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TheEscortsGreatestHitsLUMPENPROLETARIAT—I’ll be sweeter tomorrow:  A classic firme rolita from el lado del varrio Aztlan.  Cruisin’.  ¡Órale!, simon que yes, vato.  This is one of my favourite albums since middle school.

The INTRO to this record opens with the sounds of echoing and creaking jail cells, giving way to vocal harmonies chanting the theme of The Escorts’ artistic endeavour:  Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please; Just gimme just one more chance now…

Then a slightly stuffy-sounding reporter interviews The Escorts behind bars:

Reporter:  “This is inmate Reginald Haynes.  How long have you been in here?”

Reginald Haynes:  “Uh, quite a few years now, quite a few years—too long.  Whatever it is, t-, too long.”

Reporter:  “What are you serving time for?”

Reginald Haynes:  “Now, I’m serving time for armed robbery.”

Reporter:  “Well, it looks like you’re gonna be in the record business.  You think that’s a pretty good idea?”

Reginald Haynes:  “Oh, yeah.  Oh, yeah.  You know, not—well, for myself, of course, and the other guys, that I’m singin’ with—and because of our plans in the future, you know, for the group and the things, that we wanna do in this institution and our hopes of the concept spreading to the other institutions.  You know?  I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” (c. 1974) interpreted by The Escorts

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People often think of prison convicts as the most threatening group of people.  But, in many ways, prisoners, convicts, and ex-convicts, or ex-cons, are actually among the most vulnerable groups in our society.  Their suffering and inhumane incarceration is evidence of our failures as a society.

The Escorts are one of the sweetest vocal groups you are likely to ever encounter.  Their earnestness in taking the notion of correctional facilities seriously lays bare the falsity of prisons as rehabilitative institutions.  They are punitive, plain and simple.  And they are class-based. [1]  That is, they are designed to keep the working class and the underclass in check.

Oftentimes, working class people (and the lumpenproletariat) rack their minds trying to figure out what they did wrong, or where they went wrong in life, when all they sought to do was make the best of their situations, even if it meant risk-taking within their respective environments.  Wall Street types, executives, and other white-collar workers take risks in their environments; and we applaud them as beguiling, smart, clever, daring, etc.  Even when white-collar risk-taking has adverse consequences for society, its crimes against society are often too opaque to be readily detected by the public, or they’re obfuscated by a corrupt corporate press.  On the other hand, petty street crime, however horrible, brutal, and ugly, has consequences on an individual scale, but is highly visible and highly emphasised by the dominant for-profit corporate press.  If it bleeds, it leads, goes the adage.  White-collar crime, though, has adverse consequences on an exponential scale.  Both kill and maim, only white-collar crime does it en masse.

—Messina

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I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow

I always like to be on my Ps and Qs
And I don’t want to miss nothin’ nice
That I can do for you

I know you love me (I know you love me)
The way I am (the way I am), but, oh, girl
Somethin’ deep down inside of me  (Do more, do more, do more)
Keeps saying do more
Do more more if you can  (If you can)

I’ve got news for you (I haven’t been clean)
Good, God, Almighty! Here’s that news for, you! (In every way) ohh, girl
I say, I’m gonna be sweeter to you, baby (Doo-doo)

Than I was yesterday (Yesterday)

You called me your sugar and spice man (Whoo)
Sugar and spice man
Your everything nice man
But I’m just tryin’ to
Give you half as much
As you’ve given me

And I, I don’t doubt myself
I know I’m doing my job
But, still, I believe I can squeeze
A little bit more love
Out of this old heart

Listen, I know you love me (I know you love me)
The way I am (the way I am), but, oh, girl
Somethin’ deep down inside of me  (Do more, do more, do more)
Keeps sayin’ do more,
Do more more if you can  (If you can)

I’ve got news for you (I haven’t been clean)
Good, God, Almighty! Here’s that news for, you! (In every way) ohh
I say, I’m gonna be sweeter to you, baby (Doo-doo)

Than I was yesterday (Yesterday)

***

Liner notes from my personal record/CD collection:

THE ESCORTS – All We Need Is Another Chance: Collectables 5458

“Well, the struggle of three years of getting permission to enter Rahway State Prison to record this album is over, but the struggle to help these inmates and others like them is beginning.  But, I know this is a new day with new people, with new ideas for making men out of all prisoners…and I have found just that kind of men…men who have worked very, very hard.  They are Mr. S. Vukevich, Mr. D. Thoms, Mr. Wagner, Mr. Fulling and Mr. Pendergast…and I want to thank all the guards and inmates who worked with me.  May God bless you!

