News for September 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #78 – Stealers Wheel: “Stuck In The Middle With You” b/w “José”– A&M 1416 (Q8/R8)

45-adapter-logo2stealerswheelstuckinthemiddle45

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #78 – Stealers Wheel: “Stuck In The Middle With You” b/w “José”– A&M 1416 (Q8/R8)

Some songs are forever changed by the movies that they appear in. For instance, Roy Orbison’s rather innocuous “In Dreams” took on a more sinister tone when it was used by David Lynch in the film Blue Velvet, forever changing the hue of the song for all of those who saw the movie. And one can’t help but feel the pain and helplessness of the police officer in the sadistic torture scene of Quentin Tarentino’s film Reservoir Dogs when listening to today’s jukebox classic, “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel.

Tarantino: “That was one of those things where I thought [the song] would work really well, and [during] auditions, I told the actors that I wanted them to do the torture scene, and I’m gonna use ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ but they could pick anything they wanted, they didn’t have to use that song. And a couple people picked another one, but almost everyone came in with ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ and they were saying that they tried to come up with something else, but that’s the one. The first time somebody actually did the torture scene to that song, the guy didn’t even have a great audition, but it was like watching the movie. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is gonna be awesome!’” (Rolling Stone)

The song was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan who formed the group Stealers Wheel in Scotland. The hand-clappy folk-bubblegum confection was released on Stealers Wheel’s 1972 self-titled debut album which was recorded at The Beatles’ Apple Studios at 3 Saville Row in England and engineered by Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick. The album and today’s jukebox single were produced by legendary songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and the single reached the #6 position of the US Hot 100 charts in 1973, selling well over a million copies. The group consisted of Gerry Rafferty, Joe Egan, Paul Pilnich, Tony Williams and Rod Coombes.

Rafferty left the band a few months after the debut album was recorded and was replaced by Luther Grosvenor (of Spooky Tooth), but with the success of the single, Rafferty was persuaded to rejoin the group. Rafferty: “I was going through a very strange period in my life right then, I’d got married, had a child, I was twenty-four, and one day it was like I’d been living in a dream for six or eight years and suddenly I woke up. It was a pretty scary kind of feeling. Perhaps I was on the edge of a nervous break-down — that’s how it felt, anyway. I just had to get away, away from groups, managers, record companies, the whole thing. So I picked up and moved [from London] back to Scotland to sort myself out.” (Rolling Stone 8/24/78)

The group then became just Rafferty and Egan and whomever they chose to back them since Grosvenor, Pilnich, Williams and Coombes left upon Rafferty’s return. In the loopy, stoned-out video, Joe Egan is seen lip synching the song, however it was Rafferty who handled the vocal chores on the track.

The lyrics were written as a parody of a Hollywood cocktail party using the vernacular of Bob Dylan, and the song has seen covers by Juice Newton, Jeff Healey, Susanna Hoffs, Michael Bublé, Keith Urban, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many others. The flip of the single is the polar opposite of its top side. While “Stuck” is an incredibly infectious poppy confection, José is a lowdown, bluesy rocker that was also taken from the group’s debut album.

Rafferty stuck in the middle of Stealers Wheel for two more albums before taking off for a solo career that gave us the smash hits “Baker Street” and “Right Down The Line” from his second solo album City To City, which earned the distinction of knocking the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack out of the top slot of the album charts in 1978. Rafferty continued to record music throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s until his alcoholism got the best of him. He succumbed to liver failure in January of 2011.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 29th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #77 – The Rolling Stones: “Honky Tonk Woman” b/w “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”– London 45-910 (N8/P8)

45-adapter-logo2rollingstoneshonkytonkwomanpicsleeve

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #77 – The Rolling Stones: “Honky Tonk Woman” b/w “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”– London 45-910 (N8/P8)

The first thing that grabs you is the cowbell, and if that doesn’t get your immediate attention, then you’re dead. Then comes Charlie Watts’ rim-shot snare attack that sets up one of the funkiest drum patterns this side of Memphis. Enter the hip-swaying guitar crunch of Keith Richards and Bill Wyman’s funk-infused bass playing that sets this track (and you, the listener) into motion. The rest of the band kicks into the groove…yes, on this one, it’s all about the groove. And the groove of “Honky Tonk Woman” is as infectious as it is incessant.

