“BAD CONDITIONS” (WRITERS: NORMAN–PYFROM–HUGHES)
ARTIST: LLOYD PRICE
RELEASED 1969 ON 7” 45 AND ON LLOYD PRICE NOW! LP
From his first hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” in 1952, Lloyd Price was among the best known, and most successful, New Orleans musicians. He mixed big, brassy arrangements with loose, funky rhythm and blues on such smashes as “Stagger Lee,” “Personality,” and “I’m Gonna Get Married.”
But for the most part, the market for Price had dried up by the early 1960s, and the former star foundered as styles changed. He did, however, stay afloat as co-owner of the Double-L record label, which issued not only his discs but also the early successes of Wilson Pickett. Price’s cohort in label management was his arranger, Harold Logan.
In 1968, however, he stopped working with Logan, who the next year was murdered; the crime remains unsolved.
Price hooked up in Jamaica with veteran singer Johnny Nash and his producer Arthur Jenkins, who were starting JAD, a new record label. JAD’s initial release was Nash’s “Hold Me Tight,” which surprisingly became the first international reggae hit in summer 1968. The next couple of records were Price’s, but were not successful. He also did some production work for the label.
For his next step Price went all DIY. He bought a New York City nightclub, Birdland, converted it to a discotheque, and renamed it Turntable. He also started up the Lloyd Price’s Turntable record label.
Its fifth release was “Bad Conditions.” Like all of Turntable’s other early releases, it was recorded in Jamaica, as part of the sessions that produced the Lloyd Price Now album. Price produced “Bad Conditions” himself but handed the arranging and conducting to Jenkins.
Price’s record, though, took nothing from ska, or from rock steady or the emerging reggae movement. Instead, he amped up the funk, invoking James Brown over a tough on-the-one beat. Jenkins worked some poppy elements, like frenetic percussion, a beeping organ, brass, and vocal group interjections, into the arrangement. The melody’s not so great, but everything else is: the playing, the lyrics, the build of instruments, the sense of urgency.
And somehow, over a two-month period, it became a hit on the R&B charts. The record was apparently released in the late summer; by mid-September listeners in Chicago had picked up on its funky intensity.
On October 4, “Bad Conditions” entered the Cashbox R&B singles chart at #37 then leapt to #23 over two weeks. By this time, it was on the radio not only in Chicago but also in New York, St. Louis, and Oakland.
Eventually “Bad Conditions” peaked at #16 on the Cashbox R&B chart and #21 on the Billboard R&B rolls. In late November, bolstered by heavy airplay in New York and Philadelphia, “Bad Conditions” hit the Cashbox overall singles charts at #136 and reached #118 two weeks later before dropping off.
This was Price’s last big hit, although he also enjoyed some chart action with singles in 1973 and 1976.