“I would like to give very special thanks to Miss Dorothy Slifer and all the members of Path Road Organization for picking me up when my spirit was down, when things weren’t going right…May God Bless You All!!

“Last, but not least, I want to thank THE ESCORTS for wanting to help themselves and their loved ones, by working so hard.

“Laurence Franklin, Reginald Haynes, Robert Arrington, William Dugger, Stephen Carter, Frank Heard and Marion Murphy…better known to you as THE ESCORTS…I love you all!

“Now that THE ESCORTS have taken a step forward to help themselves, I have taken a step forward to help…the prison officials have taken a step forward to help…Path Road has taken a step forward to help.  Now, it’s your turn to take a step forward to help…you the public!  Buy this album.”

“P.S.  A special thanks to Michael Watson and all the musicians under Mr. Bert Keyes’ direction.

George Kerr, producer of The Escorts recordings, behind bars, at Rahway State Prison [1]

***

George Kerr:  “Ever since I’ve been workin’ with the guys, I’ve found that it’s given them something to cling to.  They know that the outside hasn’t forgotten ’em.  And, now that we’ve showed them that there are people out there that are really pullin’ for ’em, they have talkedthey told methey talked to the other inmates and told them that the outside has not just closed the door to ’em.”

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By the Time I Get To Pheonix” by The Escorts

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Reporter:  “A ballad behind bars, or you could say real rock from the rock, an unusual musical happening in a most unusual place, the State Prison at Rahway, New Jersey.  On most days, the sounds here are somber.  But this afternoon, inside Wing Five, The Escorts were in concert.”

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Little Green Apples” by The Escorts

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George Kerr:  “Uh, the people on the outside, whoever is listening to this conversation, these guys, The Escorts, feel, and have told me, each and every one of ’em, that they are sorry for what they have done.  That’s why I wrote the title song to this album:  All We Need Is Another Chance.  And I’m just askin’ you, please give it to ’em.”

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All We Need (Is Another Chance)” by The Escorts

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Reporter:  “The Escorts are a singing group of young inmates, all long-term offenders, in for murder, robbery, and other serious crimesToday, though, their vocal talents were being put to use, as they made a record album, being produced by a Motown veteran, George Kerr, of East [inaudible].”

George Kerr:  “Well, about two years ago, I came into the prison, uh, with my wife.  And we heard this groupit was an amateur show.  And it just knocked me off my feet.  And then I tried through the prison officials for a couple of years.  And they granted me, uh, permission to come in.”

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“Look Over Your Shoulder” by The Escorts

Look Over Your Shoulder
You’ll find me
Waiting (Hey, baby, take a look over your shoulder)
Waiting
Look Over Your Shoulder (Say you!)
You’ll find me (Come over here)
Waiting (And sit down and let me rap to you)
Waiting

I used to say I was sincere, baby
But when you needed me most
I wasn’t there (But if somehow you can forgive me)

Look over your shoulder (Oh, oh, oh, over your shoulder)
You’ll find me (There I’m gonna be)
Waiting
Waiting (Waiting patiently)
(Just look) Over Your Shoulder (over your shoulder, girl)
There I’ll be (You’re gonna find me)
(I’ll be waiting) Waiting
Waiting

I know you’ve found someone new (Show me that you love me)
Honey (Just show me that you love me)
And, girl, I haven’t the right to keep asking you (But if, somehow, you can forgive me)

Look (Oh, oh, oh, over your shoulder) over your shoulder
You’ll find me (There I’m gonna be)
(Hey, baby) Waiting
(Hey, baby) Waiting
(Girl, look) Over your shoulder (over your shoulder, yeah)
There I’ll be (You’re gonna find me)
Waiting, waiting

I know it’s not easy to find someone who cares (Ahh)
And, especially, a love, baby
That’s never been shared (Shared)

But if, somehow, you can forgive me
If, somehow, you can forgive me
If, somehow, you can forgive me
If, somehow, you can forgive me, look

Look over your shoulder
You’ll find me (Hey, baby)
Waiting, waiting
(Please take one look over your shoulder, oh) Look over your shoulder
There I’ll be (There I’m gonna be)
Waiting, waiting (Hey, baby)
(Please take one look over your shoulder) Look over your shoulder
There I’ll be (There, there, there I’m gonna be, gonna be)
Waiting, waiting
(H-e-ey!) Look over your shoulder
You’ll find me
Waiting, waiting (Baby)
Darling, look over your shoulder (Please take one look over your shoulder, oh)
You’ll find me (There I’m gonna be)
Waiting, waiting (Hey, baby)
Look over your shoulder (Girl, take one look over your shoulder)
You’ll find me (There I’m gonna be)
(Listen, I’mma gonna be)

