Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Running 11/25 through 11/29, at the SIFF Film Center. Tickets $10, $5 for SIFF members. SIFF passes and vouchers are available at the Box Office.}

Clarence Reid was a hell of an R&B/pop rock music writer and performer, starting in 1959 and finding an apex crafting a calvalcade of passionate soul sides for Paul Kelly, KC & the Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, Ann Sexton, and Gwen McCrae in the pre-disco boom years of 1971 to 1975. Reid's own naturally powerful, from-the-gut bark-croon can be heard on many universally appealing love songs on his own records too, even after the point that he invented the "dirty rapper" supervillain persona Blowfly.

The tightly structured new biographical documentary The Weird World of Blowfly doesn't actually tell us how Reid became this nasty-ass, darkly humorous, always obscene, dressed-as-a-ghetto-wrestler, emerging (or hiding) from a promising and succesful soul-pop singer/songwriter. The expert pacing, editing, and shooting isn't about revealing much overt internal history or intentions, if any is to be gleaned. It doesn't even give us backstory on what this sort of character usually means in music made by blacks or whites (think controversial C&W iconoclast David Allan Coe wearing his mask too and singing dirty around the same time as Reid's morphing).

But it does catch us up with the 72 year old mutant of punk and hip-hop and satirical smut, and touches many emotional bases on what may have been the psychological triggers that blew up into The Weird World of Blowfly. That's the 1971 depraved-sounding debut which viciously mocked politeness-driven soft rock and R&B with fart jokes and a whole lot of scat references, and is almost as recurrent in underground semi-pop music circles as Gil Scott-Heron, and surely as much as Jello Biafra.

Also, along the way, in a proto-burst of originality in 1965, Blowfly happened to invent rap ("Rap Dirty"), an assertion backed up here by the mighty Chuck D. and Ice T., who actually seem like the last thing they want to do is disagree with Blowfly. This connection to several decades of black culture recordings — especially those created to fulfill a bridge between comedy LPs, and more outrageous "blue" soul-rock artists (Millie Jackson, Betty Davis) may not be substantially explored. But Blowfly's surprising contemporary importance — despite a gait caused by bunched toes and a knee bound up in painful arthritis, no royalties due to a devastating 2003 tax debt, and a viciously demanding work ethic piloted by a micro-managing (but very caring) drummer-manager — is very present. You may be offended by his lyrics and coarse tempter, but he actually seems very loving to most everyone at least much of the time, and an incredibly hard worker. 

Without giving too much away (Blowfly's mom is still alive?! And he lives with her?! And what's that Bible doing there?! And he never did any drugs or alcohol? And NBA superstar Tracy Reid is his daughter? And what does he have against vaginas so much anyways?!) those who get the vital energies of a genuinely inspired performer choosing to take the weird road, staying DIY even when it seems insane, should really give this doc a shot. Even if you might be offended. Oh yeah, I'm pretty sure you will be offended.