Get On Up Get On Down (Soul January 30th 1971)

The artist celebrating his first #1 record on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations 50 years ago this week was 53 years old, had made his recording debut more than 20 years before, his experiences reaching back to the days of Black minstrelsy, touring the Southern states in travelling tent shows. Rufus Thomas was a legend in his home city Memphis, his show “Hoot & Holler” (“We’re feeling gay though we ain’t got a dollar, Rufus is here, so hoot and holler.”) on WDIA, the city’s premier African-American radio station, played the latest, hippest R&B, in 1953 his record “Bear Claw” was the first hit for Sun Records & he was involved with the Stax organisation when it was still called Satellite. It was his 17 year old daughter Carla who had that label’s first hit & Rufus, who had seen it all, was a mentor to the singers & musicians attracted to 926 E McLemore Ave.

Rufus Thomas at home in Memphis wearing his outfit from the Watt Stax  concert 1973 Stock Photo - Alamy

Here in the UK Rufus was known for his biggest record before “Push & Pull”. 1963’s “Walking the Dog” was covered on the Rolling Stones’ debut LP & included in the set of every teenage band moving from Mersey Beat to Mod R&B. There were 4 “Dog” tracks & then his records had less impact though I have to include here 1968’s outstanding “The Memphis Train”, used in Jim Jarmusch’s appreciation of the city “Mystery Train”. Booker T & the M.G.s propel the song like only they can, the Memphis Horns do their thing & producer Steve Cropper’s guitar stings like a bee. It was another dance record that put Rufus back on the chart when “Do the Funky Chicken”, his only hit this side of the Atlantic, dropped in 1969. His energetic, entertaining encouragements to get on up & get on down backed by hard-edged Funk were back in style & “The World’s Oldest Teenager” entered the most successful period of his long career.

Rufus Thomas - Modus House of Soul

“(Do The) Push & Pull” had first been recorded for the album “Rufus Thomas Live: Doing the Push & Pull at P.J.’s” (L.A.’s first discotheque, corner of Santa Monica Blvd & North Crescent Heights Blvd, you know it). The single version, backed by the Isaac Hayes Band featuring the chiming guitar of Michael Toles, packs a little more pace & punch. Apart from the odd clunker the album “Did You Heard Me” finds Rufus & the band on fine form & further instructions for “The Breakdown” & to “Do the Funky Penguin” made the R&B Top 20. There were more singles, more dances, the Funky Robot, the Funky Bird & the Double Bump. Rufus still D.J.’d in Memphis, always positive & exuberant, never drab or dreary, he was recognised as a great entertainer. There’s a boulevard in Memphis, a park in Poretta, Italy named for him & all those great records where, if you don’t know how to do it he’ll show you how to walk the Dog, the Chicken or whatever.

The Spinners - Classic Motown

At #36, rising from 47, on this week’s chart “We’ll Have It Made” was the Spinners’ follow-up to “It’s A Shame”, a Top 20 Pop hit & a return to the R&B chart after a four year absence. Since signing for Tamla Motown in 1963 the Spinners had found that there was only room for one five man vocal group on the label. A “Best of…” collection of their years in Detroit is very good but they neither established their individuality nor achieved commercial success & they were even working as roadies, chauffeurs & chaperones for other acts. “We’ll Have It Made” was, like “It’s A Shame”, written by Stevie Wonder & his wife Syreeta though while Stevie was in the studio for these tracks eight other producers were involved in the 1970 album “Second Time Around”. This was to be the Spinners’ final single for TM, knowing that Atlantic Records were waiting in the wings their contract was not renewed & they moved on.

The Spinners Vintage Concert Poster from Honolulu International Center, Dec  30, 1973 at Wolfgang's

It was not as easy as that, G.C Cameron had taken the lead on these two songs & he remained at Motown to be replaced by his cousin Philippe Wynne who joined Bobby Smith & Henry Fambrough as one of three lead vocalists. There was a deal of goodwill towards the group & when Atlantic matched the Spinners with producer Thom Bell over in Philadelphia he was able to highlight their individuality & unleash their potential. The first collaboration in 1973 produced three Gold records, four Top 10 R&B 45s & the Spinners were on the way to becoming one of US’s biggest groups of the decade. Here in the UK they were first known as the Motown Spinners then the Detroit Spinners to avoid confusion with a cable-knit jumpered Folk quartet with the same name. None of us were ever confused.

