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This song is about trying not to slip off that other side, the deep end. War drummer and founding member Harold Brown told us: "Howard (Scott, War guitarist) was working on some lyrics and he had this concept, thinking of how one could slip into darkness. Your mind could just go on, and you just go off to the left - you have to be careful, you have to say, 'Don't go there.' It's like that wall between sane and insane. We all figure we're sane, and once in a while we look past that wall, our head pops over and we look and we say, 'Here's Johnny.' I always like that. You look over there and you see certain things, and some of us have been known to go over there and stay, and there's some that pop their heads right back. Because that's just right on that borderline of sane, insane, and really close to being a genius.
You get in that moment of creation and you start seeing things different than the way a lot of other people are seeing it. Most of the stuff we're seeing, it's accessible to all of us, but then we go and take these different words or materials. It's how you rearrange it that makes it different and it presents itself. Like a tree. I look at a tree, and I say, Okay I could do a couple of things with that tree. We can let it stay there, it's beautiful, I can cut it down, make firewood, or I can make furniture with it but rearrange it. You have to watch that balance. That's when guys start getting all blown out on drugs and stuff, and become crazy. You find out the people that have the highest amount of creativity, there's a fine line between them being sane and insane. They're the ones I find, guys that are really out there. You got to have a certain way to talk to them, you got to know their moods. You got to know those events, those episodes, when you're dealing with them.
I can think of a few, like our bass player (B.B. Dickerson). He's a brilliant person, the one that sang 'World Is A Ghetto.' He's so in touch. I think he went to Tibet and those places when he was very young, and he started seeing different things and experiencing different cultures and different glimpses of various wisdom. So a lot of time B.B. is very sensitive. I know there's a certain time I can go and give him a hug, and a certain time I know, don't touch. When he's in his certain mood or certain zone, I let him there, because I can go into his world and all of a sudden startle him. That's just amazing. I read a book called Creators On Creating, and they wanted to find out the state of mind of people when they're creating, like the guy that came up with DNA, or Einstein - they've got that fine line. You'll find generally that they're sensitive people. Different things can affect them different ways, so it's a balance you've got to find."
Steve Gold, who was War's manager, hooked them up with Eric Burdon, who was famous as lead singer of The Animals. They released 2 albums as "Eric Burdon and War" before Burdon left and War struck out on their own. Gold championed this song and got it airplay in many cities, which led to it becoming War's first hit without Burdon.
Brown: "'Slippin' Into Darkness,' there was a rhythm. I had perfected that rhythm out of a combination of rhythms. So when Howard came together with certain ideas and time sets of lyrics, I said, 'The next song that we play, I'm making sure that rhythm fits in it.' I was the only one written up in Downbeat for that particular rhythm that took and changed the course of drumming into the '70s. Even to this day drummers, they want to see how I play that.
Miles Davis did Bitch's Brew, that finally liberated me. It's not a mistake if you constantly repeat it. It becomes deliberate. I've seen different drummers that all of a sudden just create a whole 'nother thing or just make it work."
You can hear similarities between this song and Bob Marley's 1973 release, "Get Up, Stand Up." Says Brown: "Me and Bob Marley and B.B. Dickerson were in Atlanta, that was the last time we were together. We were walking to the radio station. Bob Marley looks at me, and he punches me on the arm, and he said, 'Boo. I do song for you guys. I do song for you guys.' Song was "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.' He took that from 'Slippin' Into Darkness,' that motif. He told me, 'Your band, you're like us, you're street musicians.' That's when I knew we connected. He kept bugging me, he said, 'Come down to Jamaica, spend time with me,' but they wouldn't let me go. Management said it was bad because there were problems going on in Jamaica at the time, and then because of the name of the group - War - and I had a big afro, radical look, you know." (Thanks to Harold Brown
for speaking with us about this song. In 2007, Brown formed The Lowrider Band with 3 other original members of War: Howard Scott, B.B. Dickerson and Lee Oskar [they lost rights to the name "War" in the mid-1990s]. Learn more at their website: lowriderband.com
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