Posts Tagged ‘Soul’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #83 – Lou Rawls: “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” b/w “Dead End Street”– Capitol/Collectables COL-6081

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #83 – Lou Rawls: “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” b/w “Dead End Street”– Capitol/Collectables COL-6081

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Most people remember Lou Rawls for his silky-smooth vocal delivery on his disco era hit “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” but by the time he had that hit in 1976, Rawls had already been recording albums, and yes many hits, for 14 years.

Chicago-born Rawls got his start by replacing Sam Cooke in the Gospel group, The Highway QC’s. After a stint in the Army, Rawls joined another Gospel group called Pilgrim Travelers. While on the road with Sam Cooke and The Travelers, Rawls was in a serious car accident that left him pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. He was revived but was in a coma for five days before regaining consciousness. After he recuperated, Rawls began doing session work, most notably singing background vocals on Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.”

He was signed to Capitol Records by staff producer Nick Venet (The Beach Boys, The Kingston Trio, Nat King Cole, Glen Campbell) and recorded his first album, Stormy Monday, for the label in 1962 backed by the Les McCann Trio. The Les McCann Trio was a stalwart of the Sunset Strip jazz clubs and was also signed by Nick Venet to Pacific Jazz Records. Their lineup included McCann on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Ron Jefferson on drums. Rawls’ early albums featured a mix of jazz and blues standards, but it wasn’t until Rawls cut a proper soul album in 1966 that his star began to rise in the industry.

That album was called Soulin’ and it featured the top side of today’s double-sided reissue jukebox single, Rawls’ first top forty hit “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing,” which climbed to #13 on the pop charts, while topping the R&B charts in 1966. The song was written by Ben Raleigh and Dave Linden, and covered by several artists including The Temptations and Big Maybelle.

The flip of today’s single was one of Rawls’ patented soul monologues called “Dead End Street” which painted a bleak picture of Chicago ghetto life circa 1967. The song was originally on Rawls’ David Axelrod-produced 1967 album called Too Much.

The monologue or spoken recitation hit was not a new idea when Rawls brought it to the soul charts. Country artists had been doing spoken word records for years, whether by Hank Williams under the guise of Luke The Drifter, or songs like T. Texas Tyler’s “Deck Of Cards,” Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” Red Sovine’s “Phantom 49” and later on with songs like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Charlie Daniels Band’s “Uneasy Rider” and C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.”

The difference between these songs and Rawls’ take on the spoken hit is far more organic since Rawls’ recordings began as unprepared monologues that sprang up during concert recordings or recording sessions that in essence worked to set the songs up before launching into them properly.

Rawls: “I was working in little joints where the stage would be behind the bar. So you were standing right over the cash register and the crushed ice machine. You’d be swinging and the waitress would yell, ‘I want 12 beers and four martinis!’ And then the dude would put the ice in the crusher. There had to be a way to get the attention of the people. So instead of just starting in singing, I would just start in talking the song.” (http://www.lourawls.com/rawlsbio.html)

Rawls’ “Dead End Street” climbed to the #3 Position on the R&B charts (and #29 pop) and won him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance in 1967. While the single was on the charts, Rawls performed at The Monterey Pop festival alongside such luminaries as Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.

He continued to record for Capitol scoring hits like “Tobacco Road” and “Your Good Thing (Is About To End),” plus many others. He also opened for The Beatles on their 1966 tour in Cincinnati. In total, Rawls recorded over twenty albums for the label before signing with MGM in 1970.

While he only recorded three albums for MGM, he did score his Grammy-winning hit “Natural Man” for the label. He signed to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label in 1976, where he had his greatest successes releasing million-selling albums and the hits “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” “Lady Love,” “Let Me Be Good To You,” and “See You When I Git There.” Rawls died of cancer in 2006 and left behind a legacy of gritty blues and silky soul recordings.

Edited: October 26th, 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)

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

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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)

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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

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

There’s always been a fine line between country and soul music (i.e. Charley Pride), but never has the line been so thin than on today’s Song of the Day. “Take A Letter Maria,” by R.B. Greaves features a soulful mariachi-flavored horn part that would fit comfortably on both a country and soul track.

The song was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama featuring their crack studio crew including Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on electric piano, Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitars, David Hood on bass and Mel Lastie on trumpet. Most of the musicians on the record had recently broken away from FAME studios where they were featured on many Atlantic recordings to start out on their own.

David Hood: “It was our first big hit. First gold record after we had gone out on our own. We were getting pretty nervous, because we thought Atlantic was going to quit using us and we were going to go broke. So it was a big relief when R.B. Greaves came along. ‘Take a Letter, Maria’ was just a fluke. We all thought it was good when we cut it, but we didn’t think it was anything all that special. And here it becomes a hit.” (Song Facts.com)

The song was written by Greaves, but was recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before he committed it to wax at the insistence of producer and record label boss Ahmet Ertegun. It reached the #2 slot on the Billboard pop charts in August of 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also spawned two charting country covers by Anthony Armstrong Jones who brought the song to #8 in 1970, and Doug Stone who landed the song at #45 on the Country charts in 1999. The song has also been covered by the likes of New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Gary Puckett, Boots Randolph, Jimmy Ruffin, Mel Tormé and Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers.

The song was featured on the album R.B. Greaves which was produced by Ahmet Ertegun. David Hood: “He (Ertegun) was a tremendous recognizer of talent and of songs. He knew music and musicians about as well as anybody on earth, but he was very hands off. He sat in the control room…He had his feet propped up on the console and had a yellow legal pad in his lap. We thought, gosh, he’s making all these notes and doing all this stuff. And we go in there, and he’d just been doodling and drawing stars and stuff.” (SongFacts.com)

The album includes covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “Ain’t That Good News,” and five songs that were penned by Greaves. (R.B. Greaves was the nephew of Sam Cooke.) The flip of the single is another Greaves composition that did not turn up on his debut Atco album.

Greaves continued to have moderate chart success with such covers as Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” before leaving Atco Records in the early 1970s. His only other chart single was “Margie, Who’s Watching The Baby,” which bubbled under at #115 in 1972. Greaves died of prostate cancer in September of 2012 at the age of 68.

“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: July 22nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

She was Motown’s first big star and a favorite of The Beatles , and songs like this Smokey Robinson-penned gem that climbed to the #2 position of the R&B charts and the #8 position of the pop charts in 1962 are the reason why.

Wells came to Motown after passing Berry Gordy a song demo that she had intended for Jackie Wilson to record. Gordy had her sing the song for him and was suitably impressed enough to have her record “Bye Bye Baby” and released it as her first single which climbed to #8 on the R&B charts in 1961.

After this success, Gordy teamed her up with Smokey Robinson. Today’s jukebox classic was one in a long line of hits composed specifically for Mary Wells by Smokey Robinson, that also included “My Guy,” You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Two Lovers,” that established Wells as Motown’s first big star before leaving the company at the height of her powers in 1964.

“The One Who Really Loves You” is one of the finest examples of Robinson’s compositional magnificence. The song features a super-catchy ear worm of a tune highlighted by Wells’ cool lilting vocal that projects just the right amount of adult sophistication aloft in the mix. It all comes to you backed by a Harry Belafonte- influenced Calypso beat and smooth harmony vocals by The Love Tones (Carl Jones, Joe Marls & Stanford Bracely) who recorded backing vocals on many Motown sessions in 1962, but were never afforded a single of their own. The song was from Wells’ 1962 album of the same name which also included hit single “You Beat Me To The Punch.”

The flip of the single is every bit as good as the A-side, and was culled from Mary Wells’ 1961 debut Motown album called Bye Bye Baby I Don’t Want To Take A Chance. The single was reissued in 1965 after Wells left the label with the sides flipped to minimal chart action.

Wells’ success came to an end at Motown after a dispute with the label over the royalties from her recording of “My Guy” which she claimed were used to promote The Supremes’ single “Where Did Our Love Go” rather than one of her own records. Wells freed herself from Motown giving up royalties from the records she recorded for the label and the use of her own likeness to promote them, and signed with 20th Century Fox records where she had little chart success.

After recording many good records for Atco, Jubilee and Reprise that failed to chart, she finally found herself back on the charts again in 1981 with the Disco hit “Gigolo.” More records followed for a succession of smaller record labels that offered little promotion until Wells was diagnosed with cancer in 1990. She also sued Motown for unpaid royalties and reached a settlement with the label. Wells succumbed to laryngeal cancer in July of 1992 at the age of 49 leaving a legacy of soulful gems in her wake that are ripe for reinvestigation.

“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: July 20th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

Before The Miracles, before Berry Gordy and before Motown, a talented singer and aspiring songwriter named William Robinson formed a group called The Matadors. The Matadors consisted of Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Warren Moore and Claudette Rogers.

They met a hungry promoter named Berry Gordy who had his first taste of success by writing the Jackie Wilson hit “Reet Petite.” The Matadors auditioned for Gordy who liked the group, especially their lead singer. When Williams told Gordy that he could write songs, the two sat down and wrote an answer record to The Silhouettes’ 1958 hit “Get A Job,” and called it “Got A Job.”

Gordy thought the name, The Matadors, was far to masculine for a group that featured a vocalist like William Robinson and also a female vocalist, so he changed their name to The Miracles. Gordy negotiated a release of the record on the independent End record label in 1958 and it became a minor hit.

With the money earned from the hit record, Gordy went on to found the Motown record label making Robinson the vice-president…so you may say that both Gordy and Smokey Robinson (as he became known) “Got A Job” with the release of the record of the same name.

The Miracles consisted of Smokey Robinson on lead vocal, Claudette Rogers Robinson (his wife) on backing vocal, Pete Moore on backing vocal, Ronnie White on backing vocal, Bobby Rogers on co-lead vocal and backing vocal, Marv Tarplin on guitar with all other instruments performed by The Funk Brothers.

Songs don’t come any more romantic than the top side of today’s double A-sided single! The first thing that grabs you is the angelic, echo-laden production sound of “I’ll Try Something New” with its elaborate and plush bed of strings. If that doesn’t automatically get your attention, then Robinson’s gossamer vocals are sure to woo even the most hardened heart. (Note: For the ultimate in greatness, check out his soulful vocals during this record’s fade.)

The song was one of The Miracles early singles from 1962 and was also the title track to their third album. Upon its release, it climbed to the #11 position on the R&B charts and settled at #39 on the pop list. In 1969, the song was released as a single by The Supremes and The Temptations together that climbed to #25 on the pop charts and #8 R&B. It was also covered by the disco group A Taste Of Honey in 1982.

The flip of today’s single was a much bigger hit for The Miracles topping the R&B charts and climbing all the way to #8 on the pop list while selling a million copies. “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” is deservedly in the Grammy Hall Of Fame and also holds the distinction of being covered by The Beatles on their second album.

The song was written by Smokey Robinson for his wife (and group member) Claudette after hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on the radio while on a business trip in New York City. When originally released, it was relegated to the B-side of the song “Happy Landing,” however DJs flipped the record and liked it much better. Both songs appeared on The Miracles second album The Fabulous Miracles released in 1963.

The Beatles first heard the song after finding an imported copy from the U.S. and it quickly became a staple of their early live repertoire. It was recorded for their second album WithThe Beatles (in the U.K.) and The Beatles’ Second Album (in the U.S.) featuring an indelible lead vocal by John Lennon.

The Beatles re-recorded the song after EMI acquired their first four track recording equipment; however that version was deemed no better than the original and remains unreleased to this day. They also recorded it four times for broadcast on BBC radio. The song can also be heard in the 1970 Let It Be and it was also featured in a live version from Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963 on the Anthology 1 album.

