Music Throwback Saturday: Cool Jerk

“Look at them guys looking at me like I’m a fool
Ah but deep down inside they know I’m cool… “

Cool JerkFor whatever reason, I just never much a singles (45) buyer when I was growing up. I preferred albums, LPs, some of which I have to this day. The infrequent 45 purchase was of songs by groups I didn’t know, when the song was SO infectious, I just HAD to have it.

Such was the case with the song Cool Jerk by the Capitols, a group out of Detroit. One thing I did not know: “The backing track for this song was actually recorded (secretly) by the Motown house band The Funk Brothers.”

It was released on tiny Karen Records and was likely distributed by Atco (Atlantic Records) because it was the group’s only Top 20 record. “Released in 1966, it reached No. 2 on the American R&B chart, No. 7 on the pop chart, and No. 9 on the Canadian Singles Chart.”

But what did it MEAN? “Per one of the Funk Brothers, the song was originally to be called ‘Pimp Jerk.’ This was taken from watching neighborhood pimps, who would dance in the clubs, but were too ‘cool’ to do the jerk [a popular dance] like regular folks… The producer was afraid that a song with the word pimp in the title would be banned or not receive much positive attention, and had the title changed…”

There’s some disagreement about the lyrics, but one source says:

“When they see me walkin’ down the street
all the fellas they want to speak
on their faces they wear a silly smirk
‘cause they know I’m the king of the cool jerk”

“Look at them guys looking at me like I’m a fool
Ah but deep down inside they know I’m cool… “

The song was written by the trio’s guitarist Donald Storball, and was later covered by several artists. Unfortunately, lead singer Samuel George was stabbed to death in 1982 at the age of 39.

I have this CD collection of soul oldies that is quite disappointing, actually. It’s the original artists, but it’s mostly rerecordings. Cool Jerk, though, is the original track.

Listen to Cool Jerk:

The Capitols; The Capitols; The Capitols

The Go-Go’s, whose version hit #60 on the UK charts

Todd Rundgren, in 7/8 time, of course

Human Sexual Response

The La De Da’s

The Creation

The Tremeloes

The Coasters, with a Latin flavor

Bootsy Collins and the Funk Brothers, from the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown

A version of the song with different lyrics (“Do the Cool Whip”) used in Cool Whip commercials, c. 1999

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