Gary Byrd - Presenting The Gary Byrd Experience | Discogs

On the lower reaches of the chart, at #58 was a young radio DJ who after reading his poem “Every Brother Ain’t A Brother” on his overnight show for WWRL-AM in New York & was encouraged by listeners to commit it to vinyl. It’s a cautionary rhyme that “Everything Black just ain’t Black & baby, that’s a fact”, not as militant as the Last Poets or Gil Scott-Heron but still positive & a reminder that there was plenty of spoken-word flow around before it was called Rap. The Gary Byrd Experience released an album & their 1973 45 “Soul Travelin'” is a review of the early 1970s Soul scene that you would be better served listening to than reading this.

Gary hooked up with Stevie Wonder & his lyrics for “Village Ghetto Land” “Black Man” were featured on “Songs in the Key of Life” (1976). It was in 1983thatthe Experience returned with “The Crown”, an almost 11 minutes long reinforcement of Black potential & positivity, recorded with & released by Stevie Wonder. One that got away in the US but deservedly hit the UK Top 10. Now Imhotep Gary Byrd he has 50 years of broadcasting experience, his Afrocentric talk career has always been of the moment & significant.

My last R&B review ended with a live, joyous performance by Billy Preston & I’d like to make that a thing. In 1972 an idea for a benefit concert by Stax Records affiliated to the Watts Summer Festival in Los Angeles blossomed into “Wattstax”, 112,000 people paying just $1 each to attend the Coliseum. At 6.26 pm Rufus Thomas, avuncular, in a natty pink shorts-suit, cape & white boots combo appeared to perform his current hits. The packed, excited, sharp-dressed crowd spilled out from the bleachers (is that the word?) on to the infield. There was no pushing & shoving, no Crips & Bloods brouhaha, just the beautiful Black people of Southern Los Angeles feeling the need to do the Funky Chicken & why the heck not!


Brothers Work It Out (Soul January 16th 1971)

At #8 on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for January 16th 1971 was a powerful, no punches pulled protest against the Vietnam War, a conflict that in 1968 involved over 500,000 US troops, that in 1970 President Nixon had expanded into neighbouring Cambodia. An increase in opposition culminated in the killing of four Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard while the scenes of US troops returning home in body bags on nightly TV news disturbed American homes. “Stop The War Now” is Edwin Starr’s follow up to the classic “War” & perhaps unfairly sits in the shadow of that great hit. The troubles of present day USA has been brought sharply into focus by last week’s events in Washington, incited by the soon-to-be ex-President. 50 years ago the best summation of the wider tumultuous state of the nation sat at #3 in the Cash Box R&B chart.

Curtis Mayfield was, by 1971, already recognised as a significant contributor to American music. During his apprenticeship at Okeh Records young Curtis’ aptitude for simple, sweet melodies that caught a radio listener’s ear developed into a string of hits for his group the Impressions & others. Singles with more than a tinge of Gospel, “Amen”, “Meeting Over Yonder” were released alongside the gently romantic like “I’m the One Who Loves You” & “Talking ‘Bout My Baby”. A growing involvement in the Civil Rights Movement & an association with Martin Luther King Jr inspired songs that promoted Black positivity & pride. The spiritual “People Get Ready” was as early as 1964. Later “We’re A Winner”, “This is My Country” & “Choice of Colors” were more assertive & polemical. In 1970 Curtis left the Impressions & his first solo LP was rightly much-anticipated. The innovation & realisation of this new phase was still a surprise & a delight.