The Beatles covered several Motown songs early in their career, including “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman,” because Berry Gordy gave the group reduced rates as an enticement since they were such a big recording act. The song has also been covered by a myriad of artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Zombies, The Jackson 5, Mickey Gilley (#2 Country Hit), Phil Collins, Mike + The Mechanics and She & Him.

“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: May 13th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice on “Anna.”

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe (of “Dizzy” fame) and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

“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: May 11th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

The magic in today’s track lies in Lewis’ feathery-light delivery atop the heavenly harmonious shoo-bop-shoo-bops in the background, and one of the all-time greatest roller-rink Hammond organ introductions ever on record. It’s no wonder that “Hello Stranger” climbed to #3 on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts in 1963.

During a time when most recording artists were told what to record, especially if they were women, Barbara Lewis wrote almost all of the songs on her debut album also called Hello Stranger. The hit title song was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago with backup vocals provided by The Dells. Inspiration for the song came from performing shows with her musician father. Lewis: ““I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’”. (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

Lewis’ soul classic has spawned numerous covers over the years. Yvonne Elliman topped the easy listening charts and brought the song into the top-twenty of the pop charts in 1977, Carrie Lucas charted in the R&B top twenty in 1985, The Capitols’ version gained wide exposure as the B-side to their hit single “Cool Jerk,” and Martha And The Vandellas, The Supremes & The Four Tops (together) and Queen Latifah have also given the song a go in the studio.

The flip of today’s reissue single is “Baby I’m Yours,” which was written by Van McCoy. McCoy is best known for the disco smash, “The Hustle” which topped of the charts in 1975, and it is his voice that is heard on the track as part of the choir. Lewis brought the song to the #11 position on the pop charts and #5 R&B in 1965.

She initially did not like the song and gave a lackluster vocal performance of it in the studio in the hopes that it would end up shelved. After the session, producer Ollie McLaughlin told her that she needed to re-record her vocals. McLaughlin chided her into giving the song a winning performance. Lewis: “He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.” (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

The song also went on to become a country hit for Debby Boone and Jody Miller. Peter & Gordon brought the song to #19 on the UK Pop charts in 1965, and Cher, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Maureen McGovern, Billy Preston and The Arctic Monkeys have recorded the song.

“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: May 5th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

I first discovered today’s jukebox classic not in its original guise by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’, but from a cover performed by Laura Nyro and LaBelle on their classic 1971 album called Gonna Take A Miracle. When I first heard Nyro’s version, I didn’t make the connection between the song and all of the other great Vandellas hits I already knew from the radio. It wasn’t until my older sister picked up a copy of Martha and the Vandellas’ Greatest Hits album in 1972 that I finally came to fully appreciate the magic of Motown’s finest girl group.

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,” “Wild One,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

“Jimmy Mack” was written and produced by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland and it was the group’s last American top-ten hit reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1967, and #1 R&B. It was also from the last batch of Martha and the Vandellas recordings featuring input from Holland-Dozier-Holland before they left the Motown fold. Not coincidentally, their departure from Motown aligned with the waning of The Vandellas’ popularity.

The impetus for the song came out of an industry awards dinner that Lamont Dozier attended. At the awards, Ronnie Mack won a posthumous award for composing the song “He’s So Fine.” His mother came up to accept the award on his behalf and Dozier decided he’d write the song in tribute to Ronnie Mack.

Lamont Dozier: “‘Jimmy Mack’ was about a kid who had written a song that was quite popular. When they called out his name there was something, along with the way his mother picked up the award, that kind of moved me and the name stuck with me. So when a melody came about that name seemed to spring up and fit well with the music we were writing at the time.” (NME 1984 via Songfacts)

Martha and the Vandellas originally recorded the song in 1964 as a typical teen anthem about lost love, but Motown’s quality control team rejected the recording leaving it unreleased in the Motown vaults. Three years later, Berry Gordy became aware of the recording and hearing a surefire hit made sure the song was released as a single. With the passage of time, the record took on a different meaning, especially to the many African American troops who were stationed overseas in Viet Nam.

The song was included in The Vandellas’ ballad-heavy 1967 album Watchout!, however the single version of this song opens with a drum intro that is not featured on the album cut. Personnel on the track included Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard on background vocals, The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps on additional background vocals and instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Richard “Pistol” Allen on drums, Jack Ashford on vibes, Bob Babbitt on bass, Benny Benjamin on drums, Eddie “Bongo” Brown on percussion, Johnny Griffith on keyboards, Joe Hunter on keyboards, James Jamerson on bass, Uriel Jones on drums, Joe Messina on guitar, Earl Van Dyke on keyboards, Marvin Tarplin on guitar, Robert White on guitar and Eddie Willis.

The song was also covered by the likes of Karen Carpenter, Phil Collins, Sheena Easton (who scored a #65 chart hit with it in1986) and Bonnie Pointer. It was also cut by The Temptations for their 1967 album In A Mellow Mood.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single climbed up to the #9 position on the pop charts and rose to #2 on the R&B charts in 1966. The song was also written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and is a dead ringer for The Supremes hit “You Can’t Hurry Love” which they also wrote.

The track was also on The Vandellas’ Watchout! album and featured pretty much the same musicians as “Jimmy Mack,” except Betty Kelly sings background vocals instead of Annette Beard. The group also cut a Spanish version of the song under the title “Yo Necesito De Tu Amor.”

“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: April 28th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

The A-Side of today’s double A-sided jukebox single was the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s landmark album Talking Book. Jeff Beck guested on the album playing guitar on the song “Looking For Another Pure Love.” While in the studio, Beck came up with the drum pattern that kicks “Superstition” into motion. From there, Wonder added the funky clavinet riff that runs through the song and a classic was born. After Wonder wrote the song, he offered it to Beck to record.

In the meantime, Motown chief Berry Gordy heard Wonder’s version and immediately knew it was a surefire smash and pressured Wonder to release it as a single before Beck could commit his version to tape. “Superstition” went on to become Wonder’s second chart-topping hit, his first since “Fingertips” hit the top of the charts in 1963. Jeff Beck was given the song “Because We’ve Ended As Lovers” as a consolation prize which he recorded for his 1975 album Blow By Blow. Beck later recorded Wonder’s “Superstition” with the group Beck, Bogart & Appice.

When Wonder turned 21, he renegotiated his contract with Motown Records giving him total control over his music with increased royalties and publishing. The first fruit of his negotiation was the album Music Of My Mind that included “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” the flip side of today’s double-A sided jukebox classic.

The song was one of the first tracks that Wonder worked on with Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who invented the TONTO (The Original New Tumbrel Orchestra) synthesizer and recorded under the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band. Margouleff: “Stevie showed up [at our studio] with the TONTO LP under his arm. He said, ‘I don’t believe this was all done on one instrument. Show me the instrument.’ He was always talking about seeing. So we dragged his hands all over the instrument, and he thought he’d never be able to play it. But we told him we’d get it together for him.” (songfacts.com) The duo would go on to help shape the recording of Wonder’s Talking Book, Innervisions and Fullfillingness’ First Finale albums.

Wonder is heard playing all of the instruments on the record including the TONTO, except for the electric guitar which was played by Buzz Feiten and the trumpet and saxophone played respectively by Steve Madaio and Trevor Laurence.

The song clocked in at over eight minutes in its original guise on the Music Of My Mind album and was written about former Motown secretary and Wonder’s first wife Syreeta Wright. The lyric “trying to boss the bull around” is about Syreeta trying to exert some control on Wonder who is a Taurus.

The first part of the song talks about “Mary’s” desire to leave her current life behind to chase the goal of stardom. The song’s second “Where Were You When I Needed You” part finds the song’s narrator wondering when she will be coming back and why it is taking so long. Musically, the second part of the song was a re-working of Wonder’s 1971 single “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” from his Where I’m Coming From album. The song was released as a single and climbed to the #33 slot on the pop charts. Indeed, Wonder’s marriage to Syreeta broke up soon after he completed work on Music of My Mind.”

Both songs on today’s Jukebox classic double A-sided single were originally issued as separate singles, each with a different B-side. The original B-side to “Superstition” was “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” and the original “Superwoman” B-side was “I Love Every Little Thing About You.”

The clip of “Superstition” accompanying this piece is an alternate live in-studio performance of the track with a full backing band.

“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: March 31st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

Today’s classic comes from a double A-sided reissue single on the Collectables record label released specifically for jukeboxes featuring two big hits by two different artists. Most of the records in the juke are original pressings, however this was the only copy of Ingram’s soul classic I could find at the time I was looking, plus having two hit singles by two different artists on one record is indeed a bonus.

The A-Side of today’s double-sided single is Luther Ingram’s infidelity ballad “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” which is one of the greatest soul singles of all time! The song was written by STAX songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. Banks also wrote the Sam And Dave classic “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” and billed as “We Three” with Raymond Jackson and Bettye Crutcher, wrote Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” and The Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).”

“If Loving You Is Wrong” was originally recorded in 1970 by The Emotions with an up-tempo arrangement that didn’t serve the song well. As a result, the record was left on the shelves of STAX records unreleased. Luther Ingram moved to Memphis after several failed attempts at a recording career in New York City and signed a recording contract with the KoKo label which was distributed by STAX Records. With the label, he found success scoring the top-ten R&B hit “Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)” in 1970.

While at STAX, Ingram discovered The Emotions’ version of “If Loving You Is Wrong” and rearranged and recorded the song as a mournful ballad. His version topped the R&B charts and rose to the number three position on the pop charts in 1972, selling over four million copies.

The song has been covered by a plethora of artists including Isaac Hayes, Rod Stewart, Percy Sledge, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ramsey Lewis and Cassandra Wilson. Millie Jackson’s 1974 chart version of the song was expanded into an eleven minute suite complete with a spoken “rap” which was nominated for two Grammy Awards. Barbara Mandrell also scored a country hit with her rendition of the song in 1978.

If all Ingram did in music was to give us this signature recording, his stature would be sealed as an R&B great, however Ingram was also the co-writer(with Mark Rice) of The Staple Singers’ empowerment anthem “Respect Yourself.”

The flip of this double A-sided single is “Popcorn” by Hot Butter. “Popcorn” is a bubbly electronic confection composed by German musician Gershon Kingsley who was known for his work composing classical and Broadway music, and writing TV commercial jingles. Kingsley recorded the influential electronic album The In Sound from Way Out! with Jean-Jaques Perrey for Vanguard Records in 1966. The album promoted the use of synthesizers in pop music years before German recording artists Can and Kraftwerk.

Kingsley first recorded “Popcorn” for his 1969 album Music To Moog By, and then recorded the song again in 1971 with his First Moog Quartet. Stan Free was a member of The First Moog Quartet and re-recorded the song in 1972 under the name Hot Butter.

Hot Butter’s record came out during the moog craze of the early 1970s that saw classical records by the likes of Walter/Wendy Carlos (Switched On Bach) and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) cross over to the pop charts and sell millions of copies. Hot Butter’s recording was one of the first all-electronic records to chart on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart, peaking at #9 pop and #4 on the adult contemporary charts.

The song was not named for popcorn that you eat; rather it was an amalgam of “pop” for pop music and “corn” for the kitsch and novelty of the recording. It has been covered by the likes of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Jean Michel Jarre, Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops, James Last, Norrie Paramour, Ronnie Aldrich and The Muppets.

Kingsley also wrote the music used by Disney theme parks for its Main Street Electrical Parade and the theme from the TV game show The Joker’s Wild.

