Posts Tagged ‘The 5th Dimension’

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles”

45-adapter-logo2friendsofdistinctiongrazing

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 04769 (M4/NL4)

Some of the world’s best-loved and biggest hits have their origin in afterthought…

“Grazing In The Grass” was originally an instrumental hit recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela that topped the charts in 1968. Masekela came to record the song after purchasing a cowbell-infused novelty record in Zambia called “Mr. Bull #5.” After turning in his debut album to UNI Records which was contractually short by three minutes, the label suggested he cover the single. While in the studio, actor and singer Philemon Hou came up with a new melody which became “Grazing In The Grass.”

Masekela thought little of the song, but included it on the album anyway to fulfill his contract. When UNI executive Russ Regan decided to release it as a single, Hugh Masekela became the first South African recording act to reach number one on the pop charts. (Fun fact: The guitarist on Masekela’s version of the song was Bruce Langhorne, who was the subject of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”) (songfacts.com)

The Friends of Distinction was a soul group from southern California that formed in 1968 around Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love. Elston and Butler were members of The Hif-Fi’s, who warmed up for Ray Charles on tour, along with Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore who went on to form The 5th Dimension. The group secured a recording contract with RCA Records after joining forces with ex-Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown who took on management of the group.

When Elston heard Masekela’s hit version of the song, he wrote lyrics to it for Friends Of Distinction to record. Their version hit #3 on the pop charts and #5 R&B.

The song has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Chet Atkins, Boney James and Meco, and has been featured in many films including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Jackie Brown, I Shot Andy Warhol and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

The flip of today’s single is The Friends’ follow-up single “Going In Circles” which was also a million seller that climbed to #3 on the R&B charts and #15 pop in 1970. The slow jam heartbreak/coming-of-age song was written by Jerry Peters and Anita Poree and has been covered by The Gap Band, Isaac Hayes (on his Black Moses album) and Luther Vandross.

The story goes that after six albums and five years of hits including “Love or Let Me Be Lonely,” “Time Waits for No One,” and “I Need You,” The Friends Of Distinction broke up somewhat acrimoniously with Elston and Butler going separate ways to work outside of the music industry. By 1990 the legacy and influence of The Friends’ recordings had grown substantially. After not speaking to each other for many years, Elston and Butler agreed to work together again, however the reunion was short lived as Butler suffered from a heart attack and died in Elston’s arms. Elston reformed the group in 1996 with new members including Geno Henderson, Wendy Brune and Berlando Drake. They continue to tour and perform the music of The Friends of Distinction around the world today.

“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 31st, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #58– The 5th Dimension: “Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” b/w “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” – Soul City 45 SCR-772 (Q6/R6)

5thdimensionaquarius455thdimensionaquariuspicsleeve5thdimensiondonchahearme45

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #58– The 5th Dimension: “Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” b/w “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” – Soul City 45 SCR-772 (Q6/R6)

“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.

It was 1969…and Hair was everywhere. I’m not talking about long, beautiful hair…or shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair. Nor am I referring to the hair that reaches down to here, down to there…way down past the shoulders hair. I’m talking about Hair – The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.

The Broadway musical opened in 1968 to rave reviews and introduced the hits “Good Morning Starshine,” “Easy To Be Hard” and the title song which were brought to the charts by the likes of Oliver, Three Dog Night and The Cowsills respectively. It is also the show that introduced today’s jukebox classic, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures),” which topped the charts for six weeks during the spring of 1969 by 5th Dimension.

All of the songs in the musical were written by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni and James Rado. MacDermot also wrote the music to the 1971 musical Two Gentlemen Of Verona and released several influential funk and instrumental jazz albums that are currently the rage amongst those “in the know” of the hipster cognoscenti.

I’ve been listening to the cast album of Hair since I was seven years old…way before I knew the meaning of songs like “Sodomy,” “Hashish,” “Colored Spade,” “Walking In Space” and the numerous other titillating-for-their-time songs in this musical. It is indeed part of my musical DNA.