45cat - Curtis Mayfield - (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All  Going To Go / The Makings Of You - Buddah - Germany - 2011 055

Curtis Mayfield was ambitious for & far-sighted about his music, his business & his race. The first minute of “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go”, an ominous fuzz bass, a female voice talking about the Book of Revelations, Curtis’ echoed shouts “Sisters! Niggers! Whities! Jews! Crackers! Don’t worry…” then a scream, shows that things have changed, doors have been kicked open, new ground has been broken. What follows is an update on Chicago Funk, an urgent, perfect mesh of brass, string, rhythm guitar & percussion. The radio edit of the track is half the length of the 8 minutes on the album, that introduction too strong for mainstream airwaves. Like “Move On Up” “If There’s A Hell…” is best appreciated as originally intended. There are still those so-sweet, romantic, melodic love songs on “Curtis” but this solo debut showed that Mr Mayfield knew it was time for shit to get real, that things needed to be said, that lyrically & musically he was a great force.

Kool & The Gang | Samuelsounds

Meanwhile at the Sex Machine club in West Philadelphia, on 52nd & Market, (long gone, a good time, you know it) Kool & the Gang were recording their first live album. The New Jersey school friend Gang got together in the mid-sixties as a Jazz group who soon found that for an eight piece band it was more financially viable to play Soul covers & back touring acts in local clubs. Spotted, signed, produced & managed by Gene Redd, bassist Robert “Kool” Bell’s name was moved to the front in 1969. A debut album, instrumentals dominated by a fresh, funky & kool horn section, included two Top 40 R&B hits & got their name about. On stage the band put on quite a show & the Sex Machine set was one of two live albums released in 1971.

Looking at a Kool & The Gang concert poster from back in the days feat. The  Chi-Lites & Major Har… | Vintage music posters, Concert posters, Vintage  concert posters

“Who’s Gonna Take the Weight (Part II), from “Live at the Sex Machine”, is at #28 on this week’s chart. I suspect that the relatively mild opinions expressed at the beginning of Part I meant that this was the side of the 45 played on the radio. Of the 10 tracks on the album four are covers of well-known songs that are difficult to improve upon (“Walk On By”, “I Want to Take You Higher”). Given the Kool treatment they become part of a tight Soul-Jazz set that’s very enjoyable even with the over-dubbed audience screams. “Who’s Gonna…” has a solid rhythm section underpinning the so fashionable wah-wah guitar & a hot brass ensemble. In 1973 Kool & the Gang had a commercial breakthrough when their “Wild & Peaceful” record produced two Pop Top 10 singles. As Disco became more prominent they smoothed out their style, still making the R&B chart but the albums were no longer going gold. In 1979, a new singer, J.T.Taylor & a change to ballad oriented material found the resurgent group hitting a run of success that lasted until the mid-1980s. Man, Kool & the Gang were a big deal. I know that “Celebration” (Wah-Hoo!) & “Get Down On It” are still well-loved by many but if I need a little K & the G around it’s the rougher Funk of “Live At the Sex Machine” I’ll be reaching for.

sgt. pepper's lonely hearts club blog. | Billy preston, George harrison,  The beatles

Master keyboard player Billy Preston was a late contender for the “fifth Beatle” belt. When, in January 1969, George Harrison invited him along to the “Let It Be” sessions it was to join a bickering not-so Fab Four who would break up before the year’s end. As George hoped the group were accepting of their guest & tensions were eased. Just a week later Billy was on the roof of Apple Corps in Savile Row (London’s glittering West End, just off Regent St, you know it) performing alongside them in their final live appearance. In April “Get Back” had “The Beatles with Billy Preston” on the label, the only time such credit was given. The respective beliefs of George & Billy in Krishna & Christ had a mutual credo of all you need is Love & after signing for Apple the pair began work on Billy’s album. For the title track of “That’s the Way God Planned It” Eric Clapton, Keith Richards & Ginger Baker showed out to assist on an impressive, positive song that sure sounded like the hit it was in the UK. The single suffered in the US from an inexperienced record label who had never really needed to promote Beatles records. Billy had recorded his first album when he was 16 years old, the respect for his talent was reflected in the demand for his services from many major artists. This Beatle association brought a whole different level of attention.

