It has been 40 years, and “rapper” has taken on an entirely new meaning. As in, though I’m not much into hip-hop, do I want to see Public Enemy when they’re here in June?
But in the first week of March 1970, “The Rapper” was one of the hottest songs in America.
This “Rapper” was a cautionary tale warning girls about a guy on the make. What you remember most are its signature handclaps, percussion and harmonies. as performed by the Jaggerz, a bunch of young rockers from western Pennsylvania.
You probably know “The Rapper” was written by Dominic Ierace, whom another generation knows as Donnie Iris. But that’s Jimmie Ross on the lead vocals, not Ierace, and Jim Pugliano on the drums.
The Jaggerz came together in the mid- ’60s and cut three LPs on three different labels from 1969 to 1975, with only that one smash single on the Kama Sutra label. Still, as the Jaggerz say on their web site, they made it “from the Club Natural in Beaver Falls, Pa., to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in Hollywood.”
The band broke up in 1976, but was revived by Ross in 1989 and still plays occasional gigs. Ierace went from the Jaggerz to Wild Cherry, then at the height of its popularity, then forged a nice career with Donnie Iris and the Cruisers starting in the early ’80s.
It has been 40 years, and “The Rapper” still sounds fresh. I heard it the other day as I walked out of our neighborhood McDonald’s and thought: “Yep, still a good tune.”
“The Rapper.” the Jaggerz, from “We Went To Different Schools Together,” 1970. It’s out of print but is available digitally with seven extra tracks, mostly B sides to singles, songs that weren’t released on albums.
All but one of the cuts on this album — which I found in the dollar bin in my friend Jim’s back yard — are originals. The only cover is the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” one clearly influenced by Joe Cocker’s version.