Everybody’s Got A Thing (Soul April 18th 1970)

This week, 50 years ago, the Jackson 5 were replaced at the top of the Cash Box Top 50 in R&B Locations by the breakthrough hit, a million seller,  from the Moments, not always mentioned in the first rank of vocal groups but who stuck around & made the listings for the next 15 years. “Love On A Two Way Street” kept the #1 spot on the Cash Box chart for 8 weeks, the longest stint of any record in 1970.

 

 

 

 

Not On The Outside The Moments MIDI FileThe Moments were formed in Washington DC in the mid-60s. They signed to All Platinum, a label run by husband & wife Joseph & Sylvia Robinson, in 1968 & experienced immediate success. Ms Robinson has her own chapter in the history of African-American music. There were hits as duo Mickey & Sylvia in the 1950’s, solo records (& a Grammy nomination) in the 1970’s &, as the founder of Sugar Hill Records, she pioneered the recording of new Hip Hop acts. Sylvia knew what sold, in fact she made a vocal contribution to “Lovely Way She Loves”, the fourth of the Moments’  R&B Top 20 hits before “Love On A Two Way Street”. It was during the recording of their debut LP that things got a little complicated when lead tenor Mark Greene & Richie Gross left the group. Billy Brown & Al Goodman joined John Morgan, Greene’s vocals were re-recorded by Billy & it was this trio pictured on the cover of the record.

 

The Moments - Love On A Two-Way Street | Releases | Discogs“Love On A Two Way Street”, is a dramatic, romantic ballad, backing provided by the wonderfully named Willie & the Mighty Magnificents, & while maybe not as groundbreaking as the Delfonics it’s certainly comparable. More team changes when Morgan left did not affect the Moments’ popularity nor did Billy Brown’s vocal problems which brought newest member Harry Ray to the foreground. There were to be two more R&B Top 10 entries before the year was out & in 1975 “Look  At Me (I’m In Love”) put them back at the top of the R&B chart. The group released a steady run of albums, including the intriguing “Live At New York State Women’s Prison”, & three singles which missed out in the US all became Top 10 hits in the UK (Over here everyone knows “Girls” by the Moments & Whatnauts…Right On !). On leaving All Platinum in 1979 the label claimed dibs on “The Moments” name so the trio became Ray, Goodman & Brown & continued to have hits. This music business thing…it’s complicated.

 

 

 

 

45cat - Funkadelic - I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody's ...“You don’t smoke what I smoke. You don’t think like I think…I got a thing, You got a thing, Everybody’s got a thing”, Well alright! At #20 on the chart is the third single from the aural nitroglycerine that is Funkadelic’s debut LP. The Parliaments, a five man vocal group formed in a barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey, finally sold some records in 1967 when the driving beat of “(I Wanna) Testify” made the R&B & Pop charts. When their record label filed for bankruptcy & leader George Clinton wanted to move on he found that it meant leaving his group’s name behind! George’s solution was call his backing group Funkadelic & sign them to Westbound Records. This collective, 5 players & 5 singers, brought new talent to the fore, influences spread across Soul, Funk, Rock & Blues & probably a suitcase full of drugs, to pursue an intrepid exploration of the possibilities of music “dedicated to the feeling of good…for nothing is good unless you play with it”. “Funkadelic” can be dense & chaotic, the birth of P-Funk. It’s still Soul, a new kind & it’s brilliant.

 

WHAT IS SOUL? George Clinton & the Birth of Funkadelic - Blurt ...This wild & wonderful appearance on the nationally syndicated “Upbeat” TV show to promote “I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody Got A Thing” highlights the difficulty of capturing the tumult of a 10 man fancy dress parade with little respect for the conventions of presentation. Things were more convoluted when George sorted out his legal problems & in July 1970 after Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind… & Your Ass Will Follow”, Parliament released “Osmium”, an album by the same line-up. With all this studio time guitarists Eddie Hazel & Tawl Ross, Billy “Bass” Nelson, drummer Tikki Fulwood & new guy on keys Bernie Worrell flourished, enabling George Clinton to pursue his grand vision for the group. By the middle of the decade more people were listening, gold & platinum albums & #1 R&B singles were achieved & Parliament-Funkadelic, with a stage show to match their reputation, were the biggest band in America.