Billy Preston - My Sweet Lord (1970, Vinyl) | Discogs

“Encouraging Words” was recorded with another all-star cast. Co-producer Harrison, possibly hoping that his group would continue to record, contributed two of his song stash to the project. That’s how Billy Preston’s version of “My Sweet Lord”, at #50 on this week’s R&B chart, came to be released in the UK two months before the “original”. Billy takes the song to church, guests the Edwin Hawkins Singers making it more “Hallelujah” than “Hare Krishna”. It may lack the impact of Phil Spector’s Wall of Acoustic Sound on George’s version but Billy, aided by the Temptations’ touring band, sure gets his groove on. “Encouraging Words” is a fine mix of Soul, Gospel & Rock with Delaney & Bonnie’s stellar band providing great back up. Billy had a good 1970s with big solo success while maintaining an involvement with the Rolling Stones in the studio & on tour. In August 1971 he joined George & his friends for the “Concert For Bangladesh”. His barnstorming “That’s The Way…”, Billy feeling the spirit & dancing across the stage, almost stole the show. We’ll end with that because I & probably you could use a little Joy at the moment.

Bowie, Balls & Mungo (British Pop- Prog January 1971)

My selections  from the British progressive music scene of 50 years ago became irregular then finally stopped in 2020. It’s not just down to indolence on my part. The Marmalade Skies website is a lovingly curated archive resource for those interested in the period however their month-by-month “Remember the Times” feature has proved to be a little approximate. I’m have no great attachment to verisimilitude but y’know, fake news on the Interwebs, who would do such a thing? Hippies eh! Marijuana would have been legalised years ago if they could have remembered where they had left the petition. Any road up, in 2021 let’s get back to it. There was plenty of interesting British music released 50 years ago, some classics, some that caused more than a ripple at the time, others that have been, deservedly or not, forgotten. My first selection from their January 1971 listings turns out on further “research” to have probably hit the shops in September of that year. No matter it is a great single which didn’t get a wide hearing at the time but y’know it’s only 50 years, it’s not too late.

Balls were a planned Birmingham supergroup financed & organised by Tony Secunda, a proto-Malcolm Mclaren, a manager, sensationalist & chancer. Secunda had managed the Moody Blues until a financial fallout after their second 45 “Go Now” became an international hit. His guidance of The Move ended when a publicity stunt libelled the Prime Minister & all the royalties to “Flowers in the Rain” were lost in a court case. It was Denny Laine, formerly of the Moodies & Trevor Burton, recently split from the Move at the core of Balls. They, like those other Midlanders Traffic, went to get it together in the country, a large cash advance was acquired from the record company. They were joined by an assortment of other Brummie musicians &, I would imagine at some expense, Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller was hired to get it into order.

Balls - Fight For My Country (1971, Vinyl) | DiscogsThe cottage on the Berkshire Downs was too near a pub & the drug use said to be more than recreational so things were a little chaotic as personnel came, went, then came back again. Tony Secunda lost interest when he became involved with T.Rex, a Pop sensation in 1971. Two other Birmingham musicians, Jeff Lynne with E.L.O. & Roy Wood with Wizzard, hired prospective members of Balls & then, later in the year, Denny Laine got a call from Paul McCartney to join a new band Wings (“the band the Beatles could have been”-Alan Partridge), an offer he couldn’t refuse. After all the rigmarole only three tracks were completed & I’m guessing that a later re-release of “Fight For My Country” under the name B.L.W. means that Burton, Laine & Alan White, drummer off the Plastic Ono Band, stuck around. Burton’s song is robustly anti-war driven by Denny’s pumping bass. Miller gives it a full, heavy treatment & it’s an epic of muscular Psych, like Eric Burdon’s “Sky Pilot” only, thankfully, without the bagpipes. The single got little airplay (was it the band’s name?) & that was all the Balls we heard. Years later I would see Trevor Burton’s lunchtime sessions at the Station Hotel in Sutton Coldfield. He didn’t play “Fire Brigade” or “Fight For My Country” but straight ahead, no bullshit Rock & Roll & a couple of beers was just the thing before a roast dinner.

