Sly & The Family Stone—
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) / Everybody Is A Star

Released 1969 on Epic
The Seth Man, May 2024ce
Sly told Dick Cavett “Counterpoint is the key,” and he nailed it right here on this single.

The uptick of angel dust smoke and its accompanying dark updraft of paranoia combined into the double-sided hit that was “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” / “Everybody Is A Star” and there it remains. Neither song appeared on LP until the following year’s multi-million dollar selling GREATEST HITS album, but “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” / “Everybody Is A Star” remains every inch an outsider 7” single standing alone on its own two sides.

On the surface a perfect dance tune, look deeply under the surface of “Thank You” and there is a slow and steady darkness that gathers in the music, coloured by the lyrics, and subsumed by its undulating momentum into a totality of expressions both subjective and objective. In a way, it is also a literal totality: showing in equal measure both obscuration and transparency of Sly Stone as he nears his creative eclipse of 1970.

First, bullets fly everywhere. Sly’s getting down with Daniel Webster, wrestling with the devil that is himself. Then the chorus and lyrics reverberate with meaning beyond its oblique edges as its euphoria and cynicism cut both ways at once and everything about it was a coalescing of everything swirling in Sly’s kaleidoscopic musical mind while harmonising it into a whole new thing. Agin. The horns oscillate like police sirens. The bass hits its unchanging rounds in percolating rhythm while the rest of the group keeps to its rotative background undulations and all the while: the chorus sung by Sly and all family memebers keep with repeating their rising co-voicings of the title. As the repetitions of those words continue, it becomes apparent that either its sincerity is slowly shrugging off, replaced by cynicism or sarcasm, or its persistent repeat has now transformed into pure chant for the groove to permeate upon forever.

Without mentioning the F-word or dropping the F-bomb, “Thank You” was a new fuckin’ sound. A sound previously unheard of not only from the septet, who had spent the previous couple of years knocking corners off the squares, but the rest of the world as well. Released the same month as Altamont (December 1969) it revealed a burnished veneer to its repetitious energy. Any previous shade of Family Stone optimism had been dropped in favour of an unyielding pulse, a demanding chorus, a quizzical middle eight that mercifully was not foreshadowing on Sly’s part when he sang “Dyin' young is hard to take” but was autobiographically correct with its predictive response of “Sellin’ out is harder.” It’s a dark rumination from the mind of Sly, as he checks off the references to past hits and near misses: “Dance To The Music,” “Everyday People,” “Sing A Simple Song,” “You Can Make It If You Try.” Bullets fly everywhere, some hit their target, and some ricochet. For years.

As had the title, which had been brewing in Sly’s fertile mind for months. Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on March 26, 1969 and after a storming performance of “Love City” into “Stand!” back into “Love City” and then into the “Dance To The Music” vocal intro, Sly’s final, unaccompanied word to a dazzled audience, half sung/half screamed?

“Thank you, for letting us be ourselves…AAAAAAAAHH-GIINN!”

The other side, “Everybody Is A Star,” is in direct opposition in terms of mood. Whereas “Thank You” only seems optimistic on the surface, “Everybody Is A Star” might be even more so a hidden bummer. Even the opening horn vignette is perched on the line between slow deliberation and sombre reflection. Despite its declamatory title expressed thusly by Sly, then Cynthia Robinson’s rising horn temperatures, then the clucking chickenspeak choruses, the song’s optimism is tempered by reflective glances at possible outcomes. This is evidenced especially in Larry Graham’s low, gruff voicing of the couplet: ‘Ever catch a falling star? / Ain’t no stopping ‘til it's in the ground.’ That’s one dark statement. Then again, the line ‘you don't need darkness to do what you think is right’ is puzzling in the context of declaring ‘everybody is a star.’ As a star himself, perhaps Sly was noting its pitfalls, concluding it was nothing but ‘one big circle going round and round.’ The song fades on a coda of dozens of wordless “Ba pa-pa-pa ba pa-pa ba ba ba pa-pa ba pa-pa ba pa-pa ba ba ba”s, possibly as a nod to both the song and sentiment of “Ain’t No One Here But Us Chickens.” The conclusion being, whether stardom or barnyard, everybody’s path leads forward to the same place.

One of the perfect singles of all time.