It’s got all the makings of not only one, but two great tracks on a double sided single paired with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on the flip. It’s what made 45s great back in the day. Two great songs with the flip side of the single equally as strong as the top side. The Beatles’ did it with “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” cohabitating on the same seven inch. The Beach Boys also did it with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice and “God Only Knows.” The Monkees gave us “I’m A Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” on one single, and then there was the pairing of “Till The End Of The Day” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” by The Kinks. The world of vinyl is littered with hundreds of others. (At the end of this post, share some of your classic single pairings…anyway, back to the music at hand…)

Several versions of “Honky Tonk Woman,” the top side of today’s jukebox classic, were recorded by The Stones in 1969. There was today’s single version that found its way onto the compilation album Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2). The original was a country version that was based on Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues” and recorded before the electric version. It was later released on their Let It Bleed album under the title “Country Honk” with a much slower tempo with different lyrics. A third version was performed in concert and captured on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! with a different second verse. Doesn’t matter which version’s your pleasure, they’re all superb! The single topped both the US and UK charts in 1969, and it’s been a staple of The Stones’ concerts ever since.

The “Country Honk” version was the group’s first attempt at the song and it is notable for being Brian Jones’ last recording with the band. According to Keith Richards, the electric take of the track was influenced by Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor. Richards: “… the song was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930s country song. And it got turned around to this other thing by Mick Taylor, who got into a completely different feel, throwing it off the wall another way.” (Crawdaddy via Wikipedia). However, since memory isn’t Mr. Richards’ strong suit, Mick Taylor says: “I added something to ‘Honky Tonk Woman’, but it was more or less complete by the time I arrived and did my overdubs.” (McPherson, Ian. Track Talk: Honky Tonk Women via Wikipedia) Over the years, Ry Cooder has also taken credit for inspiring the electric riff as well.

The original British single was released the day after Brian Jones death on the fourth of July, 1969, and copies of the record were given away free to those who stayed to clean the park up after the tribute concert they gave in Hyde Park in Jones’ memory. The song has been covered by the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, Waylon Jennings, Joe Cocker, Gram Parsons, Travis Tritt, Elton John, Billy Joel, Taj Mahal, Leslie West, The Meters, The Pogues, Tesla and Def Leppard.

On the flip lies the epic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” another stone cold classic from Let It Bleed that broke boundaries of what an AM hit record could be. The album version of the song clocked in at seven and a half minutes and featured vocals on the intro and the long fade by the London Bach Choir. The single version which clocks in at a still-long-for-radio five minutes, eschews the choir intro. The song did not chart when it was first released, however it ultimately reached #42 on the charts in 1973 and remains one of their most popular songs in concert. Once Let It Bleed was released, The London Bach Choir unsuccessfully tried to have their name removed from the credits because of the album’s title and the inclusion of the song “Midnight Rambler” which was about a serial killer.

The group had a hard time recording “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” because Charlie Watts could not get catch the groove of the song. As a result, producer Jimmy Miller handles the drum duties on this track. Mick Jagger: “‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn’t play the groove and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums. I’d also had this idea of having a choir, probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn’t one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, ‘That will be a laugh.” (Loewenstein, Dora; Dodd, Philip (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. San Francisco: Chronicle Books via Wikipedia) The lineup on the song also featured Al Kooper, who played the organ and the French horn part.

This is another Rolling Stones classic that has seen its share of cover version by the likes of Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Def Leppard, Luther Allison, Rusted Root, Steel Pulse, the cast of Glee and numerous others.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. And no jukebox is complete without a single by The Rolling Stones!

Edited: September 28th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

45-adapter-logo2marthavandellaswildone45marthavandellasdancingslow45

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #76 – Martha and the Vandellas: “Wild One” b/w “Dancing Slow”– Gordy 7036 (L8/M8)

Today’s Song of the Day is the second single in the jukebox by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. As a result, I will pick up some of the biographical information I wrote about the group from my piece on “Jimmy Mack” (Jukebox Series #23) for this article.

Martha and the Vandellas was one of the most successful girl groups to come out of Motown. Unlike The Supremes, the Vandellas’ sound was far grittier and more danceable than the sugary pop that catapulted The Supremes to fame. Their list of classic hits includes “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Come And Get These Memories,” “Quicksand,” “Live Wire,” “Jimmy Mack,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

Today’s jukebox classic was not one of Martha and the Vandellas’ biggest hits, but it is one that has a distinctive uptown Brill Building sound to it, by way of Detroit. The song was written by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter who also were two of the three songwriters of the group’s defining hit “Dancing In The Street.” In fact, the backing track to this song was an alternate version of the backing track to “Dancing In The Street,” with the crucial difference of a heavily boosted drum track that sends the record into the dance floor stratosphere.