MUNGO JERRY/RAY DORSET UK Tour Vintage ORIG 1979 Press/Mag ADVERT 3.5"x  2.5" - £1.99 | PicClick UKIn May 1970 the Hollywood Music Festival (not THE Hollywood, the one near Newcastle-under-Lyme in the UK) featured an impressive line-up including the first UK appearance of the Grateful Dead. The show was stolen by a group that barely made the poster. Mungo Jerry’s good time jug band music was the ideal afternoon relief from a day of electric music & they raised such a ruckus that they were invited to play on both days (conveniently M.J’s management also organised the festival). The group’s debut had been released days before their appearances, a “maxi-single”, 3 tracks, 33 1/3 r.p.m., retailing at 49p (68 cents). The song didn’t really need such a promotional boost, “In the Summertime” (you know it) was fresh, distinctive & sounded like the super smash international feelgood hit of the summer it became with eventual sales of 30 million. Just weeks later Mungo Jerry were known by many more people than 30,000 hippies in a Staffordshire field.

Beat Instrumental Magazine No 100 August 1971 Procol Harum Manfred Mann Mungo  Jerry Jericho Jones“…Summertime” was written by lead singer Ray Dorset, an enthusiastic & charismatic frontman with the most impressive mutton chop sideburns in music. His song “Baby Jump”, another maxi-single, was the follow up, a stomping boogie with lascivious lyrics & the group had another UK #1. “Mungomania” was an actual word in 1971. In the clip Ray, dressed in his mum’s curtains, & the band mug there way through it for French TV but the song rocked. Four more singles made the charts & the line up changed but they continued to perform for years.  Undoubtedly Ray Dorset was the face of the group (I think some people thought that his name was Mungo Jerry) & as long as he was there with his songs, his sideburns & his spirit audiences were alright, alright, alright for many years to come.

In 1980 Ray wrote his third UK #1 when Kelly Marie’s “Feels Like I’m in Love” broke out of the Scottish club scene (Lord help us!) on to the national chart. Not my kind of music at all but the synth drum hook brings to mind my great, unfortunately late friend Dave Evans, a son of Dublin, a man of the world. Dave & I enjoyed many conversations about Hegelian dialectics, Bill Griffin’s Zippy comics & the merits of the B-52’s “Whammy” album. So man, “BOOP-BOO!”

David Bowie – Holy Holy = Sagrado, Sagrado (1971, Vinyl) - DiscogsDavid Bowie was not having the best of things at the beginning of 1971. “The Man Who Sold the World”, his third album, had a US release in November of the previous year but it would be April before it was in the UK shops when, in his words, it “sold like hotcakes in Beckenham, and nowhere else”. The attention he had received after “Space Oddity” was waning & his new management had problems with the former management, with the record label & with the lapsing of David’s publishing deal. “The recording of “The Man Who…” had not ended well with producer Tony Visconti & guitarist Mick Ronson, both involved with Bowie’s planned group Hype looking elsewhere while Mercury had no plans to release a single from the album. Phew!

Hear David Bowie's Rare, Original 'Holy Holy' From 1971 - Rolling StoneA demo of “Holy Holy” attracted a new publishing deal & producer Herbie Flowers brought along his bandmates from Blue Mink, session musicians enjoying success with positive, polished Pop, to record a 45 which was released on January 17th 1971. With lyrics influenced by Alistair Crowley, a rather insipid bass-heavy production & a vocal tipping its hat to Marc Bolan, “Holy Holy”, despite a TV appearance in a Mr Fish dress, was not a success. However the new deal brought a new energy & substance to Bowie’s songwriting. A promotional visit to the US inspired tributes to Dylan, Warhol & the Velvet Underground. A  side project, Arnold Corns, with the returning Mick Ronson bringing along Woody Woodmansey & Trevor Bolder, tried out early versions of songs that Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars would record. In the summer of 1971 new studio sessions instigated a wonderfully varied & imaginative set of songs that, when released in December by a new label, RCA, marked David Bowie as a special, rather unique talent. That album was “Hunky Dory” & everything kinda was after that.

