smith, keyboardist Bernard Wright, and perhaps most of all incessantly mugging drummer Buddy Williams–looks like they’re having the time of their life. Hopefully kicking off the month with this absolute heater will help bring some fun into your life as well.

Check out our growing Spotify and TIDAL playlists below:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.