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I remember that night in 1983 when Nate called and said Les Norman had been killed. Mom burnt the meatloaf and I yelled Fuck. I remember Nate’s subdued wheeze on the other end of the line. He’d heard the news on the radio — a single bullet to an artery in the leg and the Night-Time Master Blaster bled to death in a ditch in Biddleville, just outside Charlotte.

“I was really sad,” says Garrett. “Some things, the memories, fade. But Les had a lasting effect on me.” “Nobody really knew what happened,” says Fred Wellington Graham III, WPEG’s program director at the time. “It was really hard on the black community. Les knew everybody. He was the Night-Time Master Blaster.”

Scorpio Rising

There was another cut on that Les Norman tape that made you forget your asthmatic friends and yell Fuck in front of your own mother. This is “Scorpio,” a song with a Vocoder that could’ve been the giant adenoid of Lord Blatherard Osmo, which grew the size of a city block and had to be neutralized with electroshock, gas and cocaine.

“Scorpio” was recorded in 1982 for Sugar Hill Records by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. It was the eponym of Mr. Morris, the group’s in-house wardrobe consultant. (“If they had 50 suits, I had 70 suits.”) This song didn’t begin as much as it sneezed. “Ahhh Scorpio!” Laser beams right out the nose as the lights blink and the heart has to stop and yell knock it off up there. For all that hype about electro and video games, “Scorpio” shot the arcade to pieces. It was more like kids drawing from their imagination and shooting off at the mouth because they’re out of quarters.

That’s Reggie “Mirda Rock” Griffin on the Prophet Synth, making electric crickets and photonic whatnot. And that is the Blues Brothers theme, hardly recognizable in the toad squish. Scorpio himself calls it “that Darth Vader stuff.” “There was the original Sugar Hill band and there was Reggie. Reggie was next level. He played computers.”

“Scorpio” is what happens when Rick James tells you to show no shame. The Furious Five, who toured with Rick, took it to heart. One night at Sugar Hill Studios in Englewood, New Jersey, Melle Mel and Scorpio had a mini-orgy with some fans under a piano. Mel, who signs his gym memberships as Melvin Glover, then went in the booth and started punching out robots.

“If you want the truth, the truth is The Truth,” Scorpio told me. “What I brought to the group was beyond style. It was my freakiness.”

“Scorpio was always doing some abstract shit,” says Mel, a.k.a. Muscle Simmons, who along with Scorpio recently attended the WWE Down South semiprofessional wrestling school and learned how to do the “Back Bump.”

Show no shame became the Furious Five’s universal fancy handshake leather lightning-bolt motto.

Yet it would take a Rick James stomach bug in Dallas to make “Scorpio” officially shameless. The Furious Five were openers and the promoter asked if they could go back out and kill another 20 minutes. Scorpio says they didn’t have shit to do. “We just did our whole fucking show. When we was touring we never did ‘Scorpio.’ It was basically filler on the album. Then we went ‘Ahhh Scorpio’ and the crowd lost their motherfuckin’ minds. We never had a clue that people were listening like that. Ever since, it became a high point of the show.”

Backstage: Rick James, losing his ingredients — mind the shoes.

Front stage: Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, sneezing lasers. Gesundheit.

Bless Scorpio. Bless the Night-Time Master Blaster.


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