A Heart As Big As…(Gerry and the Pacemakers)

Music Genre and Subcultural Artwork on the Post-war British Fairground

In the Summer school holidays of 1963 the funfair came to my town & I was taken along by the bigger boys, my first chance to do so without the supervision of my parents. It was a midweek & I was broke, any pocket money spent on a wild weekend of drugs, alcohol & women (hang on, that was later, I was 10 years old so make that Penny Arrow bars & packets of Nibbits). I may not have been able to afford a chance to win a goldfish with a limited shelf life but I was free to wander, to experience “all the fun of the fair”, the sights, sounds & smells which, when I recall them, make me smile like Proust & his little cakes. It was free to watch the Dodgems & the Waltzers, the Teddy Boys who collected the money riding on the back of the cars & spinning the girls until they screamed. Maybe one day I could slick my hair into a quiff, grow impressive sideburns & do their job.

Except that by the end of the year I would no longer covet drainpipe jeans (shrunk to fit by wearing them in the bath!), crepe-soled beetle crushers. & records by Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps (I’m lying…I love Gene). Something was happening & a new style was coming. In the Summer of 63 Britain’s youth was in the first throes of Mersey Mania, a home-grown, Liverpool led, rejuvenation of American popular music. It wasn’t all the Beatles either, in June Gerry & the Pacemakers enjoyed their second #1 record of the year with “I Like It” following “How Do You Do It” to the toppermost of the poppermost. It was here, watching the girls & boys do their mystery dance, with the fluorescence of flashing lights & candy floss & the waft of fried onions from the, I’m sure, highly sanitary burger stands, that I heard this music as it should be heard…LOUD! So that’s how it goes, so that’s what it does. Exciting, very much so.

UK Based Beatles Dealers On The Search For Beatles Concert Posters In March  2015

Gerry Marsden passed away yesterday. I had not really thought about him & his Pacemakers for some time though as I said…fairgrounds, y’know. In the early 1960s he & his group were not in the slipstream of the Fab Four but running alongside them, learning their trade in Hamburg then back in their hometown’s Cavern Club. “How Do You Do It”, written by Mitch Murray, was rejected by the Beatles, manager Brian Epstein knew that the talent & the royalties was in their songwriting. Passed to another of his Scouser stable, Gerry & the Pacemakers charged at it with brio & hit the top spot with their debut single. according to the UK’s Official Charts, the first of the Mersey Beaters to do so. Epstein had other, big plans for his proteges & when his star turn established a bridgehead in the USA (having the top 4 singles in the Cash Box chart of March 1964 there was a plan to market their bathwater for a dollar a bottle) Gerry’s group, along with Billy J Kramer & the Dakotas, were in the first wave of British invaders.

Ferry Cross the Mersey (1964) - IMDb

There were to be 5 Top 20 hits in the US, a colourful place that was beyond dreams for working-class kids from Northern England which was still in monochrome back then. The attention & screaming fans at home was something new, to be transatlantically feted as the current thing must have been something else. Six months after “A Hard Day’s Night” the group starred in “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, a tailor-made movie set in Liverpool’s Beat scene. “It’s Gonna Be Alright”, here introduced on “Hullabaloo” by their manager, was written by Gerry for the film. It was not as successful as earlier singles but it delivered the promised Big Beat, I liked it then still do now.

images – Gerry and the Pacemakers

“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”, one of those earlier hits, is credited to all of the Pacemakers. Live on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (imagine!) Gerry absolutely suits the spotlight, giving America the good stuff that the crowd at the New Brighton Tower Ballroom had known about for years. In 1965 British music was changing, the Beatles were still in the vanguard while the Stones, the Kinks, the Who & others brought a tougher R&B edge. It wasn’t only me with less interest in Gerry & the Pacemakers. Their final 45 “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” was a Folk-Rock cover of a mild Paul Simon protest song. It failed to bother the chart compilers & in 1966 the group called it a day. The Pacemakers were not to be seen in kaftans, smoking a hookah, pianist Les & bass player Lee bought a garage, Gerry starred in the West End & panto while having a supporting role to Sooty, a much loved TV glove puppet. But he never did go away did he?