When “Aquarius” hit the radio in 1969, it was one of the grooviest records I had ever heard. It was a record that was so prevalent within the pop culture, but it was also a record that divided the hippies from the establishment. You see, The 5th Dimension records weren’t nearly as cool as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Donovan or the Bob Dylan albums in the record collections of my sister and her friends. To the hippies, The 5th Dimension were the establishment, very much in line with other “uncool and lightweight” artists like Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, The Monkees and Bobbie Gentry. Of course, time has proven that these latter artists were just cool and, yes groovy and the others.

The 5th Dimension consisted of Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore and Ron Townson, and were no strangers to the charts during the 1960s and early 1970s landing such classic hits as “Up, Up And Away,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “One Less Bell To Answer,” “Never My Love” and “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” into the upper regions of the charts.

After being turned down by Motown Records, the group was signed to Johnny Rivers’ then-new record label Soul City Records. Their brand of groovy sunshine pop featuring soaring harmony vocals was just the tonic for the top-notch material that was being submitted to them by songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach and Hal David and Laura Nyro.

When the group brought their desire to record today’s song to their producer Bones Howe, he had some reservations which he detailed in the book By The Time We Got To Woodstock: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution Of 1969: “The thing that bothered me about it was that there’d been other releases of ‘Aquarius’ and none had done anything, so I was concerned about what we would do that would be any different. I went to see the show and there’s a place where they do “The Flesh Failures” and at the end of the song is just a three bar repeated thing of ‘Let the sunshine in’ where Ragni was swinging across the stage on a chandelier and there was all kinds of craziness going on. That really stayed with me and I came out of the theater saying, I wonder if I could stick that on the end of ‘Aquarius’ and make that the ending. So I went back to the hotel and I called the publisher… I said, look the 5th Dimension would like to record ‘Aquarius,’ but I’d like to make it a medley and I’d like to use the last three bars of ‘The Flesh Failures’ and I don’t want to do it without permission. So he said okay, you can go ahead and do it.” (Song Facts)

The song is set up with one of the most indelible introductions from a 45 of the era, which made it stand out on radio. The intro was later expertly sampled by The Beastie Boys for their track “Finger Lickin’ Good” from their masterpiece album Paul’s Boutique.

Like many artists of the era, The Age Of Aquarius album was recorded on the west coast with backing from The Wrecking Crew including Tommy Tedesco on guitar, Joe Osborn on bass, Hal Blaine on drums, Milt Holland on percussion and Pete Jolly, Larry Knechtel and Jimmy Rowles on keyboards.

The 5th Dimension’s recording of “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” went on to win the Grammy for Record Of The Year and for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1970. The song has been covered by the likes of Donna Summer, Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Williams, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Ventures, The Undisputed Truth, George Shearing, The Moog Machine, Andy Williams with The Osmonds, Spencer Davis Group (in German, no less), Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll and dozens of others.

The cast album to Hair has managed to stand the test of time and the musical has enjoyed numerous successful revivals and tours around the world. The musical was also taken to the big screen in 1979 by director Milos Forman with choreography by Twyla Tharpe, introducing it to numerous later generations. While I was too young to catch the musical on Broadway in its original incarnation, I did manage to see a revival on Broadway during the 1980s.

FYI: The Age of Aquarius is when the sun is in the constellation Aquarius during the springtime. The next time that this will happen is 2448. We are currently in the age of Pisces.

The single’s flip, “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” is a breezy confection that was putty in the capable hands of the 5th Dimension. The song is also from The Age Of Aquarius album and was written by Rudy Stevenson who also wrote songs recorded by Herbie Mann, George Benson and Dexter Gordon.

Edited: November 20th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #58– The 5th Dimension: “Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” b/w “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” – Soul City 45 SCR-772 (Q6/R6)

5thdimensionaquarius455thdimensionaquariuspicsleeve5thdimensiondonchahearme45

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #58– The 5th Dimension: “Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” b/w “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” – Soul City 45 SCR-772 (Q6/R6)

“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.

It was 1969…and Hair was everywhere. I’m not talking about long, beautiful hair…or shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair. Nor am I referring to the hair that reaches down to here, down to there…way down past the shoulders hair. I’m talking about Hair – The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.

