Friday, 16 February 2018
Oliver!: Otis Redding - Stay in School (10 April 1992)
Peel played this 75 second curio while linking two other tunes. It’s the title track of a public service Stax album called Stay in School - Don’t Be a Dropout (1967) which saw Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Booker T & the MGs and others encouraging people to stay in education. You don’t see Spotify doing that kind of thing, do you. The track also featured on the Redding compilation, Remember Me, which Peel had been dipping into through the early part of the year.
In 1992, with my GCSEs imminent, I would almost certainly have recorded this on to a mixtape in order to try and reassert the important goal I had, alongside doing Oliver!, which was to get 4 GCSEs at Grade C or above so I could go on to Sixth Form. It’s odd, I was just beginning to like school at the very point I was on the brink of leaving it. Maybe it was because I wanted to do drama as an A-Level having not selected it for GCSE - a mistake I really wanted to rectify - but after my disastrous mock exams, I had my work cut out....
Redding apparently wrote the song on the spot - just himself and an acoustic guitar, plus a little overdubbed saxophone. I love the way he encourages the listener to ponder what would be the worst option for them at their age: school or the unemployment line, as well as the satisfaction of rising above the catcalls to make it to the top, so you can be there to greet the taunters, “when they get there, if they make it”. If Otis Redding said it was the thing to do - and he tells us quite clearly that he thinks it is and we should say so to anyone who doubts it - then how could I let him down? Trunkworthy considers this recording a very important one, both in terms of Stax Records’ sense of social responsibility and as a hint of where Redding may have gone musically had he lived on into 1968 and beyond.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the effortless way in which he pulls off the hardest thing any famous person has to say professionally, “Hi. I’m (insert name here)”. As, you’ll see below, it can be a massive stumbling block.
Don’t panic, he doesn’t sing:
Videos courtesy of twet500 (Redding) and riccardo riande (Bolton).