The song climbed to #11 on the R&B charts, but only placed at #34 on the Hot 100 singles chart. However, don’t let the somewhat anemic chart stats fool you; this song is every bit as potent as their biggest hits with its larger than life drum sound, tinny AM radio horn charts, and of course, the sultry vocal talents of Martha Reeves. The song was a tribute to bikers and was inspired by The Shangri-Las’ “Leader Of The Pack” and The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel.”

Personnel on the track includes Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Joe Hunter on background vocals, with instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Benny Benjamin on drums, James Jamerson on bass, Jack Ashford and Ivy Jo Hunter on percussion and Robert White and Eddie Willis on guitar.

The song was included on The Vandellas’ 1965 Dance Party album, as was the flip of today’s jukebox classic “Dancing Slow.” The album centered on a clutch of singles that were released during the previous year including the hits “Dancing In The Street” and “Come And Get These Memories,” plus the popular album track “Motoring.”

The flip of today’s single, “Dancing Slow” was a supper club ballad that was supposed to cast Martha Reeves in a new light as a nightclub performer. Around this time, Diana Ross and The Supremes scored three consecutive chart-topping singles, so Motown did not want The Vandellas’ to compete on the charts with the label’s new superstar group (even though Martha Reeves could sing circles around Diana Ross). As a result, the group was sent to the studio during the summer of 1964 to record a selection of MOR pop ballads, Broadway tunes and standards for a supper club album that never saw the light of day. Ultimately, The Supremes went on to become Motown’s biggest recording act, pushing Martha and the Vandellas to the side and ultimately off the label.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 27th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

45-adapter-logo2leonardcohennewskin

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Who By Fire” by Leonard Cohen

It’s that time of year when Jews atone for sins and pray for forgiveness… in exchange for another year on the planet. It’s an unspoken deal Jews strike each year with God and I am just superstitious enough to continue to go along with it.

Today’s song is a track from Leonard Cohen’s fourth studio album New Skin For The Old Ceremony. The song derives from the Unetanneh Tokef prayer that is said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Days. The song is sung as a duet on the album with fellow folk singer (and also a Jew), Janis Ian.

Leonard Cohen: “That song derives very directly from a Hebrew prayer that is sung on the Day of Atonement…according to the tradition, the book of life is opened and in it is inscribed all those who will live, all those who will die for the following year…In that prayer is cataloged all the various ways in which you can quit this veil of tears. The melody is, if not actually stolen, is certainly derived from the melody that I heard in the synagogue as a boy. But, of course, the conclusion online casinos of the song as I write it is somewhat different…”who shall I say is calling”…that is what makes the song into a prayer for me. In my terms, which is who is it, or what is it that determines who will live or who will die.” (from the Harry Rasky film The Song of Leonard Cohen 1979 -http://www.leonardcohen-prologues.com/who_by_fire.htm)

The album also includes the Leonard Cohen classics “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a song about a sexual encounter Cohen had at the Chelsea Hotel with Janis Joplin, “Take This Longing” and “Field Commander Cohen.”

May you, Leonard Cohen and I all be inscribed in the book of life…G’mar Tov…

Edited: September 21st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #75 – David Essex: “Rock On” b/w “On And On”– Columbia 4-45940 (J8/K8)

45-adapter-logo2davidessexrockonpicsleeve

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #75 – David Essex: “Rock On” b/w “On And On”– Columbia 4-45940 (J8/K8)

It was the era of T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Lou Reed’s Transformer. Glam rock was all the rage as were Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople and The New York Dolls. And there was also a new brand of power pop taking the charts by storm at the same time with hits like “Little Willie” by Sweet, “Go All The Way” by Raspberries and later “Saturday Night” by Bay City Rollers.

Enter David Essex…British actor and future glam rock pinup star. Essex had an acting career appearing in the musical Godspell in 1971 and later in the film That’ll Be The Day where he came to the attention of British and American audiences alike.

So it was just a matter of time for him to take on the world of recorded music with today’s self-penned jukebox classic and two-time hit from 1973. The bass player on this sinuous track is Herbie Flowers who went on to play bass for David Bowie on the Diamond Dogs album the following year. This song is the ultimate glam-pop confection, a sticky piece of ear candy with a slicing string arrangement and echo-laden bass riff. It should be no surprise that the track made it into the U.S. top five by 1974. Such was the popularity of the song that it would eventually top the charts again in 1988, when it was recorded by TV soap opera star Michael Damien.

