If you haven’t yet watched the Satan & Adam documentary on Netflix or elsewhere, we highly recommend you make a point to do so when you have the chance. This isn’t, as its name might imply to the uninitiated, a film concerning the Garden of Eden, but it does chronicle the creation and subsequent history of the unlikely partnering and friendship of an aging, black one-man-blues-band (Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee) and a younger white harmonica player (Adam Gussow) on the streets of Harlem beginning in the 1980s.
Despite all the good words and attention that the blues duo received through the years, including their “Freedom for My People” having been featured as one of only two non-U2 tracks (along with Jimi Hendrix’s “The Star Spangled Banner”) on the Irish band’s Rattle and Hum soundtrack, we somehow managed to largely miss this multi-decade phenomenon known as Satan and Adam. We’re sure we weren’t the only ones who failed to give Satan and Adam their due at the time, which is why it’s nice that we’ve all been given the opportunity to catch up on their story (and music) through this documentary.
There’s of course a lot of great music in the film, but the scene that most captured our attention was just at the film’s close, with Satan and Adam in the studio recording an even rawer and grittier version of their song “Mother Mojo” than can be heard on their album of the same name. We emailed Gussow, who still performs and maintains an active blues harmonica instructional website in addition to his day job as a professor of English at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, to inquire if this version had ever been released in any form and, while it hasn’t aside from its inclusion on a rare hand-burned, off-the-bandstand album called The Harlem Blues Sessions, Gussow was happy enough to change that for us and other fans of the duo by posting the audio on YouTube, which we’ve included for you below in an effort to help further spread the word and pay the favor forward.
Recorded in early 1990 during a session for the pair’s first album Harlem Blues, this alternate extended version of the song didn’t end up on that recording or its follow-up Mother Mojo, but we think you’ll agree that it’s much too good to be sitting around unheard. This energetic take on the song starts with Magee gruffly introducing it as “The Mother Mojo” and ends with some powerful blowing from Gussow and testifying from the senior bluesman, with a whole lot of other good stuff in between that’s sure to help get your weekend off to just the right start.
Gussow says the track was quite representative of the sort of stuff the duo was doing back then as well as of Mr. Satan’s abilities: “Anybody who listens to all the percussion sounds that Mr. S. is making — not just the hi-hat cymbals, but the click-clack of the HEELS of the hi-hat cymbals against his homemade wooden board — will be humbled. There are a fair number of one-man bands in the world, but I don’t know any of them who have taken that particular element as far as he did.
“And if I’m wrong, I hope somebody will share links, because I will run in the other direction! I don’t want to play with anybody MORE energetic than Mr. S.!”
Enjoy! We know we did!