***

I’m So Glad I Found You” by The Escorts

***

Reginald Haynes:  “What brought me in here was the environment.  Right?  It was the environment that I was in.  Right?  Uh, I figure this way.  I don’t really blame, you know, societyright?in whole, for me being here.  And they doyou know, we do whatever we do to survive.  Right?  I chose armed robbery.  I’m fortune that I have the talent and, hey, you gave me a chance to, you know, try to get over with it.  And I want this to be, what I want to do now.  I mean I’m still the same person.  I still the poor man.  You know.  I come from the grassroots.  And I’m not gon’ never forget where I come from.  But I think now that, now that I have a new direction to move in, I’m going to stay with this, this is this singing.”

“Ooh Baby, Baby” interpreted by The Escorts

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“Ooh Baby, Baby” (live in 2012) interpreted by The Escorts at the PG Reunion Award Ceremony in Harlem, NY june 16, 2012)

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” (1967) by The O’Jays

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorow” interpreted by Beau Dollar and The Dapps

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PANDORAThe Escorts literally tried to sing their way out of Rahway State Prison (NJ). All seven — Reginald Haynes, Lawrence Franklin, Robert Arrington, William Dugger, Stephen Carter, Frank Heard, and Marion Murphy, with assistance from producer/writer/singer George Kerr — were serving time for various felonies and somehow hooked up with Kerr who was allowed to bring recording equipment into the slammer, which accounts for the less than sterling quality of their tracks; Kerr recorded the Escorts in prison then sweetened the tracks on the outside.

The project lasted from 1973 to 1974 and resulted in five singles, the first, “All We Need Is Another Chance, Pts. 1 & 2,” written by Kerr, was tailored for them. The Alithia Records release reminds you of Kerr‘s productions on the Whatnauts, but not nearly as sharp, though the Escorts multi-man (seven singers) lineup provided for a full harmony sound. The record saw airtime in Jersey, New York, Philly, Virginia, Maryland, and a few other locales, mostly along the East Coast, but it never really broke. But just recording and having record releases gave the Escorts tons of hope.

Kerr chose the remake route for singles two and three. “Look Over Your Shoulder” b/w “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” didn’t cut the mustard; Kerr had already cut a far superior version of the A-side on the O’Jays for Bell Records a few years earlier. The Escorts closed out 1973 with two more Kerr productions previously done by the O’Jays: “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” b/w “I’m So Glad I Found You”; once again, the originals reigned supreme.

Learn more at PANDORA.

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” interpreted by Joe Bataan

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” (1970) interpreted by Linda Jones

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“I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” interpreted by Stone Harmony

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[1]  On class analysis:

  • Class in Marxist theory
  • Marxian class theory
  • Marxism and the Class Struggle” (1975) by Cliff Slaughter, https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/slaughte.htm
    • Marxism is not asociology‘.  It only appears to be so, because, from the point of view of every other particular section of the intellectual division of labour-philosophy, economics, history, history of ideas, etc.Marxism goes beyond their defined subject-matter, insisting that the real content of each of them is to be found in the contradictory totality of social economic relations from which flow the forms of activity and thought to which the separate disciplines address themselves. Political economy, for example, is ‘negated’ by Marxism, in the Hegelian sense. Marx’s treatment of political economy takes to their limit the contradictory developments of classical political economy. To do this requires the explanation of political economy’s concepts and their real content as the ‘alienated’ consciousness of the development of bourgeois society itself. Thus we find in the Critique of Political Economy and in Capital itself a negation of political economy, which is demonstrated as being an adequate reflection of the sphere of exchange values and their behaviour. But this sphere is shown to be the real world of appearances or illusions as necessarily created by a historically limited social order, capitalism.”
  • Introduction to Sociology:  “Karl MarxClass Theory“, http://www.cf.ac.uk/socsi/undergraduate/introsoc/marx6.html
  • Social ClassSocial Differentiation, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/550940/social-class  .

[2]  George Kerr, Record Producer, Collectables Records Inc., P.O. Box 35, Narbeth, PA 19072, www.oldies.com

N.B.:  All transcription by Messina.

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