“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: March 23rd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

Cliff Nobles was a gospel singer from Alabama who relocated to Philadelphia to break into the recording industry. He was quickly signed to Atlantic records where he recorded three singles: “My Love Is Getting Stronger,” “Let’s Have A Good Time” and “Your Love Is All I Need” that failed to find any action on the charts.

As a result of his affiliation with Atlantic, he was signed to a local Philadelphia record label called “Phil-L.A. of Soul Records” by independent producer Jesse James and formed the group Cliff Nobles & Co. consisting of Benny Williams on bass, Bobby Tucker on guitar, and Tommy Soul on drums.

The group’s second single was “Love Is All Right” b/w “The Horse.” The single didn’t feature the playing of Nobles regular band but, instead, featured a group of Philadelphia session musicians put together by Leon Huff called the James Boys who went on to become the Sigma Sound house band MFSB.

While “Love Is All Right” made no waves on the charts, DJs began play the instrumental track on the flip. “The Horse” was merely the instrumental backing track to “Love Is All Right” and Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be found on the record.

The song began to climb the charts, peaking at #2 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in July of 1968, and went on to sell a million copies. Once the song began to ignite a nationwide dance craze, Nobles went back into the studio and recorded a new vocal track outlying the dance moves to the song. The label released the album The Horse and several instrumental follow-up singles all credited to Cliff Nobles & Co. in which Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be heard.

After his music career was over, Nobles worked in construction and later in the electricity generation industry. He died in Norristown, Pennsylvania in October 2008, at the age of 67, leaving behind this indelible and instantly recognizable instrumental classic.

Edited: March 1st, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Work Song” by Nina Simone

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Work Song” by Nina Simone

Here’s one that was released the year I was born, yet it sounds as hip and current as, well, I am. OK, it is hipper and more current than I am, but it goes to show just how timeless Nina Simone’s recordings really are.

Simone’s interpretive talents as a singer and piano player earned her the nickname, “The High Priestess of Soul,” and put her right up there with greats like Anita O’Day, Odetta, Sarah Vaughan and Judy Henske, who all possess a similar earthy style. She was a terrific songwriter, comfortable mingling soul, gospel, folk and blues into a stew that was uniquely her own, and she was also an outspoken Civil Rights activist.

It took a long time for me to crack the hard façade that Nina Simone projected, before I could really appreciate the depths of her talent. Her severe earnestness over the struggles she faced as a black woman during the infancy of the civil rights movement created a seemingly impenetrable barrier between me and her music. But with maturity on my side, I’ve come to love and respect Simone’s whole approach, and the influence she’s had on everyone from Laura Nyro and John Lennon (who cited her recording of “I Put A Spell On You” as an inspiration for The Beatles “Michelle”) to Alicia Keys and Diana Krall.

Simone came to Colpix Records in 1959, after scoring a big hit with “I Loves You, Porgy” on the Bethlehem label. Her deal at Colpix gave her complete artistic control over the material she recorded which was unheard of at the time, and she released nine albums for the label, seven of which were recorded live in front of an audience. Today’s Song of the Day, the much covered “Work Song” written by Nat Adderly and Oscar Brown, Jr., is from her second record for the label, 1961’s studio effort Forbidden Fruit.

Part of the album’s excellence comes down to Simone’s sympathetic backing trio consisting of Chris White on bass, Bobby Hamilton on drums, and crucially, the great Al Schackman on guitar, whose tasty licks light up this entire recording, especially on the tunes “Just Say I Love Him” and the album’s opener “Rags And Old Iron.” But its Simone’s vocals and amazing piano accompaniments, especially on “Gin House Blues,” the swaggering “I Love To Love” and the album’s title track, “Forbidden Fruit,” that really elevate the proceedings to new heights of gospel fervor.

Later albums like Nina Simone In Concert from 1964 and the essential RCA album Nina Simone Sings The Blues from 1967, included signature songs that dealt with the civil rights issues of black women like “Mississippi Goddam,” “Backlash Blues,” “Four Women” and “To Be Young, Gifted And Black,” which was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. She was also responsible for introducing the songs “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “House of the Rising Sun,” years before The Animals recorded them.

Additionally, her recordings of “Sinnerman” and “Forbidden Fruit” were sampled by the likes of Kanye West and Timbaland, but her greatest success came surprisingly from the song “My Baby Cares For Me” which was recorded on her 1960 debut album for Colpix, but didn’t become popular until 1987 when it was used in a UK television commercial for Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Edited: February 15th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” by Cher

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” by Cher

When one thinks of great interpreters of Bob Dylan, the name Cher doesn’t automatically come to mind. But she was, in fact, a huge champion of Dylan’s songs, and his songs fit her voice like a glove. Over the years, Cher covered such Dylan copyrights as “All I Really Want To Do” (a #15 hit),“Lay Lady Lay” (titled “Lay Baby Lay” on her version), “I Threw It All Away,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Masters Of War,” “The Times, They Are A-Changin’” and today’s Song Of The Day, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You.”

Cher cut her version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” when it was a new song from Dylan’s just-released “Nashville Skyline.” Her version was released on the 1969 album “3614 Jackson Highway,” titled for the address of Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama where it was recorded.

The idea of bringing Cher to Muscle Shoals to work with Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin (who had also produced Dusty Springfield’s killer Dusty in Memphis album) was a brilliant one, and the results produced a terrific album that was not particularly well received when released and, unfortunately, didn’t sell well either. Although Wexler does get a production credit on the record, he was not present for the recording of Cher’s vocals because he came down with pneumonia during the sessions. He did, however, choose all of the songs for Cher to record.

One of the reasons the album might not have sold so well was that back in 1969 the address and the studio were a completely unknown entity. In fact, Cher’s album was the first record cut there. The studio was formed in 1969 by musicians Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass) who had left the legendary FAME Studios, founded by Arthur Alexander, to launch Muscle Shoals.

Cher remains one of our greatest interpreters of song, especially in the 1960s, and for this album she adeptly covered Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” Dr. John’s “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Cry Like A Baby” (a hit for The Box Tops), Chips Moman and Dan Penn’s (by way of Aretha Franklin) “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and three of the above named Dylan songs, including today’s Song of the Day.

The musicians on the sessions were Eddie Hinton on lead guitar, Jimmy Johnson on rhythm guitar, Barry Beckett on keyboards, Dave Hood on bass and Roger Hawkins on drums. The record was re-released by Rhino Handmade in 2001 and augmented with another 12 songs Cher cut for the Atco label that went unreleased.

Edited: February 8th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5

They were growing up…but the world liked their Jacksons young.

By 1973, The Jackson 5 were becoming somewhat of a spent force around Motown. It had been a few years since the group scored a bona-fide top ten hit, and there was plenty of dissatisfaction to go around.

Brother Michael was no longer the pint-sized dynamo that he once was. He was now a pimply 15 years old geek with a much deeper voice. Motown had been grooming him as a solo star much to the detriment of his singing brothers, and between 1971 and 1973 he scored several substantial solo hits including the top five smash “Got To Be There,” “Ben” which was a chart topping hit about a rat from the movie Willard, a cover of the Bobby Day hit “Rockin’ Robin” which climbed to the #2 position on the charts and “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which went to #16 on the pop charts and #2 on the rhythm and blues charts.

Meanwhile, some of the other brothers were also branching out. Jermaine released a solo record in 1972 that included a cover of the Shep & The Limelites’ hit “Daddy’s Home” which rose up to the top ten of the charts, and Jackie also released solo record the following year. All of this activity was beginning to play on the dynamic within the group in negative ways.

What the group collectively craved most was more control over what they recorded, and more involvement in the making of their records. While they were writing, producing and playing songs in their home studio, Motown wouldn’t let them play on their own records insisting that they use the Motown house band, The Funk Brothers, or The Wrecking Crew (for West Coast sessions). Not only that, they were only allowed to record songs that were chosen for them by “The Corporation.”

Changes needed to be made, and it was within this atmosphere of disillusion that the group’s father and manager, Joe Jackson began to look for a new record deal for his charges.

The group’s 1973 album, GIT: Get It Together, was the first Jackson 5 album to feature lead vocals by each brother. The album also found the group dipping their collective toes into disco waters by segueing all the songs together in order to provide a non-stop mix of music for dancing.

By far, the best song of the album is today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, “Dancing Machine.” The song was an “automatic, systematic” call to the dance floor featuring syncopated funky rhythms and terrific vocal interplay between Michael and the rest of the group who traded off lead vocal lines and sang backup on the track. It was also one of the first songs that Michael employed the vocal hiccup that would end up being one of his lasting trademarks.

Like “Billy Jean” and the moonwalk, “Dancing Machine” also benefitted by an accompanying dance move which helped propel it up the charts. When the group appeared on Soul Train to promote the album, Michael Jackson was seen doing the robot dance resulting in a spectacle that left fans wanting more.

The song was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, but lost out to Rufus’s hit “Tell Me Something Good.” While the other seven tracks on the record were less commercial, the title track was a moderate hit that charted at #28 on the singles charts, and “Hum Along and Dance” became a popular favorite in the group’s live act.

Shortly after the release of the album, the group found themselves riding high in the charts again as background vocalists on Stevie Wonder’s 1974 single “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” from his Fulfillingness’ First Finale album.

The group signed with CBS/Epic Records in 1975 and had to change their name to The Jacksons, since Motown owned the rights to the Jackson 5 name. Jermaine chose to stay on at Motown since he was married to Berry Gordy’s daughter, and was replaced by the youngest Jackson brother, Randy.

While the group’s commercial prospects at CBS weren’t much better, Michael eventually scored a huge hit with the 1979 album Off the Wall, and then came Thriller and The Victory Tour, and Jackson mania swept the world again…

Edited: December 11th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)” by Arthur Alexander

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Anna (Go To Him),” “You Better Move On,” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman, remains largely unknown to most people, or even worse, totally forgotten.

And if his recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s.

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for the Buddah label.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute to Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music and are essential.

Edited: November 4th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crossword Puzzle” by Sly Stone

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Crossword Puzzle” by Sly Stone

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman comes from Sly Stone’s oft-neglected 1975 album High On You. Yes, it was the beginning of the end for Sly’s relevance, but this album still offers plenty of good listening.

Hip-Hop aficionados will recognize the indelible horn riffs from De La Soul’s “Say No Go” featured on their classic 3 Feet High And Rising album.

Edited: October 27th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “You’re Still A Young Man” by Tower Of Power

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “You’re Still A Young Man” by Tower Of Power

They took us “Down To The Night Club” in “Bump City” and showed us “What Is Hip”…yet today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman doesn’t get much more soulful than this!

Tower Of Power was the East Bay California horn-fueled brain child of Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka who are as renowned for their own recordings as for the horn work they’ve done for everyone from Santana to PIL.

The group auditioned for Bill Graham to play his Fillmore West Auditorium, and Graham was so enamored of them he signed them to his own San Francisco record label and released their debut album called East Bay Grease in 1970, scoring the regional single “Sparkling In The Sand.”

“You’re Still A Young Man” was the first single from the group’s second album Bump City. The album was their debut album for Warner Bros. Records where they achieved most of their fame, and the song climbed to #29 on the Billboard pop charts and #24 on the R&B singles list in 1972. “You’re Still A Young Man” features the shimmering, soulful lead vocals of Rick Stevens who after leaving the band was convicted of murder and served 36 years in prison. He was paroled in 2012.

