• The Little Dabs - E.T. (Every Time) - 12"
• Musicworks, 1982, MWE-1203
• Produced by R. Dabney & L. Davis
• Executive Producers P. Klein, F. Friedberg & A. Maharajh
In honour of my recent Electric Funk & Latin Freestyle obsession, I digged up this 12" of questionable quality, which kind of fits into the Electric Funk category, in order to reassess it. Because of its ties with the E.T. movie and the fact that it was a number one hit in Canada, this is one record that's been popping up a little bit everywhere. And everyone seems to be saying the same thing: after hearing it, it's still not clear whether this is any good. It's a strange track, though. That's for sure.
The Little Dabs were two boys aged 4 and 6 from Philadelphia. Their father, Russell Dabney, was the drummer in a band called Gypsy Lane, back-up band for such bumpin' acts as the Village People and Instant Funk. His Gypsy Lane co-hort Larry Davis also wrote and arranged music for artists like The O'Jays, Lou Rawls, James Brown and Euro-Dance embassadors 2 Unlimited (on a "Sports Anthem", no less). There might not be a better place to hone the craft of music than Philadelphia, judging from this guy's C.V.
Canadian producer Paul Klein flew in to Philadelphia to record Gypsy Lane in 1982 and decided to cut a record with Dabney's two young sons, with Dabney and Davis at the writing-and-production end of things. Klein claims The Little Dabs were the first kiddie band, but I highly doubt that. He took the record back to Canada, put it out on Musicworks (Klein founded a music-catalogue accquisition company based in Miami called Empire Musicwerks in 2000) and got himself a gold record. It was later licensed to the Belgian BMC label. The Little Dabs went on to record less than a handfull of singles, and nothing quite matched the success they earned with their strange ode to E.T.
So, how's the track? Well, some of it is truly wonderful. Getting 4 and 6 year-olds close to microphones is one of the best ideas ever devised by mankind. The Dabs' high-pitched, slightly nasal and off-key singing voices are a perfect match for all those pitched-high warbly robot voices chattering away in Electric Funk bands like Newcleus and really make the track worth listening to. Daddy's lyrics make the song sound like any other song about tormented love, except little boys are singing and E.T.'s the object of their obsession. Apparently, this slightly disturbing angle is present in most E.T.sploitation tracks, where kids tear their hearts out over the toady creature.
The musical accompaniement is suitably sci-fi and surprisingly dark, with plenty of "atonal" synth licks. You can tell Dabney and Davis were soul/disco guys, though, as some elements are a little too disco-bouncy, foregoing Electric Funk's jagged stop-starts. Still, the contrast between the dark, metric verses and the funkier chorus is quite effective. Other nice touches include two instances where the Extra-Terrestrial himself spits some bars: namely the ubiquitous "E.T. phone home" and the seemingly random choice of "Ouuucccchhh!" That last one really drives home the point that this is a kiddie track, utilising only the purest kiddie logic.
The flip offers A Little Fierce Instrumental Remix, which sticks fairly close to the original track, minus the vocals. The Little Dabs do appear in a chorus near the end, but there is something evidently missing when they aren't singing.
So, how's the track? Still not sure.