I’ve been listening to the Ohio Players a lot lately, and of course looking at the various super intense, super sexy jackets. Like a lot of great 70s R&B acts, these guys had been performing together for more than a decade. They had a series of hits and they remain pretty popular today. I think there’s also some version of the Ohio Players touring out there somewhere.
The three most memorable Ohio Players covers were probably Pain, Pleasure and Ecstacy, all released by Westbound within a couple years. After the group jumped to Mercury Records art director David Krieger from the Graffiteria and photographer Joel Brodsky were abandoned. Their later albums also leave behind the bondage-themed imagery of Pain, Pleasure and Ecstacy.
The woman with the shaved head on the early Ohio Players albums was Pat “Running Bear” Evans. I found an article about her on here. I couldn’t find much about her replacements, seen on later Ohio Player albums like Honey and Contradiction.
Honey is one of my favorite Ohio Players albums and it produced one of the group’s biggest hits (“Love Rollercoaster”). The model who replaced Pat Evans was Miss October 1974. Her name is Esther Cordet and her turn ons were flying and silver-grey haird men. Her turn off was “ignorance”.
The screaming you can hear on “Love Rollercoaster” is not her, as its sometimes suggested – Its actually piano player Billy Beck.
My favorite song on Honey is “Sweet Sticky Thing”:
I think cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean, the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image, if not in usage, by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object. –Roland Barthes, in the 1957 anthology of his magazine essays, Mythologies
There’s something about cars that go to the very soul of rock and roll – A fair case could be made for Jackie Brenston’s 1951 celebration of the car, “Rocket 88”, as the first rock and roll record, and you can find similar themes through pretty much every sub-genre to surface over the following sixty years (I guess emo bands never sing about cars, and when they do its about breaking up in a car, not rocking out). Cars are integral to spirit of rock and roll, an essential accessory to its lifestyle and ultimately not only a symbol of vigor and youth but also of potential and redemption.
What’s more, a certain 80s rock group called the Cars is playing in town on their limited reunion tour this week. I’m told the first couple shows on the tour haven’t been very good, but you can be sure First Avenue will be full of Xers looking to shake it up. Strangely, the Cars really didn’t sing a lot of songs about cars. I’m assuming they’ve shelved the handful of hits that the late Benjamin Orr sang, so “Drive” is off the set list. Its not a very happy song anyway. Today’s playlist is all about our rock and roll love for cars…No, our rock and roll lust for cars.
What better way to start this playlist, even if this track from Queen’s celebrated A Night at the Opera album is satirical, its some pretty sweet auto lust.
7- Don’t Look Back by the Knack
Chosen for two reasons: #1 its by Bruce Springsteen. Any Springsteen fan knows it would be hard to make a playlist of ten great Boss tracks that don’t mention cars and driving, so he had to turn up here somewhere. The ten best Springsteen songs about cars would probably read like a Greatest Hits, so this is his only appearance here, heard vicariously through hit-or-miss powerpop quartet the Knack. #2 Dirty auto lust.
Here’s a track that first appeared on one of my favorite Superchunk records, On the Mouth, and later re-appeared on a single, remixed by Mark Robinson. The first part of Robinson’s remix is hidden at the end of Superchunk’s Incidental Music, but to hear the second side (“Precision Auto Part 3”), you’ll have to track down that obscure single (Merge 050).
Superchunk made great videos for an indie rock band likely to get little airplay outside of 120 Minutes, and “Precision Auto” is no exception.
5- Long May You Run by the Stills-Young Band
This is the title track from one of several CSN&Y albums that seem to have been forgotten by fans over the years. Long May You Run originally featured Crosby and Nash on harmonies, but their tracks were cut when the duo left to record Whistling Down the Wire, a fairly forgetful collection. Neil Young wrote “Long May You Run” about his first car, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse, and has kept the sentimental elegy in his live repertoire all these years.
Note the Ontario plate – This may well have been Neil Young's '48 Roadmaster.
Never the best thing you heard today but always just about there, Cake is the band we’re all a little uncomfortable loving. “Stickshifts and Safety Belts”, from the album Fashion Nugget, is a pretty representative sample, and a pretty good song about auto lust and lustin’ in an auto.
“Low Rider” made its film debut in Up in Smoke, and followed that auspicious introduction with appearances in dozens of movies and television programs (And it became a staple of the Cheech & Chong franchise). It has certainly become more famous than any other song recorded by War, even more famous than the band itself. Today War is more likely to appear in court than on stage, having endured years of legal conflicts with a greedy record producer who owns the band’s name and having recently sued Pepsi for millions after the soda company used “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in a television commercial without permission.