The Tower of Power lineup on Bump City includes Rick Stevens (lead vocals), Skip Mequite (tenor sax, flute, vocals), Emilio Castillo (2nd tenor sax, vocals), Greg Adams (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals), Stephen “Doc” Kupka (baritone sax, vocals), Mic Gillette (trumpet, trombone, vocals), Willie James Fulton (guitar, vocals), Dave Garibaldi (drums), Francis Rocco Prestia (bass) and Jay Spell (piano).

Emilio Castillo told the Song Facts website the story behind the song: “I had a girlfriend that was six years older than me. I was 18, she was 24 and that’s actually what happened. She had kind of cut me loose because of the age difference thing and the whole plea in the story is the young guy’s saying, ‘I’m not too young, I’m not wasting my time and I do love you like a man can truly love a woman.’” (Song Facts)

In 1973, vocalist Lenny Williams and saxophone player Lenny Pickett joined the fold and the Tower Of Power horn section began playing on dozens of records by artists including Little Feat, Cat Stevens, Elton John, The Monkees, Rod Stewart, Rufus, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, Heart Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, Toto, Santana and Phish. Tower Of Power still performs concerts today and they appear as session player on many albums.

Edited: September 30th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby And The Romantics

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby And The Romantics

The magical ingredient of today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman that sets it apart from all others is the ear-gasmic, swirling roller rink organ.

“Our Day Will Come” was Ruby & The Romantics’ first hit and only million seller from way back in 1963. While many think the group was a one hit wonder, their follow-up single, “My Summer Love,” rose to #16 on the charts.

Ruby And The Romantics were also responsible for the original version of the song “Hey There Lonely Boy” which became a hit for Eddie Holman in 1969 as “Hey There Lonely Girl,” and “Hurting Each Other” which did the trick for The Carpenters in 1972.

The group featured Ruby Nash on lead vocals with Ed Roberts, George Lee, Ronald Mosley and Leroy Fan on support vocals. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons brought “Our Day Will Come” back to the charts in 1975 with their remake of the song which just missed the top ten at #11.

Edited: August 13th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Harlem Hendoo” by Al Hirt

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Harlem Hendoo” by Al Hirt

Time was running out. By 1968, the gravy train that artists like Al Hirt and Herb Alpert had ridden to fame on, was about to make a stop. Sure, Alpert would score his last huge hit, the #1 Bacharach and David gem “This Guy’s In Love With You” in 1968, but shortly after that, even Alpert’s run at the top would end until the mid-1980s.

Things were even worse for Al Hirt. It had been four years since Hirt was on the top with singles like the Allen Toussaint-penned “Java,” “The Green Hornet Theme” and “Sugar Lips,” plus top-ten albums like “Honey In The Horn” and “Cotton Candy.” Changes would have to be made, so like many others of his ilk, Al Hirt decided to try new things to see if he could keep himself commercially viable.

The sound would have to be updated, so in 1967 “The Round Mound Of Sound” (as he was known) released the album “Soul In The Horn.” Gone was the old, good-time-trad-Jazz-Dixieland-Bourbon Street sound of yore, only to be replaced by certainly the funkiest, au go-go sounds to ever come out of Hirt’s horn. Think “Shagadelic,” but a whole lot more jazz, and a whole lot more serious in the groove department.

Hirt sets the tone right from the opening cut with a cover of Booker T. & The MG’s 1966 single “Honey Pot.” Perhaps the album’s most famous song is today’s Song Of The Day, “Harlem Hendoo,” which was famously sampled by De La Soul for the track “Ego Trippin’ Pt. 2” from the album “Buhloone Mindstate” and also by The Roots on the track “Stay Cool” from their 2004 album, “The Tipping Point.”

Credits for this album are hard to come by, but what I do know was that the sessions were arranged by George “Teacho” Wiltshire (known for his work with Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters, Gene Pitney and many others) and produced at RCA Victor’s Studios in New York City and Chicago by Paul Robinson (who would later produce tracks for Maxi Priest in the 1980s).

The lion-share of the songs were written by Paul Griffin, who was famous for session work with King Curtis, Bob Dylan (on Highway 61 and Blonde On Blonde, no less), Van Morrison, The Isley Brothers, and Steely Dan (on Aja). There are several other tracks from the record that really cashed my register, including the island-flavored “Calypsoul” and the relentlessly groovilicious “Love Ya’ Baby.”

Al Hirt’s foray into soul never did bring him back into the charts or the forefront of the music scene, but he did continue to play at his club in New Orleans, and years later make many DJ crate diggers very happy.

Edited: July 29th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Creepin’” By Stevie Wonder

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Creepin’” By Stevie Wonder

When it comes to a vibe, this song’s got it all in spades.

Today’s Song Of The Day comes from 1974′s Fulfillingness’ First Finale which was released shortly after Wonder’s near-death car accident, making this album an all-the-more-important part of his canon.

However, at the time of its release, it was seen as somewhat of a disappointment following nearly-perfect records like Innervisions (1973) and Talking Book (1972). And if that wasn’t enough, the record that followed it was 1976′s Songs In The Key Of Life which was also critically acclaimed, leading most people to gloss over this record.

Upon closer inspection, Fulfillingness’” has much to offer with classics like “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away,” “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” “It Ain’t No Use,” “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and “Please Don’t Go.”

Here’s the bottom line: the run of records Stevie Wonder released from 1971′s Music Of My Mind through 1976′s Songs In The Key Of Life should be an essential part of any music collection and not to be missed!

Edited: July 24th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 4th Of July Playlist

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 4th Of July Playlist

Here’s my ultimate 4th Of July playlist:

  1. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (http://youtu.be/XaI5IRuS2aE)
  2. “Power And The Glory” by Phil Ochs (http://youtu.be/ZelYGi5ZTPw)
  3. “America The Beautiful” by Ray Charles (http://youtu.be/TRUjr8EVgBg)
  4. “Freedom” by Richie Havens (http://youtu.be/W5aPBU34Fyk)
  5. “Saturday In The Park” by Chicago (http://youtu.be/e0HDsguQcsE)
  6. “U.S. Blues” by Grateful Dead (http://youtu.be/DPBLfzTPCDc)
  7. “One Time One Night” by Los Lobos (http://youtu.be/qmgfLI1NBe8)
  8. “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp (http://youtu.be/qOfkpu6749w)
  9. “Rockin’ In The Free World” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (http://youtu.be/PdiCJUysIT0)
  10. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty (http://youtu.be/nUTXb-ga1fo)
  11. “4th Of July” by X (http://youtu.be/lhu807VUY24)
  12. “4th Of July” by Aimee Mann (http://youtu.be/vOYI85anqmQ)
  13. “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (http://youtu.be/KgFHM8HMbWQ)
  14. “Independence Day” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (http://youtu.be/gnAJlJHXn_M)
  15. “Don’t Pull It Down” from the Broadway Musical Hair (http://youtu.be/_w2gyWE0M0k)
  16. “America” – by Chita Rivera and Company, from the Original Soundtrack of West Side Story (http://youtu.be/GB4lOWfgD5s)
  17. “Young Americans” by David Bowie (http://youtu.be/ydLcs4VrjZQ)
  18. “America” by Neil Diamond (http://youtu.be/hc-v8CFJzu4)
  19. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel (http://youtu.be/ZO3gWIGzH3A)
  20. “Sail Away” by Randy Newman (http://youtu.be/uwwhHI_IMog)
  21. “American Tune” by Paul Simon (http://youtu.be/AE3kKUEY5WU)
  22. “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (http://youtu.be/gbO2_077ixs)
  23. “American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley (http://youtu.be/gbE1Dg-4fvI)
  24. “Back In The USA” by Chuck Berry (http://youtu.be/xGCJ5j7oVWc)
  25. “Spirit Of America” by The Beach Boys (http://youtu.be/log61aFaNS4)
  26.  “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash (http://youtu.be/JnivJb3Rv5A)
  27.  “The Star Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix (http://youtu.be/sjzZh6-h9fM)
  28. “This Land Is Your Land” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Tones (http://youtu.be/WsDOvbTQzwo)

Now add your tune to the list and publish on your Facebook feed…Happy 4th Of July!

Edited: July 3rd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Think” by The 5 Royales

If ever a group deserved to be in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, it should be The 5 Royales.

Not only were they a pioneering R’n’B and Doo Wop vocal group, but they had one of the greatest songwriters of the era in Lowman “Pete” Pauling as a member. Pauling wrote most of the Royales’ material and many of their songs went on to be big hits for others.

The 5 Royales were formed in North Carolina in the early 1950s and consisted of Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Jimmy Moore, Obadiah Carter, Otto Jeffries and Johnny Tanner. They recorded for King Records and had chart success with songs like “Monkey Hips And Rice,” “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Somebody Help Me.” But it was the songs that were penned by Pauling and recorded by others that really made them legends.

The group was responsible for introducing today’s Song Of The Day that later went on to be a big soul hit for James Brown. They also recorded the original versions of “Dedicated To The One I Love” made famous by both The Shirelles and The Mamas & The Papas, and “Tell The Truth” which was originally recorded by Ray Charles.

Edited: June 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Slow Down, Love” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Slow Down, Love” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

I got dap dipped several years ago. What’s that? You say you don’t know what it is to be dap dipped? Well, I’ll tell you…

The moment you first lay your lucky ears onto the retro-soul sound of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings is when you’ve been dap dipped. It’s kind of a “daptism” of sorts.

Jones and her band have been releasing records over the last fifteen years that sound like they were recorded in the late 1960s…and that’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing! So convincing is their sound and presentation, that many people think Sharon Jones has been in the public eye for many more years than she really has.

Jones was a soul singer since she was a child in Georgia, singing in church and local talent shows while also backing local soul bands in the 1970s and taking on any kind of recording session work she could get. Without a recording contract of her own, she became a corrections officer at Riker’s Island and an armored car guard for Wells Fargo before receiving her big break in 1996 while singing background vocals for soul legend Lee Fields.

That session was organized by owners of Pure Records, a French record label owned by Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) and Philip Lehman. Jones was the only one of three background vocalists booked to show up for the session, so she recorded all of the backing vocals herself which impressed Roth and Lehman. At the end of the session, they recorded her first single “Switchblade” (b/w “The Landlord”) backed by members of the Brooklyn, New York bands Antibalas and The Mighty Imperials who later became her backing band The Dap-Kings. The song was released on the compilation album The Soul Providers in 1996.

Lehman and Roth formed the new Desco record label out of Brooklyn specializing in retro soul and funk releases that many fans believed to be original recordings from the late 60s and early 70s. Jones recorded three more singles for the label. After releasing records by Lee Fields, The Sugarman 3 and The Daktaris, Lehman and Roth parted ways in 2000 over creative differences paving the way for Roth to start a new label with Neal Sugarman (of Sugarman 3) called Daptone Records. The label has been Sharon Jones’ musical home ever since and all of her recordings have been under the direction and production of Bosco Mann.

Each record Jones & the Dap-Kings released for the label has garnered more fans than the one before. There was Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (2002), Naturally (2005), 100 days, 100 Nights (2007), I Learned The Hard Way (2010), the Soul Time compilation (2011) and her most recent album where today’s Song Of The Day comes from Give The People What They Want.

While Jones’ rise to dominance in the retro soul world may seem somewhat effortless once she met Roth, it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations beginning during the summer of 2013. With a tour to promote a new album set to release during the summer of 2013, it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer which was later changed to stage two pancreatic cancer. As a result, Jones underwent surgery and chemotherapy cancelling the release of her fifth album and the tour.

