Miles Davis is now in the Rock'N'Roll Hall Of Fame, which might be odd for some considering he was known as a jazz musician. Yet any Miles fan will tell you that by the late 1960's, he was changing his approach, wanting to try out new things while wanting to bring his music to a wider (or some might say "whiter") audience. According to many articles and interviews, he loved the appeal of Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix, and seeing himself with almost twenty years of music behind him, maybe he felt what he was doing was outdated, and that could have made him outdated too by mainstream standards. Jazz was no longer "the most popular music", yet Miles knew that he could easily turn on those goofy hippies if he tried to move forward with something new.
That first sense of new was heard in In A Silent Way, but the world was not prepared for his next album, the immortal Bitches Brew. It brought forth a new type of jazz: fusion. It had been explored a number of times by everyone from Ornette Coleman to Roland Kirk, but this also featured some outside influences, namely rock and soul. It was a double album that sold like crazy, a double album which featured songs with durations of 15 minutes or more. It was a marathon, and either you were with him or you weren't. No inbetween, and Miles probably didn't care if you weren't with him.
Bitches Brew sold millions, a rare feat in itself for jazz. Not many jazz albums sell over 100,000, yet alone 500,000 or a million, but to think that people bought that album in the same way people bought Norah Jones' Come Away With Me is, in perspective, amazing.
What's even more amazing is that Columbia Records made an attempt to market the album to a younger audience by releasing a 45 of "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" and "Spanish Key". On the album, "Miles Run The Voodoo Down" goes for 14:01 while "Spanish Key" runs at 17:32. When you locked into the album, you were ready for anything. The single for it, however, seems to pick a random section of each song and then someone said "okay, that's the single". Really? This wasn't an edit of "So What", or something fairly simple as "Someday My Prince Will Come", these were songs that were meant to be listened to as a whole. It's easy to create 45 edits of songs like Rare Earth's "Get Ready", Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", or anything with a traditional verse/chorus/verse format, but this was free form jazz.
In truth, nothing is impossible, but this was not the kind of music that was meant to be heard at three minutes or less. With FM radio being the way "true music fans" heard music, I am sure the album got a lot of play. Yet it's hard for me to imagine a time when someone could fit "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down" right between Freda Payne's "Band Of Gold" and Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy". Then again in 1971, radio was like that, nothing was impossible.
Miles Davis - Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (Single Edit) (3.8mb)
Miles Davis - Spanish Key (Single Edit) (3.8mb)