The Broadway musical opened in 1968 to rave reviews and introduced the hits “Good Morning Starshine,” “Easy To Be Hard” and the title song which were brought to the charts by the likes of Oliver, Three Dog Night and The Cowsills respectively. It is also the show that introduced today’s jukebox classic, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures),” which topped the charts for six weeks during the spring of 1969 by 5th Dimension.

All of the songs in the musical were written by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni and James Rado.  MacDermot also wrote the music to the 1971 musical Two Gentlemen Of Verona and released several influential funk and instrumental jazz albums that are currently the rage amongst those “in the know” of the hipster cognoscenti.

I’ve been listening to the cast album of Hair since I was seven years old…way before I knew the meaning of songs like “Sodomy,” “Hashish,” “Colored Spade,” “Walking In Space” and the numerous other titillating-for-their-time songs in this musical. It is indeed part of my musical DNA.

When “Aquarius” hit the radio in 1969, it was one of the grooviest records I had ever heard. It was a record that was so prevalent within the pop culture, but it was also a record that divided the hippies from the establishment. You see, The 5th Dimension records weren’t nearly as cool as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Donovan or the Bob Dylan albums in the record collections of my sister and her friends. To the hippies, The 5th Dimension were the establishment, very much in line with other “uncool and lightweight” artists like Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell, The Monkees and Bobbie Gentry. Of course, time has proven that these latter artists were just cool and, yes groovy and the others.

The 5th Dimension consisted of Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore and Ron Townson, and were no strangers to the charts during the 1960s and early 1970s landing such classic hits as “Up, Up And Away,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “One Less Bell To Answer,” “Never My Love” and “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” into the upper regions of the charts.

After being turned down by Motown Records, the group was signed to Johnny Rivers’ then-new record label Soul City Records. Their brand of groovy sunshine pop featuring soaring harmony vocals was just the tonic for the top-notch material that was being submitted to them by songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach and Hal David and Laura Nyro.

When the group brought their desire to record today’s song to their producer Bones Howe, he had some reservations which he detailed in the book By The Time We Got To Woodstock: The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution Of 1969: “The thing that bothered me about it was that there’d been other releases of ‘Aquarius’ and none had done anything, so I was concerned about what we would do that would be any different. I went to see the show and there’s a place where they do “The Flesh Failures” and at the end of the song is just a three bar repeated thing of ‘Let the sunshine in’ where Ragni was swinging across the stage on a chandelier and there was all kinds of craziness going on. That really stayed with me and I came out of the theater saying, I wonder if I could stick that on the end of ‘Aquarius’ and make that the ending. So I went back to the hotel and I called the publisher… I said, look the 5th Dimension would like to record ‘Aquarius,’ but I’d like to make it a medley and I’d like to use the last three bars of ‘The Flesh Failures’ and I don’t want to do it without permission. So he said okay, you can go ahead and do it.” (Song Facts)

The song is set up with one of the most indelible introductions from a 45 of the era, which made it stand out on radio. The intro was later expertly sampled by The Beastie Boys for their track “Finger Lickin’ Good” from their masterpiece album Paul’s Boutique.

Like many artists of the era, The Age Of Aquarius album was recorded on the west coast with backing from The Wrecking Crew including Tommy Tedesco on guitar, Joe Osborn on bass, Hal Blaine on drums, Milt Holland on percussion and Pete Jolly, Larry Knechtel and Jimmy Rowles on keyboards.  

The 5th Dimension’s recording of “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” went on to win the Grammy for Record Of The Year and for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1970. The song has been covered by the likes of Donna Summer, Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Williams, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Ventures, The Undisputed Truth, George Shearing, The Moog Machine, Andy Williams with The Osmonds, Spencer Davis Group (in German, no less), Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll and dozens of others.

The cast album to Hair has managed to stand the test of time and the musical has enjoyed numerous successful revivals and tours around the world. The musical was also taken to the big screen in 1979 by director Milos Forman with choreography by Twyla Tharpe, introducing it to numerous later generations.  While I was too young to catch the musical on Broadway in its original incarnation, I did manage to see a revival on Broadway during the 1980s.