On the mend, Jones returned to the stage in November 2013 and her Give The People What They Want album was released to positive reviews in January 2014. She will bring her tour to Chicago tomorrow night. One of the songs on the album is called “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” and in light of Jones’ health issues, the song should probably take on a whole new meaning tomorrow night.

Today’s Song Of The Day was the first single released from her latest album which was given away with pre-orders for the album when Jones’ announced her illness last summer. The track has an “end of the party” kind of groove that is chock full of ennui. Unfortunately, the song is not available on its own on Youtube; however I’ve uploaded a link to the whole album. While brief at only 33 minutes, the album comes chock full of great tunes that will surely be exciting to see her bring to the concert stage tomorrow night. It’s certainly worth a spin while you’re online reading this piece.

Edited: April 10th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #98 – Sly & The Family Stone: “Hot Fun In The Summertime” b/w “Fun” – Epic 5-10497

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #98 – Sly & The Family Stone: “Hot Fun In The Summertime” b/w “Fun” – Epic 5-10497

It doesn’t matter what time of year you hear today’s jukebox classic, it still has the power to put you back into the long hot days of summertime when you used to go out first thing in the morning to hang with your friends and not return until food was up for offering at lunch and then dinner time. And as you got older, the song conjured the feeling of freedom felt on the even longer summer nights that made life living for.

The piano introduction wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1950s doo wop recording and the pastoral string arrangement on this Sly & The Family Stone classic captures the heat and the wide open spaces of those hazy crazy days of summer innocence like no other song could.

While it perfectly encapsulates that carefree summer feeling, there’s an undercurrent of melancholy that runs throughout the song. The simple explanation is hinted at in the lyrics “First of the fall and then she goes back / bye, bye, bye, bye there.” with the coming of the end of summer. However, many others thought the song was also a comment on race riots that were in the new headlines throughout the summer of ’69.

The single’s release came hot on the heels of the group’s landmark performance at Woodstock resulting in it climbing to the #2 position on the pop charts and #3 on the soul charts in spite of Epic Records’ initial reluctance towards release a summer single at the end of August.

It was recorded along with “Everybody Is A Star” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” for an in-progress album that was never completed in the wake of the demands put on Sly and the group in the wake of Woodstcok.  As a result, the song debuted on the group’s 1970 Greatest Hits album which was Epic Records’ attempt to keep the band’s name in the marketplace while they were out on the road touring. The record ultimately sold over five millions copies (their biggest selling album) and climbed to the #2 position on the album charts.

Sly Stone never got around to making stereo mixes for the three new songs on Greatest Hits and until the group’s catalog was remastered in the late 1990s, the songs never existed in true stereo. The personnel on the single consisted of Sly Stone on piano and vocals, Freddie Stone on guitar and vocals, Larry Graham on bass and vocals, Greg Errico on drums, Cynthia Robins on trumpet and Jerry Martini on tenor sax.

The song was covered by The Beach Boys and Manhattan Transfer, and it provided inspiration to Phil Collins for his song “Misunderstanding” and the group Toto for their hit single “Hold The Line.”  On the flip of today’s single is “Fun” which is the best track from the group’s third album Life, and also appears on the Greatest Hits album.

Sly & The Family Stone went on to follow the success of their Greatest Hits album with a record that focused on the bummer side of the era called There’s A Riot Going On. Several hit singles would follow including “Family Affair” and “If You Want Me To Stay,” but for all intents and purposes, the group’s run on the charts and in the public eye never burned as bright as in the summer of 1969.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: April 9th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #92 – WAR: “The Cicso Kid” b/w “Beetles In The Bog”– United Artist UA-XW163-W

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #92 – WAR: “The Cicso Kid” b/w “Beetles In The Bog”– United Artist UA-XW163-W

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

When they first began recording, it was Eric Burdon and WAR and WAR was billed as the backing band for Eric Burdon of The Animals. The group was the brainchild of Burdon and Jerry Goldstein who was a member of The Strangeloves and the co-writer of a whole host of classic singles like “I Want Candy,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Come On Down To My Boat,” “Sorrow” and “Hang On Sloopy.”

Goldstein was Sly & The Family Stone’s manager when he saw WAR performing in a bar and signed them to his own Far Out Production company. With Burdon at the helm, WAR scored the smash hit “Spill The Wine” from their 1970 debut album Eric Burdon Declares War. Another album followed, before Burdon went his own way leaving WAR to establish themselves as an entity in their own rite.

With Goldstein’s management of the band, it wasn’t long before WAR began scoring hits on their own like “All Day Music” and “Slippin’ Into Darkness” from their 1971 All Day Music album. WAR’s unique sound was steeped in Latin Jazz, psychedelic Rock and Funk, layering Lee Oskar’s harmonica lines over Charles Miller’s saxophone in unison on extended jams.

The year 1972, saw the release of their breakthrough chart-topping album, The World Is A Ghetto, with its title track hit (#3 R&B, #7 Pop) and AM radio classic “The Cisco Kid” which climbed to #2 Pop and #5 on the R&B charts.

The origins of the character of The Cisco Kid came from the O. Henry story The Caballero’s Way in which the character was a villain. When The Cisco Kid debuted on TV, he became a Mexican hero and the show centered on his adventures in the old west. The show ran from 1950-1956 and starred Duncan Renaldo as The Cisco Kid.

The song was written by the group’s guitarist Howard Scott who wanted to write a song about an ethnic hero. On the day he wrote it, he was visited by drummer Howard Brown.

Drummer, Howard Brown: “Howard has always been a major contributor. He was in Compton, he had this apartment. I came up there and when I got up there he was sitting on his amp. He said, ‘Harold, I got this idea. Cisco kid was a friend of mine.’ That idea came about because there were no ethnic heroes at that time. Mainly, we were seeing people like Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. There wasn’t really anybody to relate to except Cisco Kid. He was like the total different kind of person.

We wanted to give kids, people, another alternative besides the ones that were right in our face, obvious heroes. And it worked out really good, because it had the right kind of hook, it was a fun song. People at that time didn’t want to be hearing about no more wars or anything, they just wanted fun music. And the tonality was brilliant.”  (Songfacts.com)

Today’s jukebox classic features the group’s classic lineup of Lee Oskar on harmonica, Lonnie Jordan on vocals, organ and percussion, B.B. Dickerson on bass, Papa Dee Allen on percussion, Howard Scott on guitar, Harold Brown on drums and Charles Miller on saxophone. The flip is a tribal funk instrumental that closes out he The World Is A Ghetto album.

WAR continued to score hits throughout the 1970s including “Low Rider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Summer,” “Gypsy Man” and many others. Charles Miller was murdered in 1980 and Papa Dee Allen succumbed to a heart attack while performing on stage in 1988.

In the mid-1990s, Far Out Productions/Jerry Goldstein won the use of the name WAR in federal court, and original keyboardist Lonnie Jordan began touring under that name. The other 4 surviving core members toured under the name The Music Band and formed The Lowrider Band in 2007. Meanwhile Burdon got back together with Lonnie Jordan for a one-off reunion, billed as Eric Burdon and WAR, at The Royal Albert Hall in 2008.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 24th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #91 – Eddie Kendricks: “Keep On Truckin’ Part 1” b/w “Keep On Truckin’ Part 2”– Tamla T-54238F

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #91 – Eddie Kendricks: “Keep On Truckin’ Part 1” b/w “Keep On Truckin’ Part 2”– Tamla T-54238F

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

Originally a member of The Primes (to the Supremes’ Primettes), Eddie Kendricks possessed one of the most soulful voices in the group that would later be renamed The Temptations. With the group, Kendricks angelic falsetto voice climbed the charts numerous times on such classics as “Just My Imagination,” “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Get Ready” and dozens of others too numerous to mention here.

After Kendricks’ acrimonious split from the Tempts in 1971, they went on to score a monster hit with “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and released a single called “Superstar (Remember How You Got To Where You Are)” which was a slam at Kendricks before the hits began to dry up.

In the meantime, Kendricks would have to wait a few years for one of his records to click with the American public, but when “Keep On Truckin’” did, it sold over a million copies and topped both the R&B and Pop charts, ushering in the Disco era and making him the most successful solo artist from the group.

The song was written by producer Frank Wilson, Anita Poree and Leonard Caston Jr. In the track, Kendricks’ returned the favor by including a reference to his old group in the lyrics: “In old Temptations’ rain, I’m duckin’ / For your love though sleet and snow, I’m truckin’.”

The track was released on Kendricks’ self-titled third album featuring backing by Darrell Clayborn and James Jamerson on bass, Billy Cooper, Dean Parks and Greg Poree on guitar, Ed Greene and Kenny Rice on drums, Gary Coleman and Jack Ashford on percussion, Harold Johnson and Leonard Caston on piano and Kin Errisson on congas. The album version of the song ran over eight minutes for maximum dancefloor pleasure; however it was split into two parts for its 45rpm single release.

Kendricks’ disco success continued with the release of “Boogie Down” the following year, which climbed to the #2 slot on the Pop charts and topped the R&B charts. In the 1980s, he appeared at Live Aid, backed Hall & Oates (with David Ruffin) on their Live At The Apollo album and was inducted into The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame as a Temptation. Kendricks died of lung cancer at the age of 52 on October 5, 1992.

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #84 – Billy Preston: “Will It Go Round In Circle” b/w “Blackbird”– A&M-1411

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

He truly was the fifth Beatle…he was also a Rolling Stone, and Billy Preston also did numerous sessions with a stellar cast of characters that included Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Richard, Sly & The Family Stone, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and dozens of others. He also co-wrote Joe Cocker’s smash hit “You Are So Beautiful” and sent his own hits like “Space Race,” “Outa-Space,” “Nothing From Nothing,” “With You I’m Born Again” (with Syreeta Wright) and today’s jukebox classic, “Will It Go Round In Circles” up the charts.

The list of albums he’s appeared on reads like a history of classic rock ‘n’ roll including The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Love You Live, Black And Blue and Tattoo You,  The Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Concert For Bangla Desh, Dark Horse, Extra Texture, Thirty-Three & 1/3 and Gone Troppo, and Ringo Starr’s Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. He was, indeed the Forrest Gump of keyboards to the biggest bands in the land. And if that’s not enough, he was also the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live, he inspired Miles Davis who named a song after him on his Get Up With It album, and he also coined the phrase “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” for Stephen Stills.

Preston first came into The Beatles’ circle back in 1962 when he was a sixteen year old touring member of Little Richard’s band. But it wasn’t until 1969 when George Harrison walked out on the Let It Be sessions, and returned with Preston in tow in an effort to get the other three fabs to be on their best behavior during the acrimonious sessions that led to their last two albums as a group. At one point, John Lennon suggested that they add Preston as the fifth member of the band to which McCartney quipped that four Beatles were bad enough. (The Beatles – A/B Road: The Complete Get back Sessions, January 24th via Wikipedia)

“George Harrison, a friend of Preston, had quit, walked out of the studio and gone to a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing organ. Harrison brought Preston back to the studio, where his keen musicianship and gregarious personality temporarily calmed the tension.” (Harrington, Richard (June 8, 2006). “‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston Made the Greats Even Greater”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-02 via Wikipedia)

Preston was signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label where he launched his solo career in 1969 with the gospel single “That’s The Way God Planned It” and the album of the same name that were both produced by George Harrison. After a second Apple LP release went nowhere, Preston signed with A&M Records where he found his greatest solo success.