 

 

 

 

Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band on SpotifyOver on the West Coast the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had made a couple of albums that consolidated their reputation as a fine club band. Soul standards were energetically & imaginatively arranged for an 8-piece group by member Raymond Jackson . The track that caught people’s attention was the closer on “Together” (1968). “Do Your Thing”, effectively employed in the film “Boogie Nights” while William H Macey is doing his, is a potent Funk brew, more basic than the rest of the record. Encouraged by their success 1969’s “In The Jungle Babe” is much more confident, individual & adventurous as the group explore their new sound, stretching out on the cover versions of “Light My Fire” & “25 Miles”. Somewhere between the two lead singles from “Jungle”, to feature the singer & band leader, there was a name change to Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

 

45cat - Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band ...“Love Land”, a new entry at #38 & the sweetest sounds you will hear today, is a bit of an outlier from the drive of the LP. All of the players in the Rhythm Band are pretty hot but drummer James Gadson is rightly considered as an innovator & an influence. He’s less well known as a singer but he’s on the button here. James became Motown’s go-to drummer in L.A., he played on so many records that you know. Maybe he should have sung more. A Top 20 Pop hit, the biggest track from the album, “Love Land” is an update of an Al Hibbler song from 1959. It’s credited to Charles Wright & Don Trotter. James Gadson believes that he should have got & was promised more credit. There were to be two more LPs from the group, the much-sampled “Express Yourself” was another that hit big,  but, as James said, things got a little strange after “Loveland”. In 1971 four of the band left to tour the world with Bill Withers & Charles continued as a solo performer.

 

As many of us have a little more time on our hands here’s a little bonus music. First, in 1972, James Gadson, still unsettled about getting burned on “Love Land” recorded “Got To Find My Baby”, same tune, different lyrics.  On the Rhythm Band’s final album “You’re So Beautiful” he was, as usual, given one song. I first heard “What Can You Bring Me?” on Robert Palmer’s “Some People Can Do What They Like”. The original is wickedly funky & always hits the spot.

 

Loan Me Your Funky Mind (Soul October 1969)

Tamla Motown started 1969  with Marvin Gaye at the top of the US R&B chart &  the Hitsville studios in Detroit kept the number ones coming throughout the year. Diana Ross & the Supremes, Marvin again & Jr Walker & the All Stars all, according to Cash Box, reached that pinnacle & in October, for the whole of the month, it was the turn of the Temptations. Since a breakout hit in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do” the Tempts being top of the R&B pops came around almost every year.

 

 

Image result for temptations 1969In 1968 the Temptations had parted company with David Ruffin, a charismatic performer whose delectable baritone had come to predominate on a string of outstanding 45’s. The group knew that you gotta walk & don’t look back & while for many the music made by the “Classic Five” line up remains their best there was no dip in popularity when Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards. The three LPs released in 1969 (two more with the Supremes) were all successful. “Cloud Nine” was producer Norman Whitfield’s big new idea, a heavily arranged/orchestrated take on the Psychedelic Soul of Sly & the Family Stone. Most of the LP was familiar Temptations fare but the title track won the Tempts a Best R&B Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental Grammy. The future was freaky & Funky. “The Temptations Show” is a mix of the old, the new & slick show biz, the soundtrack to their very own TV special, that’s how big a deal the Temptations were.

 

Related imageOn “Puzzle People” there were still cover versions (“Hey Jude”, “It’s Your Thing”, even “Little Green Apples”) but Whitfield & Motown stalwart Barrett Strong provided more original material. This new sound used all five voices on lead, Edwards was recruited for his strong vocals, Eddie Kendricks (that’s the great…) sang lead on many of their hits, it had been some time since Otis Williams, Paul Williams & Melvin Franklin had been stood at the front for the singles. “I Can’t Get Next to You” doesn’t have the social commentary of some of these new epic songs, it’s an urgent, brilliant slab of Funk but I’m telling you something you already know here. A massive hit, their second Pop #1, the ninth time at the top of the R&B chart, the Temptations were the leading vocal group of the time, a new face, a new phase but taking care of business as usual with so much more fine music yet to come.

 

 

 

Funkadelic…the clue is in the name. The highest new entry on the chart of October 18thImage result for funkadelic  1970 was the second single from a new group. It could have been luck, more likely it was George Clinton’s judgement that, when he needed instrumental backing for his vocal group the Parliaments, assembled a young talented crew whose innovative lysergic fuelled jams on a framework provided by Sly Stone & Jimi Hendrix placed them in the vanguard of the new breed of Funk groups. George had mislaid the rights to the name of his own group so the expanded collective signed a new contract as Funkadelic. “I’ll Bet You” reached back to Clinton’s times around the Detroit music scene. In 1966 the song had been recorded as an uptempo dead-stone floor filling Soul stomper by Theresa Lindsey. Funkadelicised, with a little help from some of Motown’s Funk Brothers, the song is a raw, dense, insistent blend of Rock & Soul, one of the first tracks you play to those less versed in the ways of Parliament-Funkadelic.