Polly James & Nerys Hughes Television: The Liver Birds: Anybody Here Seen  Thingy (1970) Director:..., Stock Photo, Picture And Rights Managed Image.  Pic. MEV-12453133 | agefotostock
Nerys & Polly, the Liver Birds

OK, I’ll not get sentimental here (I’ll try). I’ve made the ferry journey from Liverpool to Birkenhead & while thoughts of Nerys Hughes in “The Liver Birds” may have crossed my mind Gerry’s title song to “Ferry Cross the Mersey” was in there too, possibly because it was being played on the public address system. It’s a fine, enduring North West anthem, as redolent as “Waterloo Sunset”, to a city & its inhabitants that I have always enjoyed visiting. Then there’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, the Rodgers & Hammerstein song from “Carousel” that was the third of Gerry & the Pacemakers historic run of a trio of #1 hits with their first three singles. Adopted as an anthem by Liverpool Football Club, who were entering the most successful era in their history,. I intend no slight to Glasgow Celtic where it is also communally sung with equal gusto & devotion before games but “YNWA” is recognised as the call off sign of Liverpool fans worldwide & its pre-match rendition can still moisten the eyes of grown men (Hi there Joe, hi John). That’s two paeans to a city that sparked a cultural conflagration with music that twisted & shouted & changed the world. Gerry Marsden & his group played their part & he will always be remembered in association with that city. To complete the title of this post he had a heart as big as Liverpool.

Back In The New Year’s Groove (Soul January 2nd 1971)

The Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations was a little static for the week starting January 2nd 1971. Just two records climbed into the Top 10, two others were new to the Top 20. The releases from Tamla Motown’s production line, still stood predominate with three of the Top 5 & a further four in the Top 20 originating from Detroit’s “Hitsville USA”. There will be plenty of time in the rest of the year for a deeper dive in search of those pearls whose quality was not matched by a high chart position. On this first post of the year I’ll start with the two songs that headed the chart 50 years ago. For the Supremes this was the eighth time the trio had enjoyed a #1 R&B placing, same as it ever was it seems but things were changing for Motown’s most established act.

The Supremes, 1970 | Natural hair styles, Afro hairstyles, Black hair

Since 1968 the Supremes had to manage without Holland-Dozier-Holland, the team who had written & produced enough songs for the trio that “Golden Hits Volume 3” was already on the racks. In January 1970 Diana Ross, the vivacious singer whose name had been placed at the front of the group, made her final on stage appearance, introducing her replacement Jean Terrell. Jean, Mary Wilson & the mellifluously named Cindy Birdsong began work on their LP “Right On” with new producer Frank Wilson, the man whose own Soul super rarity “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” was reportedly bought for £100,000 this year (I have it on CD so not me!). Mary was the only original Supreme now but the most popular female group in the world were still guaranteed spots on US prime time TV & radio. It was Frank’s first job to find the songs that would keep them in the spotlight.

The Supremes Stoned Love of Tamla Motown 45 Rare XL Sheet Music /  HipPostcard

The producer was tipped to Kenney Thomas, a Detroit teenager, by a local DJ. Invited round to Frank’s house young Kenney was startled & starstruck, as any 17 year old boy in 1970 would have been, to find beautiful superstar Mary Wilson there to check out his song. Frank added a little shape & a few words to the bare bones of a song, star Motown arranger David Van DePitte provided the lustre & that driving beat while the label persuaded radio stations that the nation’s darlings hadn’t given them a drug-related song to play. Kenney Thomas (credited as Yennek Samoht) had, with “Stoned Love”, a million-selling record on his hands, a glorious record too, instantly recognisable from when Jean sings the title & you still know now that something good is coming up. The Supremes would have other big hits like “Floy Joy” & “Nathan Jones” but “Stoned Love” is the finest post-Diana single. They sure look happy & fine on this TV appearance. Kenney didn’t write much more for Motown, his mother was wary of her son mixing in such starry circles & didn’t want him to neglect his studies. I hope that he heeded his mum’s counsel.