Today’s jukebox classic was one of two chart-topping singles Billy Preston recorded (“Nothing From Nothing” was the other). The song was written by Bruce Fisher, who was working in the mail room of NBC-TV and Billy Preston. Inspiration for the song came after Preston walked into the writing session and told Fisher “I got a song that ain’t got no melody.” The song was originally released on his 1972 solo album Music Is My Life that featured the musicianship of The Brothers Johnson (George Johnson on guitar and Louis Johnson on bass), and a horn section that included Tom Scott and Jim Horn. The flip of today’s single is Preston’s gospel-flavored cover of the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird.”

During his later years, Preston served time in prison for tax evasion and suffered from kidney disease and high blood pressure. He died in June of 2006 after several months in a coma of malignant hypertension which caused his kidneys to shut down and respiratory failure.

Edited: February 27th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #83 – Lou Rawls: “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” b/w “Dead End Street”– Capitol/Collectables COL-6081

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #83 – Lou Rawls: “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” b/w “Dead End Street”– Capitol/Collectables COL-6081

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently 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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Most people remember Lou Rawls for his silky-smooth vocal delivery and his disco era hit “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” but by the time he had that hit in 1976, Rawls had already been recording albums, and yes many hits, for 14 years.

Chicago-born Rawls got his start by replacing Sam Cooke in the Gospel group, The Highway QC’s. After a stint in the Army, Rawls joined another Gospel group called Pilgrim Travelers. While on the road with Sam Cooke and The Travelers, Rawls was in a serious car accident that left him pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. He was revived but was in a coma for five days before regaining consciousness. After he recuperated, Rawls began doing session work, most notably singing background vocals on Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.”

He was signed to Capitol Records by staff producer Nick Venet (The Beach Boys, The Kingston Trio, Nat King Cole, Glen Campbell) and recorded his first album, Stormy Monday, for the label in 1962 backed by the Les McCann Trio. The Les McCann Trio was a stalwart of the Sunset Strip jazz clubs and was also signed by Nick Venet to Pacific Jazz Records. Their lineup included McCann on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Ron Jefferson on drums. Rawls’ early albums featured a mix of jazz and blues standards, but it wasn’t until Rawls cut a proper soul album in 1966 that his star began to rise in the industry.

That album was called Soulin’ and it featured the top side of today’s double-sided reissue jukebox single, Rawls’ first top forty hit “Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing,” which climbed to #13 on the pop charts, while topping the R&B charts in 1966. The song was written by Ben Raleigh and Dave Linden, and covered by several artists including The Temptations and Big Maybelle.

The flip of today’s single was one of Rawls’ patented soul monologue hits called “Dead End Street” which painted a bleak picture of Chicago ghetto life circa 1967. The song was originally on Rawls’ David Axelrod-produced 1967 album called Too Much.

The monologue or spoken recitation hit was not a new idea when Rawls brought it to the soul charts. Country artists had been doing spoken word records for years, whether by Hank Williams under the guise of Luke The Drifter, or songs like T. Texas Tyler’s “Deck Of Cards,” Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” Red Sovine’s “Phantom 49” and later on with songs like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Charlie Daniels Band’s “Uneasy Rider” and C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.”

The difference between these songs and Rawls’ take on the spoken hit is far more organic since Rawls’ recordings began as unprepared monologues that sprang up during concert recordings or recording sessions that in essence worked to set the songs up before launching into them properly.

Rawls: “I was working in little joints where the stage would be behind the bar. So you were standing right over the cash register and the crushed ice machine. You’d be swinging and the waitress would yell, ‘I want 12 beers and four martinis!’ And then the dude would put the ice in the crusher. There had to be a way to get the attention of the people. So instead of just starting in singing, I would just start in talking the song.” (http://www.lourawls.com/rawlsbio.html)

Rawls’ “Dead End Street” climbed to the #3 Position on the R&B charts (and #29 pop) and won him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance in 1967. While the single was on the charts, Rawls performed at The Monterey Pop festival alongside such luminaries as Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.

He continued to record for Capitol scoring hits like “Tobacco Road” and “Your Good Thing (Is About To End),” plus many others. He also opened for The Beatles on their 1966 tour in Cincinnati. In total, Rawls recorded over twenty albums for the label before signing with MGM in 1970.

While he only recorded three albums for MGM, he did score his Grammy-winning hit “Natural Man” for the label. He signed to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label in 1976, where he had his greatest successes releasing million-selling albums and the hits “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” “Lady Love,” “Let Me Be Good To You,” and “See You When I Git There.” Rawls died of cancer in 2006 and left behind a legacy of gritty blues and silky soul recordings.

Edited: February 26th, 2014

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)

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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)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

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 included 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.

Edited: February 11th, 2014

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)

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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)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

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. The album 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, 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)

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.

Edited: February 6th, 2014

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

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

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

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 included 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.

Edited: February 5th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #55– R.B. Greaves: “Take A Letter Maria” b/w “Big Bad City” – Atco 45-6714 (I6/J6)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

There’s always been a fine line between country and soul music (i.e. Charley Pride), but never has the line been so thin than on today’s Song Of The Day, “Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves which features a soulful mariachi-flavored horn part that would fit comfortably on both a country and soul track.

The song was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama featuring their crack studio crew including Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett on electric piano, Eddie Hinton and Jimmy Johnson on guitars, David Hood on bass and Mel Lastie on trumpet. Most of the musicians on the record had recently broken away from FAME studios where they were featured on many Atlantic recordings to start out on their own.

David Hood: “It was our first big hit. First gold record after we had gone out on our own. We were getting pretty nervous, because we thought Atlantic was going to quit using us and we were going to go broke. So it was a big relief when R.B. Greaves came along. ‘Take a Letter, Maria’ was just a fluke. We all thought it was good when we cut it, but we didn’t think it was anything all that special. And here it becomes a hit.” (Song Facts)

The song was written by Greaves, but was recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before he committed it to wax at the insistence of producer and record label boss Ahmet Ertegun. It reached the #2 slot on the Billboard pop charts in August of 1969 and sold over a million copies. It also spawned two charting country covers by Anthony Armstrong Jones who brought the song to #8 in 1970, and Doug Stone who landed the song at #45 on the Country charts in 1999. The song has also been covered by the likes of New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Gary Puckett, Boots Randolph, Jimmy Ruffin, Mel Tormé and Country Dick Montana of the alt country group Beat Farmers.

The song was featured on the album R.B. Greaves which was produced by Ahmet Ertegun. David Hood: “He (Ertegun) was a tremendous recognizer of talent and of songs. He knew music and musicians about as well as anybody on earth, but he was very hands off. He sat in the control room…He had his feet propped up on the console and had a yellow legal pad in his lap. We thought, gosh, he’s making all these notes and doing all this stuff. And we go in there, and he’d just been doodling and drawing stars and stuff.” (Song Facts)

The album includes covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “Ain’t That Good News,” and five songs that were penned by Greaves.  (R.B. Greaves was the nephew of Sam Cooke.) The flip of the single is another Greaves composition that did not turn up on his debut Atco album.

Greaves continued to have moderate chart success with such covers as Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” before leaving Atco Records in the early 1970s. His only other chart single was “Margie, Who’s Watching The Baby,” which bubbled under at #115 in 1972. Greaves died of prostate cancer in September of 2012 at the age of 68.

Edited: January 9th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #53– Mary Wells: “The One Who Really Loves You” b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” – Motown 45 MT-1024 (C6/D6)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

She was Motown’s first big star and a favorite of The Beatles , and songs like this Smokey Robinson penned gem that climbed to the #2 position of the R&B charts and the #8 position of the pop charts in 1962 are the reason why. Wells came to Motown after passing Berry Gordy a song demo that she had intended for Jackie Wilson to record. Gordy had her sing the song for him and was suitably impressed enough to have her record “Bye Bye Baby” and released it as her first single which climbed to #8 on the R&B charts in 1961.

After this success, Gordy teamed her up with Smokey Robinson. Today’s jukebox classic was one in a long line of hits composed specifically for Mary Wells by Smokey Robinson, that also included “My Guy,” You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Two Lovers” that established Wells as Motown’s first big star before  leaving the company at the height of her powers in 1964.

“The One Who Really Loves You” is one of the finest examples of Robinson’s compositional magnificence. The song features a super-catchy ear worm of a tune highlighted by Wells’ cool lilting vocal that projects just the right amount of adult sophistication aloft in the mix. It all comes to you backed by a Harry Belafonte- influenced Calypso beat and smooth harmony vocals by The Love Tones (Carl Jones, Joe Marls & Stanford Bracely) who recorded backing vocals on many Motown sessions in 1962, but were never afforded a single of their own. The song was from Wells’ 1962 album of the same name which also included hit single “You Beat Me To The Punch.”

The flip of the single is every bit as good as the A-side, and was culled from Mary Wells’ 1961 debut Motown album called Bye Bye Baby I Don’t Want To Take A Chance. The single was reissued in 1965 after Wells left the label with the sides flipped to minimal chart action.

Wells’ success came to an end at Motown after a dispute with the label over the royalties from her recording of “My Guy” which she claimed were used to promote The Supremes’ single “Where Did Our Love Go” rather than one of her own records. Wells freed herself from Motown giving up royalties from the records she recorded for the label and the use of her own likeness to promote them, and signed with 20th Century Fox records where she had little chart success.

After recording many good records for Atco, Jubilee and Reprise that failed to chart, Wells found herself back on the charts again in 1981 with the Disco hit “Gigolo.” More records followed for a succession of smaller record labels that offered little promotion until Wells was diagnosed with cancer in 1990. She also sued Motown for unpaid royalties and reached a settlement with the label. Wells succumbed to laryngeal cancer in July of 1992 at the age of 49 leaving a legacy of soulful gems in her wake that are ripe for reinvestigation.

Edited: January 7th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #29 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “I’ll Try Something New” b/w “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – Collectables 45 RPM Single MOT-00505 (S3/T3)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Before The Miracles, before Berry Gordy and before Motown, a talented singer and aspiring songwriter named William Robinson formed a group called The Matadors. The Matadors consisted of Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Warren Moore and Claudette Rogers.

They met a hungry promoter named Berry Gordy who had his first taste of success by writing the Jackie Wilson hit “Reet Petite.” The Matadors auditioned for Gordy who liked the group, especially their lead singer. When Williams told Gordy that he could write songs, the two sat down and wrote an answer record to The Silhouettes’ 1958 hit “Get A Job,” and called it “Got A Job.”

Gordy thought the name, The Matadors, was far to masculine for a group that featured a vocalist like William Robinson and also a female vocalist, so he changed their name to The Miracles. Gordy negotiated a release of the record on the independent End record label in 1958 and it became a minor hit.

With the money earned from the hit record, Gordy went on to found the Motown record label making Robinson the vice-president…so you may say that both Gordy and Smokey Robinson (as he became known) “Got A Job” with the release of the record of the same name.

The Miracles consisted of Smokey Robinson on lead vocal, Claudette Rogers Robinson (his wife) on backing vocal, Pete Moore on backing vocal, Ronnie White on backing vocal, Bobby Rogers on co-lead vocal and backing vocal, Marv Tarplin on guitar with all other instruments performed by The Funk Brothers.

Songs don’t come any more romantic than the top side of today’s double A-sided single! The first thing that grabs you is the angelic, echo-laden production sound of the record with its elaborate and plush bed of strings. If that doesn’t automatically get your attention, then Robinson’s gossamer vocals are sure to woo even the most hardened heart. (Note: For the ultimate in greatness, check out his soulful vocals during this record’s fade.)

The song was one of The Miracles early singles from 1962 and was also the title track to their third album. Upon its release, it climbed to the #11 position on the R&B charts and settled at #39 on the pop list.  In 1969, the song was released as a single by The Supremes and The Temptations together that climbed to #25 on the pop charts and #8 R&B. It was also covered by disco group A Taste Of Honey in 1982.