 

Image result for funkadelic  1970The self-titled LP, a landmark record, did not appear until the following year. Guitarist Eddie Hazel, Billy “Bass” Nelson & drummer “Tiki” Fulwood were given plenty of scope by producer Clinton to blow our funky minds. On tracks like the opener “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?” & “What is Soul?” George laid the foundations of the P-Funk lore which, after extensive recording, exciting live shows & tweaks in personnel, finally saw the group recognised as one of the foremost African-American units of the time. (Soul is apparently “a ham hock in your corn flakes” or “a joint rolled in toilet paper”, your choice!). Funkadelic were signed to Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records & Boladian later gained control of all Funkadelic’s publishing rights by allegedly forging George’s signature. A litigious man he sued every artist who used a sample of their music, that’s like over 50% of the US Rap scene. Screw the “allegedly” let him sue me, I’ve got no money. Fly on baby, fly on.

 

 

Image result for lee dorsey give it upFurther down the Cash Box chart, a newcomer at #46, was an artist who had experienced success over the past decade. Lee Dorsey, a former boxer turned singer out of New Orleans had his first million seller in 1961 with “Ya Ya”, later covered by John off of the Beatles, but similar nursery rhyme based lyrics probably deservedly failed to connect. In 1965 a partnership with the Big Easy’s master songwriter/producer/arranger Allen Toussaint created a string of 45’s which re-established him in the US & made him a firm favourite on the UK Mod scene. It’s an impressive list, good enough to make a “Best of…” collection essential. Everyone knows the jaunty, irresistible “Working in a Coal Mine”, a Top 10 hit in the Pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1980 the Clash invited the still spry Lee Dorsey to open on their US tour.

 

Image result for clash lee dorsey

Lee & the Clash

The Dorsey/Toussaint connection continued to make fine singles which met with less commercial success. Lee always had his auto repair shop to fall back on when he was less in demand. In 1969 the team’s statement record was “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” & “Give It Up” showed that they walked it like they talked it. This was a mature New Orleans take on the New Groove. Toussaint’s songs were stronger, his horn arrangement on “Give It Up” sensational. (When the Band needed charts for a brass section they knew who to call). The studio band, the Meters, confidence high from their own success, provided diamond-sharp backing for their city’s premier vocalist.

 

The singles, issued on the small Amy label, made little impact but in 1970 Lee got to make his first LP for 4 years, a proper one not a compilation of past releases. There were some great R&B LP’s coming round & “Yes We Can”, not a big seller, was among them. The title track endured as a political slogan for young Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “Who’s Gonna Help a Brother Go Further” is another example of a growing modernity & social awareness of the lyrics. “Riverboat” was picked up by Little Feat, “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” by Robert Palmer. Now the record has the highest of reputations, back then Lee Dorsey was regarded as being from the old school. That’s a pity because a lot of people missed out on something very good.

 

Hey, Y’all Prepare Yourself (The Spinners)

The Spinners, a 5 piece vocal group from the Detroit suburbs, was formed by school friends in the mid-1950s. There were some personnel changes before their first record, “That’s What Girls Are Made For”, was a US Top 40 hit in 1961. Through the next decade they were in the Tamla Motown orbit which made the sound of Detroit a wonder of 1960s popular music. In 1972 a change of record label & a move to the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia produced immediate success, a string of hit singles, 5 consecutive gold LPs & being chosen as the opening turn at the 1975 Grammy Awards ceremony.

 

 

Holy Moly ! How great is that ? The Detroit Spinners, as they were known in the UK to avoid confusion with a cable-knit sweatered folk group, made their early records, Sam Cooke-influenced pop R&B, with Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi label. Harvey’s  lead vocal on The Moonglows’ Doo Wop classic “Ten Commandments of Love” is something to hear. He ran his labels with his wife Gwen, sister of Berry Gordy, the founder of Tamla Motown. When the couple moved across to the more successful branch of the family business they took their acts along too. The Spinners were never able to break into the Motown A-team. Their 1965 Top 40 hit “I’ll Always Love You” is a Funk Brothers’ formula floor-filler (so it’s a cracker) but they never received the Temptations treatment, working with a number of  staff producers, playing down the bill on the star-studded Motortown Revues. The 2nd of their Detroit LPs, on the subsidiary VIP label, included the first track that Stevie Wonder produced for another act. “It’s A Shame” was a Top 20 hit in the US & the UK  raising the group’s profile just as their contract was ending &  life after Motown was being considered.