Gladys Knight & The Pips If I Were Your Woman Soul demo F 35078 Soul  Northern mo | eBay

Arranger David Van DePitte was also all over the record rising one place to #2 on the chart. “If I Were Your Woman”, a ballad that builds to a soulful crescendo, is the latest in a run of successes for Gladys Knight & the Pips, records that made Top 3 R&B & Top 20 Pop. Beautiful Gladys gradually raises the level while her Pips are, as usual, impeccably in synch with their steps & backing vocals. That’s another Hitsville classic. Gladys had over a decade’s experience before she & her group signed with Motown & they raised concerns about the adding of extra backing vocals to their songs as well as the choice of material they were given to record. At this highpoint in their popularity negotiations for a new contract proved to be unsatisfactory. In a case of “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” “Neither One Of Us (Wants to be the One to Say Goodbye)”, the group’s final single, was one of the group’s biggest selling records to date. A move to Buddah in 1973 realised their crossover appeal, Gladys became an international superstar while the Pips were rightfully celebrated for their support, their choreography & their Whoo-Hoos.

PAM SAWYER: SoulMusic Hall Of Fame - 2020 Inductee (Songwriter) | Soul Music

“If I Were Your Woman” had three names on the songwriting credits. Clay McMurray, formerly head of Quality Control, had made the move to producer. In the coming years he was to leave his mark on Soul Music. Pam Sawyer, from Romford, Essex, had moved to New York in 1961 then, encouraged by Holland-Dozier-Holland, on to Detroit six years later. As part of the Clan, Motown’s new writing collective, Pam had her name on the labels of “Love Child” & “I’m Living In Shame” by the Supremes & David Ruffin’s “My Whole World Ended”. Now 83, Pam was inducted in 2020 to the Soul Music Hall Of Fame. She is responsible for the biggest British contribution to the label’s great success & deserves wider recognition here at home. In the UK Gloria Jones (a.k.a. LaVerne Ware) is better known for her original 1964 recording of “Tainted Love”, our best-selling single in 1981 for Soft Cell, & as the partner of Marc Bolan in the years before his tragic death. Encouraged in her songwriting talents by Ms Sawyer the Grammy nominated “If I Were Your Woman” was the best known song in her time at Motown.

Impressions, Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Gladys Knight & Pips, | Lot  #89221 | Heritage Auctions

OK, this great record is not actually on this week’s Cash Box chart but a cover version of it is & that’s how I discovered this gem. That’s close enough isn’t it? At #47, rising from #59 was “You Just Can’t Win (By Making the Same Mistake)” by Gene & Jerry, two Chicago Soul legends, Chandler & Butler. Jerry Butler had started out with Curtis Mayfield in The Impressions. His recent work with young producers Kenny Gamble& Leon Huff had established his straight-from-the-fridge cool as “The Ice Man”. Gene Chandler styled himself as “The Duke of Earl” after his #1 million-seller of 1962. A close relationship with ace producer Carl Davis (& thus Curtis M) kept his name in the frame throughout the decade. I mean no offence to Gene but if Jerry Butler is singing then I’ll be listening. “One On One” is a fine album of uptown Chicago Soul duets by the experienced stars.

Simtec & Wylie - Gotta Get Over The Hump (1971, Vinyl) | Discogs

Gene was expanding his interest in the business of music, producing & releasing a million-seller with Mel & Tim. On January 1st 1971 his new Mister Chand label (his face is on the records) introduced “Getting Over the Hump” by Simtec & Wylie. Walter “Simtec” Simmons and Wylie Dixon brought their own band & a dynamic style that gained comparison with Sam & Dave. “Getting Over…”, their only album, has a funked-up version of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” & “You Just Can’t Win”, their own song, twice as long as the one on the chart is absolute fire. It’s new to me & such discovery is why I so enjoy these investigations of 50 year old Soul. Well, that’s 1971 in 2021, a fine start & undoubtedly more of the good stuff to come.