The flip of today’s single was a much bigger hit for The Miracles topping the R&B charts and climbing all the way to #8 on the pop list while selling a million copies. “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” is deservedly in the Grammy Hall Of Fame and also holds the distinction of being covered by The Beatles on their second album.

The song was written by Smokey Robinson for his wife (and group member) Claudette after hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on the radio while on a business trip in New York City. When originally released, it was relegated to the B-side of the song “Happy Landing,” however DJs flipped the record and liked it much better. Both songs appeared on The Miracles second album The Fabulous Miracles released in 1963.

The Beatles first heard the song after finding an imported copy from the U.S. and it quickly became a staple of their early live repertoire. It was recorded for their second album With The Beatles (in the U.K.) and The Beatles’ Second Album (in the U.S.) featuring an indelible lead vocal by John Lennon.

The Beatles re-recorded the song after EMI acquired their first four track recording equipment; however that version was deemed no better than the original and remains unreleased to this day. They also recorded it four times for broadcast on BBC radio. The song can also be heard in the 1970 Let It Be and it was also featured in a live version from Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963 on the Anthology 1 album.

The Beatles covered several Motown songs early in their career, including “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman,” because Berry Gordy gave the group reduced rates as an enticement since they were such a big recording act. The song has also been covered by a myriad of artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Zombies, The Jackson 5, Mickey Gilley (#2 Country Hit), Phil Collins, Mike + The Mechanics and She & Him.

Edited: November 15th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #27 – Arthur Alexander: “Anna (Go To Him)” b/w “You Better Move On” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3375 (N3/P3)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

He’s the only artist to be covered by the holy quartet of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Others who rushed to his deep well of first-rate copyrights included The Hollies, Ry Cooder, Pearl Jam, Ike & Tina Turner, Marshall Crenshaw, George Jones, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees, Humble Pie, and Dusty Springfield, and that’s only a small sampling of those who have recorded his tunes.

Yet, Arthur Alexander, the man who wrote such classics as “Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms),” “Sally Sue Brown,” “Detroit City,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” and the two songs on today’s jukebox single, remains largely unknown to most people today, or even worse, totally forgotten.

The A-side of today’s double-A-sided jukebox single was originally written, recorded and released as a single on the Dot label by Alexander in 1962. Alexander’s version charted at #68 on the pop charts, while climbing to #10 on the R&B lists. The song is notable because it was covered by The Beatles for their debut album Please Please Me. It was a favorite of John Lennon’s and became part of the group’s early live repertoire. Lennon had a bad cold during the marathon session that produced their first album, which accounts for the roughness of his voice.

If Alexander’s recordings weren’t enough to guarantee him legendary status, he, along with Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall and Tom Stafford, converted a dilapidated tobacco warehouse in Alabama into a recording studio, and launched the famed Muscle Shoals Studios with his first single “You Better Move On” in the early 1960s. Alexander’s original version of the song charted at #24 on the pop charts in 1962 and sold 800,000 copies making it possible for Muscle Shoals to relocate its facilities to 603 East Avalon Avenue. The backing musicians on the track included Dan Penn, Tommy Roe and Joe Tex.

The song was also covered by The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, Dean Martin, Johnny Rivers, Billy “Crash” Craddock (whose version was a #10 country hit), Mink DeVille and George Jones and Johnny Paycheck (whose duo version peaked at #18 on the country charts).

The music business was a tricky proposition then as it is now, and fame and fortune largely alluded him, but not for lack of trying. After a string of seminal southern soul recordings that made others rich and famous, Alexander moved from record label to record label releasing a series of albums and singles throughout the sixties and seventies that garnered little or no airplay, including an eponymously titled album for Warner Brothers in 1972 and the 1975 minor hit single “Every Day I Have To Cry” for Buddah Records.

From 1977 through 1992, Alexander dropped out of the music industry completely and drove a van for senior citizens. After being inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, he came back to music and recorded his last record, Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra records in 1993. Sadly days after launching his comeback with a new band, Alexander died of a heart attack.

For further listening, check out The Ultimate Arthur Alexander for his original recordings, and the tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander featuring covers of his songs by the likes of Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Roger McGuinn, Nick Lowe, John Prine and Frank Black. Both CDs were issued by Razor & Tie music.

Edited: November 12th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #25 – Barbara Lewis – “Hello Stranger” b/w “Baby I’m Yours” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL-3105 (I3/J3)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

During a time when most recording artists were told what to record, especially women, Barbara Lewis wrote almost all of the songs on her debut album called Hello Stranger. The hit title song was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago with backup vocals provided by The Dells. Inspiration for the song came from performing shows with her musician father. Lewis: ““I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’”. (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

The magic in this track lies in Lewis’ feathery-light delivery atop the heavenly harmonious shoo-bop-shoo-bops in the background, and one of the all-time greatest roller-rink Hammond organ introductions ever on record. It’s no wonder that the “Hello Stranger” single climbed to #3 on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts in 1963.

Lewis’ soul classic has spawned numerous covers over the years. Yvonne Elliman topped the easy listening charts and brought the song into the top-twenty of the pop charts in 1977, Carrie Lucas charted in the R&B top twenty in 1985, The Capitols’ version gained wide exposure as the B-side to their hit single “Cool Jerk,” and Martha And The Vandellas, The Supremes & The Four Tops (together) and Queen Latifah have also given the song a go in the studio.

The flip of today’s reissue single is “Baby I’m Yours,” which was written by Van McCoy. McCoy is best known for the disco smash, “The Hustle” which topped of the charts in 1975, and it is his voice that is heard on the track as part of the choir. Lewis brought the song to the #11 position on the pop charts and #5 R&B in 1965.

She initially did not like the song and gave a lackluster vocal performance of it in the studio in the hopes that it would end up shelved. After the session, producer Ollie McLaughlin told her that she needed to re-record her vocals. McLaughlin chided her into giving the song a winning performance. Lewis: “He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.” (Complete Atlantic Singles liner notes.)

The song also went on to become a country hit for Debby Boone and Jody Miller. Peter & Gordon brought the song to #19 on the UK Pop charts in 1965, and Cher, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Maureen McGovern, Billy Preston and British band The Arctic Monkeys have recorded the song.

Edited: November 10th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves And The Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #23 – Martha Reeves And The Vandellas: “Jimmy Mack” b/w “I’m Ready For Love” – Motown Yesteryear Series 45 RPM Single Y 455F (E3/F3)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

I first discovered today’s jukebox classic not in its original guise by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’, but from a cover performed by Laura Nyro and LaBelle on their classic 1971 album called Gonna Take A Miracle. When I first heard Nyro’s version, I didn’t make the connection between the song and all of the other great Vandellas hits I already knew from the radio. It wasn’t until my older sister picked up a copy of Martha and the Vandellas’ Greatest Hits album in 1972 that I finally came to fully appreciate the magic of, in my estimation, Motown’s finest girl group.

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,” “Wild One,” “My Baby Loves Me,”  “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” and their signature single “Dancing in the Street.”

The song was written and produced by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland and it was the group’s last American top-ten hit reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1967, and #1 R&B. It was also from the last batch of Martha and the Vandellas recordings featuring input from Holland-Dozier-Holland before they left the Motown fold. Not coincidentally, their departure from Motown aligned with the waning of The Vandellas’ popularity.

The impetus for the song came out of an industry awards dinner that Lamont Dozier attended. At the awards, Ronnie Mack won a posthumous award for composing the song “He’s So Fine.” His mother came up to accept the award on his behalf and Dozier decided he’d write the song in tribute to Ronnie Mack.

Lamont Dozier: “‘Jimmy Mack’ was about a kid who had written a song that was quite popular. When they called out his name there was something, along with the way his mother picked up the award, that kind of moved me and the name stuck with me. So when a melody came about that name seemed to spring up and fit well with the music we were writing at the time.” (NME 1984 via Songfacts)

Martha and the Vandellas originally recorded the song in 1964 as a typical teen anthem about lost love, but Motown’s quality control team rejected the recording leaving it unreleased in the Motown vaults. Three years later, Berry Gordy became aware of the recording and hearing a surefire hit made sure the song was released as a single. With the passage of time, the record took on a different meaning, especially to the many African American troops who were stationed overseas in Viet Nam.

The song was included in The Vandellas’ ballad-heavy 1967 album Watchout!, however the single version of this song opens with a drum intro that is not featured on the album cut. Personnel on the track included Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard on background vocals, The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps on additional background vocals and instrumentation by various members of Motown’s session group The Funk Brothers, including Richard “Pistol” Allen on drums, Jack Ashford on vibes, Bob Babbitt on bass, Benny Benjamin on drums, Eddie “Bongo” Brown on percussion, Johnny Griffith on keyboards, Joe Hunter on keyboards, James Jamerson on bass, Uriel Jones on drums, Joe Messina on guitar, Earl Van Dyke on keyboards, Marvin Tarplin on guitar, Robert White on guitar and  Eddie Willis.

The song was also covered by the likes of Karen Carpenter, Phil Collins, Sheena Easton (who scored a #65 chart hit with it in1986) and Bonnie Pointer. It was also cut by The Temptations for their 1967 album In A Mellow Mood.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single climbed up to the #9 position on the pop charts and rose to #2 on the R&B charts in 1966. The song was also written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and is a dead ringer for The Supremes hit “You Can’t Hurry Love” which they also wrote.

The track was also on The Vandellas’ Watchout! album and featured pretty much the same musicians as “Jimmy Mack,” except Betty Kelly sings background vocals instead of Annette Beard. The group also cut a Spanish version of the song under the title “Yo Necesito De Tu Amor.”

Edited: November 6th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #13 – Stevie Wonder: “Superstition” b/w “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” – Motown 45 RPM Single Y559F (E2/F2)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

The A-Side of today’s double A-sided jukebox single was the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s landmark album Talking Book. Jeff Beck guested on the album playing guitar on the song “Looking For Another Pure Love.” While in the studio, Beck came up with the drum pattern that kicks “Superstition” into motion. From there, Wonder added the funky clavinet riff that runs through the song and a classic was born. After Wonder wrote the song, he offered it to Beck to record.

In the meantime, Motown chief Berry Gordy heard Wonder’s version and immediately knew it was a surefire smash and pressured Wonder to release it as a single before Beck could commit his version to tape. “Superstition” went on to become Wonder’s second chart-topping hit, his first since “Fingertips” hit the top of the charts in 1963. Jeff Beck was given the song “Because We’ve Ended As Lovers” as a consolation prize which he recorded for his 1975 album Blow By Blow. Beck later recorded Wonder’s “Superstition” with his group Beck, Bogart & Appice.

When Wonder turned 21, he renegotiated his contract with Motown Records giving him total control over his music with increased royalties and publishing. The first fruit of his negotiation was the album Music Of My Mind that included “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” the flip side of today’s double-A sided jukebox classic.

The song was one of the first tracks that Wonder worked on with Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who invented the TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer and recorded under the name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band. Margouleff: “Stevie showed up [at our studio] with the TONTO LP under his arm. He said, ‘I don’t believe this was all done on one instrument. Show me the instrument.’ He was always talking about seeing. So we dragged his hands all over the instrument, and he thought he’d never be able to play it. But we told him we’d get it together for him.” The duo would go on to help shape the recording of Wonder’s Talking Book, Innervisions and Fullfillingness’ First Finale albums.