 

The Spinners transferred to Atlantic in 1972. 4 of the group, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson & lead vocal Bobby Smith had been around from the very beginning. They had adapted to the many changes of style & fashion in African-American vocal groups, were a consummate, smooth professional act. After a decade of sporadic success they were about to find their place in the spotlight & they were ready to make the most of it. Thom Bell had set the benchmark for sweet, symphonic soul with the Delfonics. Together with producer/songwriters Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff his arrangements for the horns & strings of the Sigma Studios house band MFSB made Philadelphia a new hit factory for the new decade. With his associate Linda Creed, Bell established the Stylistics at the forefront of the city’s lush but still funky proto-Disco sound. Hooking him up with the Spinners was a very smart move.

 

 

G.C. Cameron, the lead on “It’s A Shame”, stayed with Motown as a solo act. He recommended his cousin Philippe Wynne as his replacement. Phil is the guy taking the Grammys to church on “Mighty Love”, his urgent, individual voice lifted the Spinners to another level, his ebullient stage presence gave the group a distinctive edge that they had perhaps lacked. Thom Bell’s studio craft, using Wynne & Bobby Smith on lead, ensured that after the success of the “Spinners” LP & “I’ll Be Around”, the group’s 1st million selling single, the world-class pop-soul kept on coming. When “I’ll Be…” was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Group Performance it was alongside “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (The Temptations), “I’ll Take You There” (Staples Singers), another Philly hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin/Blue Notes) & “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (Gladys Knight/Pips). The O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” didn’t even make the list ! The Golden Age of American Soul music was not over yet.

 

It’s a strain to select just 3 highlights from the Spinners’ winners. “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, you know that one. The rather sublime “Love Don’t Love Nobody” was recently highlighted on The Blue Moment, Richard Williams’ fine blog. On a live version of  “How Could I Let You Get Away” Phillipe sings impressions of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding & Al Green, perfect soul-cabaret. At the 3 day festival in Kinshasa, Zaire, held to promote the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle (see the movie “Soul Power”) the band tore the place up. Bell hooked them up with Dionne Warwick & “Then Came You” became their only US #1. You know where to find all of these. The live clips are fine, the guys dance up a storm & do the thing they had been doing for 20 years. However capable the backing band, it’s tough to match the shimmering gloss of the studio versions.

 

 

“Wake Up Susan” was not the biggest hit but is a personal favourite. It’s an uptempo, sweet 3.22 minutes, a Friday, 5 to 5, the weekend starts here, crackerjack that never misses. In 1977 Phillipe left the group for a solo career. “Starting All Over” is a self-produced LP, his own songs with Philly’s & New York’s finest musicians, which failed to find an audience. He hooked up & toured with Funkadelic which seemed unlikely but Wynne had sung with Bootsy Collins back in the day. He sang on “(Not Just) Knee Deep” & George Clinton produced the “Wynne Jammin'” (1980). The voice is still a lovely thing but even the best songs still serve as a reminder of just how good the Spinners were. Unfortunately Philippe suffered a heart attack onstage in 1984 & a great talent was lost at just 43 years old. This is him in full P-Funk flow…

 

 

Of course the Spinners kept on keeping on with replacement John Edwards. They stuck with Thom Bell until 1979, their version of “Are You Ready For Love”, recorded by Elton John on a visit to Sigma Sound, is a disco-tastic delight. The group’s biggest later hits were crossover revivals of old hits by the 4 Seasons & Sam Cooke. Those 4 life-long Spinners remained with the group for 50 years. Billy Henderson left in 2004 when he had asked his lawyers to investigate their financial affairs. Both Pervis Jackson & Bobby Smith, a consummate singer & frontman, were members until they passed away in 2008 & 2013 respectively. Now Henry Fambrough remains as the keeper of the flame. The Spinners remained a popular & welcome live act, a great show with oldies that were truly golden from that time when they were one of a kind.

Groove On Brother For We Will Not Harm You (Parliament/Funkadelic)

“Say Brother” was a TV programme out of Boston which concerned itself with social & cultural issues in the Black community. The 1960s becoming the 1970s was a tumultuous time for African-Americans. Black Power & Pride endorsed the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement, personal & political futures were negotiable, everything was open for discussion. Imaginative often scattergun stuff got said about serious issues but debate about racism, sexism, apartheid, things like that, is never wasted breath. In 1969 “Say Brother” opened their studio for the musical equivalent of these strident voices. A wild crew eager to sample & explore the possibilities on offer to black people in the USA. It produced amazing, landmark music TV.