While Essex will forever be associated mainly with this song in America, and perhaps his appearance in Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of The War Of the Worlds from 1978, he has led a long acting career primarily in the UK, where he has performed in the musicals Evita (and scored the top-five British hit “Oh What A Circus.”), Aspects Of Love and Footloose.

The flip of today’s Song of the Day is “On And On,” a fine ballad that is also another self-penned track from Essex’s Rock On album.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 20th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #74 – The Who: “I Can See For Miles” b/w “Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand”– Decca 32206 (G8/H8)

45-adapter-logo2whoIcanseeformiles45whomaryanne45

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #74 – The Who: “I Can See For Miles” b/w “Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand”– Decca 32206 (G8/H8)

The Who have several masterpieces in their canon including Tommy, Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. However, one record that doesn’t get name-checked enough when it comes to The Who’s masterworks is The Who Sell Out which is by far my all-time favorite of all of their albums.

Back in 1967, The Who managed to do what Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys couldn’t. The Beach Boys’ Smile was meant to create a painterly picture of Americana through music and inject a broad sense of humor into the music. The Who’s 1967 album, was a quintessentially British album that was injected it through and through with humor to burn.

The Who took their British concept one step further by building the album around a fake pirate radio station concept, complete with commercials and public service announcements between each song. The album’s release was met with a flurry of law suits because some of the fake jingles were for real products including Heinz Baked Beans and Odorono Deodorant.

Furthermore, the album cover depicted a photo of each band member advertising a product. Pete Townshend is shown applying Odorono Deodorant to his underarm, Roger Daltrey is shown sitting in a bathtub full of Heinz Baked Beans, Keith Moon is shown putting Medac zit cream on his face and John Entwistle is shown with a woman flexing his muscles and holding a teddy bear depicting the album’s Charles Atlas jingle. British first pressings of the album came with a psychedelic poster of a butterfly which was originally considered for the album’s cover art. (Sure wish I had one of those!) Copies of the album with the poster sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.

The album includes the single “I Can See For Miles” which is today’s jukebox classic, and along with “Pictures Of Lily,” is amongst The Who’s very best singles. The song was written by Pete Townshend and it remains the group’s biggest hit reaching #9 on the U.S. singles chart. The track was recorded in both England and the U.S., and the single version differs from the album version featuring an overdubbed second bass track.

The song was said to inspire Paul McCartney who read a review of “I Can See For Miles” that claimed it was one of the heaviest songs ever released. Not being the type to be one-upped, McCartney set out to write an even heavier song (even though he hadn’t heard “Miles”) resulting in “Helter Skelter.” (songfacts.com)

The song features a one-note guitar solo that was a reaction to the arrival of Jimi Hendrix on the scene. Townshend believed that he couldn’t possibly complete with the American axe man, so why bother trying. (songfacts.com) While the record was The Who’s best showing on the charts, Townshend was sure that the song would be their first number one single and was disappointed when it only climbed into the top ten. It has been covered by the likes of Tina Turner, Styx, Marty Stuart and Old Crow Medicine Show and Petra Haden who not only covered the song, but also covered the whole album.

The flip of today’s single is an alternate mix of another Who Sell Out track, “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand,” which is another essential psychedelic Who track. The song describes a woman who is afflicted with hand tremors, but many believe that the song is their second stab at creating a great song about masturbation (following “Pictures Of Lily”) because of the line “What they’ve done to a man, those shaky hands.”

Several versions of the song exist. The album version included an acoustic guitar part with Latin rhythms on it, while a second version trades the acoustic guitar for an electric and features an organ solo courtesy of Al Kooper. The version on the flip of today’s single is a mono version with the electric guitar and without the organ solo.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 15th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866 (E8/F8)

45-adapter-logo2arethafranklinyounggiftedandblackarethadaydreaming45

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #73 – Aretha Franklin: “Day Dreaming” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” – Atlantic 45-2866 (E8/F8)

Today’s jukebox classic is a self-penned nugget from Aretha Franklin’s classic Young, Gifted and Black album. The song features some of the most lilting and sensuous vocals Reethy ever captured on record.

Young, Gifted and Black was Aretha’s most consistent platter and it captured her at her absolute prime in a year that saw the release of classic soul albums like Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly, Al Green’s I’m So In Love With You and Let’s Stay Together, Bill Withers’ Still Bill and Cymande’s self-titled debut. Amongst its tune stack are the hit singles “Rock Steady” and “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool for You Baby),” along with today’s song “Day Dreaming.” The album won Aretha her sixth Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Female Artist in 1973.