Wonder is heard playing all of the instruments on the record including the TONTO, except for the electric guitar which was played by Buzz Feiten and the trumpet and saxophone played respectively by Steve Madaio and Trevor Laurence.

The song clocked in at over eight minutes in its original guise on the Music Of My Mind album and was about former Motown secretary and Wonder’s first wife Syreeta Wright. The lyric “trying to boss the bull around” is about Syreeta trying to exert some control on Wonder who is a Taurus.

The first part of the song talks about “Mary’s” desire to leave her current life behind to chase the goal of stardom. The song’s second “Where Were You When I Needed You” part finds the song’s narrator wondering when she will be coming back and why it is taking so long. Musically, the second part of the song was a re-working of Wonder’s 1971 single “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” from his Where I’m Coming From album. The song was released as a single and climbed to the #33 slot on the pop charts. Indeed, Wonder’s marriage to Syreeta broke up soon after he completed work on Music Of My Mind.”

Both songs on today’s Jukebox classic double A-sided single were originally issued as separate singles, each with a different B-side. The original B-side to “Superstition” was “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” and the original “Superwoman” B-side was “I Love Every Little Thing About You.”

The clip of “Superstition” accompanying this piece is an alternate live in-studio performance of the track with a full backing band.

Edited: October 23rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #8 – Luther Ingram: “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right)” b/w Hot Butter: “Popcorn” – Collectables Records Double A-Sided 45 RPM Single COL-3170 (O1/P1)

“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 twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s classic comes from a double A-sided reissue single on the Collectables record label released specifically for jukeboxes featuring two big hits by two different artists. Most of the records in the juke are original pressings, however this was the only copy of Ingram’s soul classic I could find at the time I was looking, plus having two hit singles by two different artists on one record is indeed a bonus.

The A-Side of today’s double-sided single is Luther Ingram’s infidelity ballad “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” which is one of the greatest soul singles of all time! The song was written by STAX songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson. Banks also wrote the Sam And Dave classic “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” and billed as “We Three” with Raymond Jackson and Bettye Crutcher, wrote Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” and The Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).”

“If Loving You Is Wrong” was originally recorded in 1970 by The Emotions with an up-tempo arrangement that didn’t serve the song well. As a result, the record was left on the shelves of STAX records unreleased. Luther Ingram moved to Memphis after several failed attempts at a recording career in New York City and signed a recording contract with the KoKo label which was distributed by STAX Records. With the label, he found success scoring the top-ten R&B hit “Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)” in 1970.

While at STAX, Ingram discovered The Emotions’ version of “If Loving You Is Wrong” and rearranged and recorded the song as a mournful ballad. His version topped the R&B charts and rose to the number 3 position on the pop charts in 1972, selling over four million copies.

The song has been covered by a plethora of artists including Isaac Hayes, Rod Stewart, Percy Sledge, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ramsey Lewis and Cassandra Wilson. Millie Jackson’s 1974 chart version of the song was expanded into an eleven minute suite complete with a spoken “rap” which was nominated for two Grammy Awards. Barbara Mandrell also scored a country hit with her rendition of the song in 1978.

If all Ingram did in music was to give us this signature recording, his stature would be sealed as an R& B great, however Ingram was also the co-writer(with Mark Rice) of The Staple Singers’ empowerment anthem “Respect Yourself.”

The flip of this double A-sided single is “Popcorn” by Hot Butter. “Popcorn” was a bubbly electronic confection composed by German musician Gershon Kingsley who was known for his work composing classical and Broadway music, and writing TV commercial jingles. Kingsley recorded the influential electronic album The In Sound from Way Out! with Jean-Jaques Perrey for Vanguard Records in 1966. The album promoted the use of synthesizers in pop music years before German recording artists Can and Kraftwerk.

Kingsley first recorded “Popcorn” for his 1969 album Music To Moog By, and then recorded the song again in 1971 with his First Moog Quartet. Stan Free was a member of The First Moog Quartet and re-recorded the song in 1972 under the name Hot Butter.

Hot Butter’s record came out during the moog craze of the early 1970s that saw classical records by the likes of Walter/Wendy Carlos (Switched On Bach) and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) cross over to the pop charts and sell millions of copies.  Hot Butter’s recording was one of the first all-electronic records to chart on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart, peaking at #9 pop and #4 on the adult contemporary charts.

The song was not named for popcorn that you eat; rather it was an amalgam of “pop” for pop music and “corn” for the kitsch and novelty of the recording. It has been covered by the likes of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Jean Michel Jarre, Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops, James Last, Norrie Paramour, Ronnie Aldrich and The Muppets.

Kingsley also wrote the music used by Disney theme parks for its Main Street Electrical Parade and the theme from the TV game show The Joker’s Wild.

Edited: October 16th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Hold On Longer” by John Legend

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This spectacular piece of song craft and mood comes from John Legend’s latest album “Love In The Future.” I’ve literally played this song over and over since it came out several weeks ago, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the best Stevie Wonder song that Wonder never wrote.

Yet, in two minutes and thirty-nine seconds of splendor, Legend manages to match the seemingly unmatchable level of artistry of classic Stevie Wonder.

The song lists amongst its writers John Stephens (aka John Legend), Kanye West who also gets an executive producer credit along with Legend and Dave Tozer. Like Legend’s other albums, his latest is a stone-classic in the making.

Edited: September 22nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9-11-13 – “Show And Tell” by Al Wilson

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Show And Tell” by Al Wilson

Today’s Song Of The Day is the signature hit by soul great Al Wilson. While Wilson is closely identified with the song, he wasn’t the first artist to record this classic hit. That honor went to none other than Johnny Mathis, who recorded it in 1972, a year before Wilson took it to the charts.

Al Wilson spent his formative years kicking around San Bernardino, California working odd jobs, singing in soul groups and developing comedy routines with an eye towards a career in entertainment, before joining the Navy and singing in the enlisted men’s chorus.

After two years in the Navy, Wilson relocated to Los Angeles and signed with manager Marc Gordon who got him an audition with Johnny Rivers who ultimately signed him to his Soul City record label. Rivers produced the session that resulted in the Northern Soul classic “The Snake” that made it up to #27 on the pop charts in 1968. Several other minor chart singles followed on the Soul City imprint including a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi” which reached the #67 position on the charts.

By 1973, Wilson was signed to the Rocky Road record label, a subsidiary of Bell Records, where he released the album Show And Tell and its title hit single which sold over 2 million copies. The song was ultimately named the Number One Single Of the Year in 1973 by Cashbox. Most of the songs on the album (including the title hit) were written by Jerry Fuller.

Jerry Fuller was known for writing the Ricky Nelson hits “Travelin’ Man,” “A Wonder Like You,” “Young World” and “It’s Up To You.” He also discovered Gary Puckett & The Union Gap and wrote their hits “Lady Willpower,” “Young Girl” and “Over You,” plus he also wrote and produced hits for The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, O.C. Smith (“Little Green Apples”) and The Knickerbockers (“Lies”).

Wilson’s follow up single from 1974, “The La La Peace Song” made it into the top twenty of the R&B charts, but suffered by a competing version by O.C. Smith that was also climbing the charts at the same time. Two years later, Wilson scored a #3 R&B single with “I’ve Got a Feeling (We’ll Be Seeing Each Other Again)” which also made it into the top thirty of the pop charts. His final chart single was “Count The Days” in 1979.

Wilson continued performing in clubs and soul reviews for the next 25 years, long after the hits stopped coming.  In 1989, Peabo Bryson took “Show And Tell” to the top of the R&B charts, and in 2007 Wilson lost many of his original master tapes when his home recording studio burned down. Wilson died in April of 2008 of kidney failure at the age of 68.

I posted this ear worm of a song the other day sans commentary for laughs, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since…such is the stuff that makes a hit record, an everlasting hit record…

Edited: September 10th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/18/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co.

Cliff Nobles was a gospel singer from Alabama who relocated to Philadelphia to break into the recording industry. He was quickly signed to Atlantic records where he recorded three singles: “My Love Is Getting Stronger,” “Let’s Have A Good Time” and “Your Love Is All I Need” that failed to find any action on the charts.

As a result of his affiliation with Atlantic, he was signed to a local Philadelphia record label called “Phil-L.A. of Soul Records” by independent producer Jesse James and formed the group Cliff Nobles & Co. consisting of Benny Williams on bass, Bobby Tucker on guitar, and Tommy Soul on drums.

The group’s second single was “Love Is All Right” b/w “The Horse.”  The single did not feature the playing of Nobles regular band but, instead, featured a group of Philadelphia session musicians put together by Leon Huff called the James Boys who went on to become the Sigma Sound house band MFSB.

While “Love Is All Right” made no waves on the charts, DJs began play the instrumental track and today’s Song Of The Day on the flip. “The Horse” was merely the instrumental backing track to “Love Is All Right” and Cliff Nobles was nowhere to be found on the record.

The song began to climb the charts, peaking at #2 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in July of 1968, and went on to sell a million copies.  The label released the album The Horse and several instrumental follow-up singles credited to Cliff Nobles & Co. in which he also did not appear.

After his music career was over, Nobles worked in construction and later in the electricity generation industry. He died in Norristown, Pennsylvania in October 2008, at the age of 67, leaving behind this indelible and instantly recognizable instrumental classic.

Edited: July 17th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/16/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited

It was a breath of funked out fresh air when “Soulful Strut” hit the charts in 1968, and today the song is one of the most refreshing instrumentals of all time.

Eldee Young (bass) and Isaac “Red” Holt (drums) were Chicago musicians who made up the rhythm section for The Ramsey Lewis Trio. After gigging with Lewis for ten years and scoring the monster hit “The In Crowd,” Young and Holt left to form their own jazz combo called The Young-Holt Trio with pianist Don Walker.

Together, the trio scored a top 20 R&B hit with “Wack Wack,” and recorded several records for the Brunswick record label. By 1968, Young and Holt replaced Walker with Ken Chaney and renamed the group Young-Holt Unlimited in an effort to sound more current and tap into the youth market with their recordings.

Today’s Song Of The Day got its start as the backing track of “Am I The Same Girl,” a minor hit by Barbara Acklin (#33 R&B/#79 Pop) which was written by Eugene Record (Acklin’s husband) and Sonny Sanders. Acklin was a Chicago soul singer who scored numerous hits on her own, but is perhaps best known as the co-writer (with Record) of the Chi-Lites’ smash hit “Have You Seen Her.”

It was Brunswick Records producer Carl Davis who got the idea to remove Acklin’s voice from “Am I The Same Girl” and to release it as an instrumental. Acklin’s vocal was replaced with a piano solo played by Floyd Morris and the instrumental was renamed “Soulful Strut.”  The instrumental version was released before Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl” and it climbed all the way to the #3 position on both the R&B and pop charts.

The single was credited to Young-Holt Unlimited; however it is believed that the backing track was actually performed by the Brunswick Records studio band with neither Eldee Young nor Red Holt present on the track. At least three other songs from Young-Holt Unlimited’s Soulful Strut album were originally Acklin backing tracks including “Please Sunrise,” “Love Makes A Woman” and “Just Ain’t No Lovin’.”

As a vocal, “Am I The Same Girl” was covered by both Dusty Springfield and Swing Out Sister, who both scored minor charts hits with their versions (although Swing Out Sister’s version did top the adult contemporary charts). As an instrumental, “Soulful Strut” was later covered by George Benson in 1979, and again by Grover Washington Jr. in 1996. The song has also been sampled by 2 Live Crew and The Beastie Boys, and Joss Stone used the track as the basis for her 2005 track “Don’t Cha Wanna Ride.”

Edited: July 15th, 2013