In January 1973, five men were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and violation of federal wiretapping laws for actions taken at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. Though the break-in had only taken place some six months prior, the investigation wouldn’t be complete until August 9th, 1974 when Richard Nixon resigned after facing almost certain impeachment.
Somewhere in a New York City basement that same January Roy C. Hammond, a journeyman soul artist, was working on forming a new band with some high school kids from Jamaica, Queens. From the get go, Hammond was having the most trouble with the drummer, whose name hasn’t managed to make it through the years and Hammond’s memory. “the drummer was the weakest point,” Hammond recalled some years later, “.I remember drilling him over and over in that basement in Jamaica, Queens.”
The drilling worked, and Roy C. Hammond christened the band with the name The Honey Drippers, and produced two songs, “Roy C’s Theme” and “Impeach The President”. Characteristically, Hammond’s major label Mercury Records didn’t want anything to do with a song that controversial, so Hammond had to release the songs on his own record label Alaga Records.
In those days it was a lot harder to make it without the promotion of a major label, and without people to hear the record, the 45″ single became one of those obscure finds that would be tucked in the bargain bin.
Some seven years later, with Nixon safely away from the Oval Office, the hip hop movement was getting started, with many aspiring producers digging through record crates to find that one perfect sample that nobody had. Aaron Fuchs was working with a New York DJ Africa Bambaataa who was gracious enough to let him scan through his record collection, with important details scratched out of course. Still, Fuchs caught his eye on the distinct yellow red label of Alaga.
Everybody seemed to know everybody, and Aaron Fuchs knew a young man who went by the name Marley Marl. He was yet to become a famous hip hop producer, and yet to be name checked in a Notorious B.I.G. song, but he already had the ear for a good hook. How Marley Marl got the copy of “Impeach The President” from Aaron Fuchs is contested, but without it the sample that launched almost 700 songs would have never happened.
Great drum break aside, “Impeach The President” has one heck of a hook, and that band could sure play. The names may change but sometimes the message matters more.