“Day Dreaming” was released in 1972 and climbed to #5 on the pop charts, while topping the Hot Soul Singles charts for two weeks and selling over a million copies. The track features Donny Hathaway on electric piano, jazz great Hubert Laws on flute, session greats Chuck Rainey and Cornell Dupree on guitar and Bernard Purdie on drums. It was produced by the Atlantic Records supreme team of Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd and it has been covered by the likes of Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Will Downing, Corinne Bailey Rae and many others.

The subject of Aretha’s day dreaming was said to be Temptations singer Dennis Edwards, however Franklin has never disclosed who the man of her day dreams really was. Franklin: “’Day Dreaming’ was rather personal and I was thinking about someone who used to be a friend of mine. I’ll give you a hint. Used to be with one of the hottest groups in the country, tall, dark and fine. ‘OOOOwww wooo wooo wheee!” – he could sing!” (Aretha Franklin: The Queen Of Soul by Mark Bego via songfacts.com)

The song was released during the height of the singer songwriter era casting Aretha Franklin in a new light as one of the most influential female singer songwriters of the day, along with Roberta Flack, Carole King and Carly Simon who composed and performed their own material.

The flip of today’s single is Aretha’s take on the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” which originally appeared on his Otis Blue album in 1965. The song was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler, who also recorded his own version. Aretha’s cover was also included on Young, Gifted and Black. The song has been covered by a myriad of artists including The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Ike and Tina Turner, Etta James, The Tindersticks, Joe Cocker and Seal.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 14th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

45-adapter-logo2curtismayfieldfreddiesdead45

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #72–Curtis Mayfield: “Freddie’s Dead” b/w “Underground” – Curtom CR-1975 (C8/D8)

They called them “Blaxploitation” films. They were films that were created specifically for the African American urban market during the early 1970s. They weren’t known for their story lines or for the greatest acting, but they were chock full of action, and they were soundtracked by some of the greatest soul artists of all time.

No list of great Blaxploitation soundtracks would be complete without Across 112th Street by Bobby Womack, Shaft by Isaac Hayes and Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. And then there were dozens of “second tier” films and soundtracks that were not as well known, but had their musical moments of potency including Black Caesar by James Brown, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadass Song by Melvin Van Peeples, The Mack by Willie Hutch and Together Brothers by Barry White. Perhaps the finest Blaxploitation soundtrack of them all is Super Fly by Curtis Mayfield, where not coincidentally, today jukebox classic comes from.

Super Fly was directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. and starred Ron O’Neal as an African cocaine dealer. It is one of the few Blaxploitation films where the soundtrack out grossed its parent film. The soundtrack was released in 1972 on Curtis Mayfield’s own Curtom record label and spawned two million-selling singles, including the title track which climbed to #8 on the pop charts and #5 on the soul charts, and today’s jukebox classic “Freddie’s Dead,” which placed at #4 on the pop charts and #2 on the black singles charts in 1972 before the release of the film. Additionally, the soundtrack also included the song “Pusherman” which also garnered significant airplay and would not be out of place on any Curtis Mayfield greatest hits collection.

Like Marvin Gaye’s colossal What’s Goin’ On from the same period, the album featured socially conscious lyrics that reflected the reality of inner city life which were an anomaly for the times. When it was released, record company brass at Buddah (which distributed Curtom Records) didn’t believe the record would sell, however the album ultimately topped the pop charts for four weeks and the black charts for six weeks.

Interestingly, the song was only featured in the film as an instrumental which kind of makes sense since the song’s stance is decidedly anti-drug use, while the film centers on the doings of a bad-ass drug dealer. As a result, it was not eligible for an Academy Award nomination because the lyrics were not heard in the film. The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, but lost out to The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.”

Personnel on the single includs Curtis Mayfield on vocals and guitar, Joseph Lucky Scott on bass, Master Henry Gibson on percussion, Morris Jennings on drums and Craig McMullen on guitar. It has been covered by Fishbone, MFSB, The Derek Trucks Band and E.U.

The flip of today’s single features an atmospheric spoken intro that morphs into a scuzzy lowdown, sinister vibe with a spiraling guitar figure. It’s a sound that only Mayfield could pull together with his otherworldly falsetto. It was culled from his previous album, Roots which was released in 1971.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: September 8th, 2015