FYI: The Age of Aquarius is when the sun is in the constellation Aquarius during the springtime. The next time that this will happen is 2448. We are currently in the age of Pisces.

The single’s flip, “Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya” is a breezy confection that was putty in the capable hands of the 5th Dimension. The song is also from The Age Of Aquarius album and was written by Rudy Stevenson who also wrote songs recorded by Herbie Mann, George Benson and Dexter Gordon.

Edited: January 14th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 04769 (M4/NL4)

45 adapterfriendsofdistinctiongrazing45friendsofdistinctiongoingincircles45

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #36 – The Friends Of Distinction: “Grazing In The Grass” b/w “Going In Circles” – Collectables 45 RPM Single COL 04769 (M4/NL4)

“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.

Some of the world’s best-loved and biggest hits have their origin in afterthought…

“Grazing In The Grass” was originally an instrumental hit recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela that topped the charts in 1968. Masekela came to record the song after purchasing a cowbell-infused novelty record in Zambia called “Mr. Bull #5.” After turning in his debut album to UNI Records which was contractually short by three minutes, the label suggested he cover the single. While in the studio, actor and singer Philemon Hou came up with a new melody which became “Grazing In The Grass.”

Masekela thought little of the song, but included it on the album anyway to fulfill his contract. When UNI executive Russ Regan decided to release it as a single, Hugh Masekela became the first South African recording act to reach number one on the pop charts. (Fun fact: The guitarist on Masekela’s version of the song was Bruce Langhorne, who was the subject of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”)

The Friends Of Distinction were a soul group from southern California that formed in 1968 around Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love. Elston and Butler were members of The Hif-Fi’s, who warmed up for Ray Charles on tour, along with Marilyn McCoo and Lamont McLemore who went on to form The 5th Dimension. The group secured a recording contract with RCA Records after joining forces with ex-Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown who took on management of the group.

When Elston heard Masekela’s hit version of the song, he wrote lyrics to it for Friends Of Distinction to record. Their version hit #3 on the pop charts and #5 R&B. While many people believe that the song is about getting high, it’s actually about bulls grazing in the grass.

The song has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Chet Atkins, Boney James and Meco, and has been featured in many films including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Jackie Brown, I Shot Andy Warhol and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

The flip of today’s single is The Friends’ follow-up single “Going In Circles” which was also a million seller that climbed to #3 on the R&B charts and #15 pop in 1970. The slow jam heartbreak/coming-of-age song was written by Jerry Peters and Anita Poree and has been covered by The Gap Band, Isaac Hayes (on his Black Moses album) and Luther Vandross.

The story goes that after six albums and five years of hits including “Love or Let Me Be Lonely,” “Time Waits for No One,” and “I Need You,” The Friends Of Distinction broke up somewhat acrimoniously with Elston and Butler going separate ways to work outside of the music industry.  By 1990 the legacy and influence of The Friends’ recordings had grown substantially. After not speaking to each other for many years, Elston and Butler agreed to work together again, however the reunion was short lived as Butler suffered from a heart attack and died in Elston’s arms. Elston reformed the group in 1996 with new members including Geno Henderson, Wendy Brune and Berlando Drake. They continue to tour and perform the music of The Friends Of Distinction around the world today.

Edited: November 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day – 1/22/12

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Save The Country” by Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro was one of the greatest songwriters of the 1960s responsible for many hits recorded by others. Even though she will finally get her due this year by being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, she is still relatively unknown to most people until you survey some of the songs she’s written: “Stone Soul Picnic” and “Wedding Bell Blues” by the 5th Dimension, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, “And When I Die” by Blood Sweat & Tears, “Stoney End” by Barbara Streisand are just some of her gold standard compositions. There is precious little footage of Nyro performing her own songs since she suffered from bouts of stage fright particularly during the 1960s. I was fortunate enough to see her once in 1976 at the Garden State Art’s Center in New Jersey and once in the early 1990s at The Bottom Line in New York City where in both instances she was in fine voice. Nyro’s own versions of her songs are still, in my mind, the definitive versions.

Edited: January 21st, 2012