Adventure 01: The Coolest Sound EVER!

Booker T and the MGs: Green Onions, Live in Oslo, Norway 4/7/67

Don't waste a second. Go buy this DVD right now. (Stax/Volt Revue Live In Norway 1967) Sam & Dave, Otis Redding... wow! this concert captures Memphis Soul at its absolute peak. Booker T and the MGs were the house band at the Stax Records label, playing back up to a host of great soul artists. Their big hit, "Green Onions" contains one of the most recognizable riffs ever, and the soulful organ sound has gone on to become the epitome of "cool".

Animators know that it's important to grab your audience and get them into the rhythm of the cartoon right away. No music does that better than this. The metronomic walking bass line and the slashing organ and guitar accents would be the perfect soundtrack for cool character walks. Get up and walk around the room while you're listening to this. It's impossible not to walk cool to this song!

If you like this, check out other artists on the Stax label, as well as organ trios like Jimmy Smith and Bill Doggett; surf instrumentals and "secret agent" style guitar bands, like The Shadows.


  1. I have to agree that Green Onions is one of the hardest-swinging tunes of all time; the placement of the organ and guitar chords make it natural, practically unavoidable, to play behind the groove. My butt completely gets a mind of its own and starts shaking whenever I hear this.

    Green Onions is to me like an R&B parallel to (this is where I’m going to lose everyone) Rock Around the Clock, which I also think is one of the hardest-swinging tunes of all time, only without the behind-the-groove funk flavor that Green Onions has. They’re both perfectly distilled examples of what’s compelling about their respective forms.

    1. “My butt completely gets a mind of its own and starts shaking whenever I hear this.”

      Thank God. For a moment there I thought I had the tarantism.

  2. I’d just like to say that I think it is immoral to have a museum, library and digital archive devoted to the use of professional artists and students. Artists and students get used enough in our culture already. What’s next? The use of inmates and slaves? Really against my values.

    Also, Oslo in ’67 looks much better than USA Today.

  3. Relating this song to the animation topic is great. Most music sets mood/tone to a scene, but if you have music that has a lot of personality not only will it dictate the mood of the scene but it also becomes a medium of narration in itself. Which if you think about it is a powerful tool to use, a great example of this is Fantasia… the music in it is the main narration that ties everything together and gives it incredible depth.

    Essentially what i’m getting at, and what your point with this blog entry is, is that music doesnt have to be background filler. It is something that can breathe life to a scene in a way that nothing else can. Also great choice with picking this song.

  4. As the song came on, almost instantaneously, a sneer appeared on his lips. As the beat reverberated in his brain, his eyes closed slightly, as if to keep the music in his head. As he casually strolled away, he flashed a grin over his shoulder and flicked his cigarette onto the pavement. The cigarette hitting the cool asphalt took my attention as it seemed to bounce and twist to the music. When I looked back up and as the music faded, he was gone.

    “The Day I met Cool”
    Music by Booker T and the MGs

  5. The bassist always has to put on a bit of show (“I’m just *wringing* the sound outta this thing”).

  6. Man, dig those Norwegian hipsters in the audience. Saw another video a while back of Sam and Dave (who Booker T & The MGs backed), performing on German TV, roughly the same time period. It was around a 7 minute version of “Hold On, I’m Comin'” and it was really enough to make me think that all music post-1970 should just be erased. Hyperbolic yes, but it was just that good. As is this. Probably the best keyboardist in rock/r n b (maybe tied with Billy Preston).

  7. Trivia – The bass player (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn) and the guitar player (Steve Cropper) went on to be the heart of the Blues Brothers Genuine Rhythm and Blues Revue.

  8. Yeah, this is instantly recognizable and much loved by Quentin Tarantino. Total classic. However, I have to question your sense of adventure, considering today’s posts. And why aren’t you posting under your own name (he asks as he comments anonymously)? Your own name is much better than ASIFA-HOLLYWOOD ANIMATION ARCHIVE. I know the reference, but you are not ASIFA. You may be a member in good standing, but why claim to be it? hmmm?

  9. Interesting about how animators use music. I just read a Ralph Bakshi interview wherein he said he animated (I think it was ) “Heavy Traffic” to Beatles songs, one after the other. I’d kill to see that version.

  10. I’ve always loved Green Onions, but for my money, the grooviest MGs song is ‘Time is Tight.’ It’s all good, though.

  11. I think they hit it a little too fast here. This tempo doesn’t suite the tune, and it kills the “walking” vibe too. This is more of an Olympic walk, and that sure isn’t cool.

  12. Anon 10: That is the way my Boing Boing account was set up back in the day. And believe it or not, I *am* the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. We are a non-profit and I am the only employee. If you come by the archive, it’s my smiling face you’ll see… if you call on the phone, guess who answers?

  13. Thanks for the video, after watching I went to Booker T’s website and noticed he is playing in SF in late April. Bought tickets and can’t wait to hear him live! As for the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive – wow – it’s the best!

  14. I saw a show this summer with Booker T, Guster, and Buddy Guy, in that order. The crowd that came for Booker T and stayed for Buddy Guy were trying to figure out WTF happened in the middle. It was a great show!

  15. @ Anon 11: althought I really love this music, I say the Funk Brothers might have the title “best session band ever” already taken. Just sayin’…

  16. Someone earlier said the tempo was too fast. The recorded version was much slower and there did seem to be a tendency at the time to make live versions much faster, I’m not sure why, but this live version is still great. Steve Cropper is my fave guitarist of all time, no 10 minute solos, just perfect notes at exactly the right place. What a tight band! I always thought Stax records made Motown look poppy and a bit lacking. And it was mainly down to these guys.

  17. I forgot to mention… The Shadows were nothing to do with Stax, they were an English group famous for their own guitar instrumental hits and as backing band for Cliff Richard!

  18. “The bassist always has to put on a bit of show (“I’m just *wringing* the sound outta this thing”) <-- actually, that's how you make a Jazz Bass sound good. You have to work the strings to get the best out of the instrument, the same way it takes a lot of finger strength to make a double bass sound good - only not as much strength involved. There's a whole school of "barely touch it, let the amp do all the work" bass playin' - but that ain't the Stax sound. :) -Trey

  19. Cool is the word. I saw these guys at Montreux a couple of years ago with Al Jackson’s nephew on drums and, already a fan, I was overwhelmed by the groove. How else can I describe it. We were clapping along (in time!) and it just felt like we, the audience, were as much a part of the music as the band. That was a great show. Also on that night were Billy Preston and Isaac Hayes and I had been to see Jimmy Smith a couple of months previously.

    1. Roy Buchanan’s version is indeed great; if I remember correctly, Steve Cropper played on it too. And if we’re going to start making recommendations, try Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” (recorded the year after Green Onions) …

      And thank you Stephen for posting this whole series of great music!

  20. GREATEST DRUMMER EVER! I take issue with the statement by Anon 20, “Anon 11: althought I really love this music, I say the Funk Brothers might have the title “best session band ever” already taken. Just sayin'”

    The Funk Bros. included at least a dozen different players over the years while Booker T. & the MGs (sometimes with Isaac Hayes) were called “The greatest and tightest backing band of all time” by Rolling Stone Magazine. Ask The Beatles, ask Creedence, ask Pearl Jam, ask Public Enemy. Just sayin’.

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