Two Sides to “The Real Thing”

Perhaps the closest thing to an anthem that the people of Greensboro had in the early ‘70s was “The Real Thing,” by the Electric Express. A demo version of “The Real Thing” made its Triad debut on WQMG’s “Make It, Break It,” a call-in show where listeners determined the fate of any given record. “The station lit up that night!” recalled Hudson during a recent interview. The quartet pooled their weekend wages, and headed to local funk foundry Crescent City Sound Studios, enlisting local tastemaker and radio jock Wayman “Slack” Johnson as producer.

“Slack had a lot to do with cutting it like it was,” Hudson declared. “He wanted it relaxed, and as real sounding as it could be. He told Walt (Copeland, studio owner) what he wanted—although I don’t know how you’re going to tell somebody what you want when you only got one take.”

Although Hudson had written a set of socially conscious lyrics while serving in Vietnam, label owner Walter Grady thought “The Real Thing” may perform better as an instrumental, banishing Hudson’s political prose to the single’s B-side. “The Real Thing” would soon get picked up for distribution by Atlantic, selling over 800,000 copies. The two songs serve two entirely different purposes, and although history has favored the instrumental version, you can decide for yourself which is the realest.

“Although people deserve to be free, sometimes they need a helping hand.”   

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The Electric Express “The Real Thing Parts 1 & 2”

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