A sad legacy for one of the most unique groups of its era, and one of the only bands talented enough to gracefully combine nearly every divergence in American popular music into a single record – Remarkably, War recorded not one but several albums free flowing and easy going enough to settle the band comfortably into most sections of a record shop – 1975’s Why Can’t We Be Friends?, from which came “Low Rider”, being no exception. Side two opens with “Smile Happy”, a seven-minute instrumental highlighted by its jazz and latin sound built around a melody that could have been borrowed from a traditional string band. Its a testament to the band’s unique talents that outside of this ubiquitous single War is best remembered for its albums, still reliable sellers even in a humble little shop like ours.
If you have never listened to War but you’ve been in the market for a new favorite band, I recommend Deliver the Word as a great introduction to their records. If you’re going to build a low rider, I recommend an early 80s El Camino, when the little truck/cars were built on Malibu frames.
Not a lot of songs capture the absolute splendor of driving in an automobile like Woody Guthrie’s “Car Song”. We are quick to forget that anyone who remembers our world before the automobile is not long for this world, if around at all. Earlier this year I read about the passing of America’s last World War I veteran, and just last week about the last surviving World War I combat veteran in the world. Hard to say if there’s still anyone who can explain riding in an automobile the same way Woody Guthrie does in this song.
Cars transcend cultural ubiquity. They’re so much a part of our lives that we can’t live without them even when we try. The real tragedy is that classic cars, the beautiful machines Roland Barthes was writing about, have become a luxury of the rich. Its probably best not to think about the fact that the things most of us work so hard to buy, insure and feed have become short-lived, brittle eyesores. The worst part is that they’re not even comfortable, let alone fun to drive.
I think of Red Henderson’s little epic “Automobile Trip through Alabama” (1928) as the first of many great automobile songs. Like all great songs of auto lust, “Automobile Trip through Alabama” celebrates the potential for power and freedom not likely found anywhere else.
There is an undercurrent, dark and deathly auto songs best represented by Roy Acuff’s “Wreck on the Highway”, but even as it hit its peak with a string of early 60s hits – “Last Kiss”, “Leader of the Pack”, etc – its doom and gloom couldn’t cloud over contemporaries like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. If anyone saved songs of auto lust it was the Beach Boys, and “409” or “Little Deuce Coupe” ought rightfully to be on this list.
“Car Song” was written after Woody left a job in New York City, moving his family to California in a new car. He had been hosting a radio program that was called – I am not making this up – Pipe Smoking Time, but left because they told him what to sing. Its sometimes assumed “Car Song” came from Guthrie’s album for children (Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child), but it was actually recorded sometime in 1944 by Moses Asch alongside many of his most famous compositions.
“Car Song” captures a child-like sense of wonder, and may have been rooted in Woody Guthrie’s own childhood in Oklahoma and Texas – The great folk singer was born only four years after the Model T, the first affordable automobile, was introduced.
1- “No Money Down” by Chuck Berry
At his best Chuck Berry expressed rock and roll’s finest auto lust (“Maybelline”, “No Particular Place to Go”), but on the forgotten 1955 Chess single “No Money Down” he takes a satirical tone not so far from the Queen song that started this list. “No Money Down” implies perilous aspirations on the part of the narrator abandoning a “broken-down, ragged old Ford”. This must be a favorite of Bruce Springsteen’s because the Boss, no stranger to quoting Chuck Berry lyrics, lifted lines for his concert narratives for years (Especially in the Born in the USA tour’s extended “Pink Cadillac” introduction). Its also likely the inspiration for Springsteen’s “Used Cars”.
Mention this post at Hymie’s this week and receive a FREE CAR!
So we’ve started moving records into the 900 square foot room in the back of the shop, expanding Hymie’s by a full third. When we’re finished the entire shop will be roomier, easier to navigate and more comfortable, but while we’re moving things around they’re going to be a little disorganized. If you can’t find something feel welcome to ask for help.
Our goal is to have all of the changes done in a couple of weeks, but I don’t have to tell you how heavy records are or how hard it is to get your friends to help you move them (Pizza and beer, anyone?). We’ve put a lot of planning into the finished layout, and especially into making it an easier place to browse. In addition to several new record browsers and some extra places to sit, we’ve adding a second listening station – No more lines on Saturday afternoons!
One of the most exciting things about expanding the record shop is that we’ll have a permanent stage in the back. If you were here on Record Store Day you probably remember that its a space with great sound, and we’re excited about the opportunity to host free live music. We have a few things already planned – More about them soon – And we’ll start scheduling the rest after we finish moving things around.
Thanks in advance to all our regulars for understanding as we work through this last phase of our move.