George Clinton formed a doo-wop vocal group with his teenage friends in the late-1950s. The next decade included a stint with Jobete, Motown’s publishing company. George worked out of the New York office run by Berry Gordy’s estranged wife Raynoma. She had bootlegged copies of a Mary Wells hit & trousered the dosh. The label’s head honcho was not well disposed towards any of her proteges. The Parliaments did hit big in 1967 with ” (I Wanna) Testify”, a stomping soul shout but the hits did not keep on coming. In fact their small label hit the rocks & George even lost entitlement to his own group’s name. One thing Clinton did was to keep his friends close. 3 of the 5 Parliaments  were there at the beginning, the 2 who joined in 1965 were still around when George was ready to make his big move. “Testify”‘s success meant that he could employ a 5 piece backing band for gigs. In 1969, those legal wrinkles temporarily smoothed, he convened a new, expanded Parliament. A 10 member collective which intended to tear the roof off the sucker.

Rock Dreams: Chairmen of the BoardGuy Peellaert’s magnum opus “Rock Dreams” imagines the new aristocracy of African-American music as directors at a boardroom table. Established superstar artists were limited by the primacy of the demand for hit singles. Marvin, Stevie & Curtis wanted to make albums despite, in the case of the first 2, label opposition. Stax Records were shafted by the small print of their contract with Atlantic & lost the rights to a wonderful catalogue. Isaac Hayes stepped up with “Hot Buttered Soul”, 3 million reasons to believe that the future was already here (a nod to Sly Stone too). 1969, as Soul was moving to Funk, was time to take care of business.

George Clinton was bang on to that idea. His deal was with Invictus, the label founded by the Holland Brothers & Lamont Dozier after leaving Motown. With his vocal group brand in legal limbo those same musicians became Funkadelic who had a separate deal with another Detroit label, Westbound. Parliament/Funkadelic had a thing, a new thing, they were  “ready to get up and do their thing (yeah go ahead!)… get into it, man, you know”. They were a busy crew. In 1970 3 LPs were released in as many months.

These clips are just dynamite. The primped & pompadoured Parliaments have been replaced by a wild & woolly swarm of boys from the hood. George has a haircut from the future, is drenched with the acid sweats. As the young people say he is “tripping balls” & enjoying the ride. “Soul is a ham hock in your corn flakes”, man, that’s still as strange & as funny as George knows it to be. Thanks for the reassuring “we will not harm you” too because these brothers are not here to dick around. This is authentic “Psychedelic Soul”, not the orchestrated monuments of Norman Whitfield & the Temptations but a magical mystery expedition which leaves no turn unstoned in the search for the Funk.

Clinton recognised & encouraged the abilities within his troupe. Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins had been a trusted partner since the beginning. Here he leads the congregation, sharing the band’s new vision. In the backline Billy “Bass” Nelson & guitarist Eddie Hazell thrived on the freedom. They recruited Tiki Fulwood, house drummer at the Uptown Theatre Philadelphia, & the heart of a great band was beating.

There were 2 LPs in 1970. “Funkadelic” began the P-Funk myth-making, asking “What Is Soul ?” & “Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic ?”. The music emerged from sprawling, exploratory jams. The vocals were raw, reaching back to the field hollers of the plantation. The acid logic of “Free Your Mind & Your Ass Will Follow” expresses a credo which continued through the decade as the Mothership Manifesto gained momentum. The band spent a lot of time in the Invictus studio. They hooked up with Ruth Copeland, an English blues-folk singer & made 2 LPs with her which include couple of grandstanding Stones covers as good as this version of “Play With Fire”. This blaze of creativity tempered the sound, they discovered which of their experiments were worth pursuing, which elements of their new music was worth keeping. The 3rd LP “Maggot Brain” opens with a 10 minute long mind-melting title track where Eddie Hazell plays it like he means it. The influence of Jimi Hendrix was everywhere at this time, Eddie got that technique without emotion is just playing with yourself. “Maggot  Brain” is a classic of our music.

It took years of solid touring & recording to finesse this lysergic blend of soul, rock, what ifs & why nots into a noise that a lot of people wanted to buy. When that happened George Clinton was ready with a 3-ring Greatest Show On Earth stadium spectacular. Success brought its own problems as a big band wanted to get paid. The hits just kept on coming for Parliament/Funkadelic & the P-Funkers. George’s vision stayed crazy & encouraged collaboration with other talents. That time at the beginning though, when the new rules were that there were no rules, when you took acid then went into a recording studio just to see what might happen, produced some raw, funked-up, gutbucket music. Just like George had heard that time in “Keep Running Mississippi” that “way back yonder funk”.