If you weren’t already familiar with Clarence Reid aka BlowFly, then a documentary such as this one, The Weird World of BlowFly, is a step in the right direction. Clarence Reid is a well known songwriter who’s written with (and for) some of funk, soul, and R&B’s biggest acts such as Joe Tex, Betty Wright, and KC & The Sunshine Band. In his near lifelong career, Reid has done it all from influencing the like of Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dead Kennedys, to being credited with writing and recording the first “rap” ever (in 1965!). This film not only chronicles that past but takes us into a personal revival of a counter culture legend.
To know Clarence Reid, you must first know there are 2 versions of him: First is the legendary songwriter. Second, you have the X-rated maestro known as BlowFly, who during the early 70’s started penning the filthiest lyrics he could set to the most famous tunes ever…instant magic. Known mostly for the aforementioned first rap entitled “Dirty Rap”, which chronicles the story of BlowFly the truck driver who drives from coast to coast battling the KKK. On his travels he lived out and wrote such tales as “Porno Freak”, “Suck It”, “Funky Party”, and “Hole Man”. Over the 40 some years he’s regaled people with his dirty-minded funk/soul hybrid BlowFly was able to surpass the disco generation and outlive his former song writing home, Miami’s TK Records. In this particular film, we meet up with Reid after the fires. He’s now a man closing in on 70, lives in a modest home and (with the exception of a few astute lovers of the weird) has all but been forgotten by a generation of hipster dickbags with no respect for the musical past.
Along with his bandmate and manager Tommy Bowker, BlowFly sets out to remind the people who he is, what he started, and where he’s headed. Joined along the way by music legends like Norwood Fisher and a cast of weirdos including “breakcore” artist (whatever the fuck that is…) Otto Von Schirach to resurrect the career of this once-great songwriter. Join BlowFly, his band, his mother, ex-wives, forlorn children, admirers, detractors (apparently Hot Topic kids in Germany are as clueless stupid as those in the States), and director/producer Jonathan Furmanski as they give the world something it so desperately needs-The God lovin’ pervert/walking contradiction known as BlowFly.
In our little corner of the world we’re all familiar with Rudy Ray Moore, known to many as Dolemite. He was a fixture in the blaxploitation film movement, a comedian, singer, and all around entertainer. Clarence Reid is every bit that, not to mention a precursor to Dolemite. His influence is untouchable. But that’s not really what’s on the agenda. Truthfully, this film covers that but it’s primary focus is to reveal what a notorious counter culture figure’s career looks like after their movement has come & gone. In doing so, TWWOB soars above many other rock docs. Director Furmanski achieves what so few documentarians do: Captures unedited reality. There are slow moving moments. There are moments that make you quite uncomfortable. There are moments that break your heart. All necessary things when documenting a revolutionary figure.
BlowFly is certainly not for everyone, as is indicated by some of the concert footage shot in Europe. While they’re brought over to play because of Reid’s legendary status, kids with pink streaks in their hair and studded belts don’t care. The “Trying To Be Different Despite Looking The Same” Army that mans these audiences looks puzzled, then offended, then angry. But Clarence Reid remains undeterred. The man was a performer pre-civil rights movement. He’s seen and been called much worse. Seeing Blowfly’s reaction in contrast to some of his younger bandmates is priceless film gold. It’s something you only get to capture once. Furmanski was along for the ride for 2 years. His patience lead to some of the purest moments in the film (include into that footage with his mother which was heartwarming).
Aesthetically, the movie does look good. Considering how much live footage was shot, the audio and lighting remained even. The filmmakers were able to capture the band in the moment while still delivering quality audio renderings of the music. Even at it’s worst, the lighting in the various live venues seem to be no task for these guys. They were able to give you the essence of the music without bugging the shit out of you with lighting blow outs and distorted mics. For being “in the moment”, they handled this like professionals.
There is an opportunity for me to sit and pontificate on the musings of BlowFly. In doing so, however, I feel I’d be taking the opportunity away from you to discover the music of Clarence Reid. For me, discovery came as a kid buried amongst some of my father’s stranger LP’s. Buried amidst the Chingy Chavin’s Country Porn, Cheech & Chong, George Carlin, and Rudy Ray Moore were his BlowFly albums. I may not have known a lot, but I was able to decipher that they were dirty…and that I loved them. I would listen to them when my folks weren’t home. I didn’t know what all those dirty lyrics meant at the time, but I knew that groove was undeniable. As an adult, I’ve learned to love Clarence Reid for walking against the tide at all times. My admiration of him lead to my discovery of other weirdos (like Roky Erickson, RL Burnside, Hound Dog Taylor, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, GG Allin, Hasel Adkins, Mojo Nixon, Unknown Hinson, and the list goes on), a lot who’s careers either influenced or were influenced by Reid’s work. BlowFly is the reason a lot of the artists had the bravery to be what they wanted to be (hell, lump Parliament Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, any transgressive rap music in there, Brujeria, etc.) without fear. I love the guy and I’m not one who’s mind will be changed by a documentary on a musician. Sure, I may grow a new found respect for an artist but rarely does it change my opinion on their work. So, maybe I’m the wrong guy to review this movie but I felt like it was necessary. If for no other reason, to bring him to readers’ attention. He’s a part of exploitation history. He’s the soundtrack to those who laugh at the sick things the world tends to turn away from. He’s the voice of the dirty flasher fondling himself in the alley shadows. But he’s also the first to tell you he has a bible on his person at all times. Then again, he’s also the man that said “I went to Japan and fucked Godzilla in his ass!” in a song without so much as batting an eye. For that very reason, BlowFly (or Clarence Reid or whatever the hell you wanna call him!) deserves the respect he gets from other musicians. Now, is the opportunity for a new generation to discover him as well. The Weird World of BlowFly is a documentary that can make that happen. Perhaps a film such as this will break the horrible spell that entrances the idiotic mentality currently strangling the life out of young people’s ability to respect musical heritage and what their favorite artist owe a lifetime’s debt of gratitude toward. If not, we have a film that chronicles the career of an immense talent who changed the perception of what music can be about. All Hail BlowFly!!!
*Currently, you can see the film via Netflix Streaming, however, if you’d really like to help keep the name of BlowFly alive, visit the website here and for more information on the film itself (including screenings) visit here.