So yesterday’s post revisited a few songs from the movies that set up a good story and today’s post captures a few moments where rock and roll kills the momentum. Not really anything else to say but to introduce
THREE TOTALLY UNCONVINCING ROCK AND ROLL PERFORMANCES IN THE MOVIES
#1 – Marty McFly singing “Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future. This scene, which is really kind of funny, could have been saved if Michael J. Fox were to actually sing the song. Mark Campell’s voice is dubbed over Alex Keaton’s unconvincing performance, and another session musician, Tim May, plays the solo.
I don’t understand why Fox didn’t sing it himself. I feel like it would have added something to Marty McFly’s character, even if he sang it poorly. There’s a sincerity to the actors who perform the songs their characters sing, even if their subsequent musical careers as less than stellar – Jared Leto sang a song in the television series My So Called Life (“I Call Her Red”), and Ethan Hawk sang the Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up” in Reality Bites. Both tried to be rock stars after that.
#2 – Andrew Dice Clay performing “I Ain’t Got You” in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Yes, I am actually posting a clip from an Andrew Dice Clay movie. In his defense, at least he had the courage to sing himself rather than hiring a session musician.
And its a good soundtrack, with a solid Mötley Crüe track, “Rock and Roll Junkie” and a Teddy Pendergrass tune fit together relatively seamlessly. The scene where Ford Fairlane performs Jimmy Reed’s “I Ain’t Got You” parlays its unbelievable nature by drifting into fantasy, much like Cab Calloway’s performance in The Blues Brothers. Unfortunately, while Cab Calloway’s transition from “poor old nigger” to nightclub star in white tails is sincere enough to break your heart, Andrew Dice Clay just comes off as a jackass.
The singer he talks to has a really funny haircut.
Ferris Beuller performing “Twist and Shout” in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. I hate this movie. I wish the little bastard got caught in the end.
Why they couldn’t find another recording of “Twist and Shout” is beyond me. Given the millions spent on this garbage movie they could have hired a session musician like Mark Campbell to sing the part rather than using John Lennon’s voice. Man, I hate Ferris Beuller. They should make a sequel that shows him as an adult, and as the grifting, useless sucker-on-society that he is. And set it in prison.
Last year’s Academy Award for best song went to Randy Newman, for his Toy Story 3 song “We Belong Together”. This was a long overdue award for Newman, whose previous Toy Story songs (“You Got a Friend in Me” from the original movie, and “When She Loved Me” – Sung by Sarah MacLaughlin – from the first sequel) were overlooked by the Academy. I’m ready to stop filling out my ballot altogether I’m so angry.
Lots of kids’ movie have great songs, which I am discovering now that I watch movies with two toddlers. Toy Story 3 was good enough to be considered for Best Picture, which is a lot more than you can say for most kids’ movies. When I was a kid I lied the soundtrack to An American Tale, with its mousy anthem “There Are no Cats in America” and heartbreaking ballad “Somewhere Out There”. Our three year old loves to sing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” with the sort of joy only a toddler free from all self-consciousness can.
When I got a little older I had a lot of favorite TV themes from the movies that we taped off television and watched over and over. I think I was a grown adult before I saw an unedited version of National Lampoon’s Vacation and realized Audrey was a pothead. You may have similar memories of the movies of the era, maybe you remember Navin R. Johnson’s dog being named “Stupid”.
“Hollywood Road” by Lindsay Buckingham, from National Lampoon’s Vacation. This is a great song – I bought this LP entirely for this track, and I guess I take back anything I said about not liking a single Fleetwood Mac track.
And, back to the “edited for television” version of this movie, there are some jokes that got sliced that were really fucked up! Sorry, there’s not another way to put it, especially after seeing Cousin Vicki say, “My daddy says I’m the best french kisser in the whole county.”
“The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News, from Back to the Future. Its got a great chorus that I love to sing (“Don’t need no credit card to ride this train…”) but like nearly all Huey Lewis and the News hits, its plagued by a campy solo and a terrible bridge. The only Huey Lewis and the News single not marred by the News’ three unoriginal guitarists? “Stuck with You” – It has an organ solo. It’s also their best video.
Yeah, I own a 12″ single of “The Power of Love”. What?
“I’m Allright” by Kenny Loggins, from Caddyshack. You know, ’cause I’m allright.
And “Footloose” is also by Kenny Loggins. He also had two songs on the Top Gun soundtrack and, um, one in Caddyshack II. All in all it was a pretty good decade for Kenny Loggins, but I think they’re all pretty good decades for Kenny Loggins, aren’t they?
“(Don’t You) Forget About Me” by the Simple Minds. A pretty memorable 80s soundtrack song, although I have always preferred the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink”.
By and large, I am too young to have identified with any of John Hughes’ film characters in any kind of contemporary way, although really only by a couple of years so these kids are more like older siblings to me. Older siblings whose record collections I probably wouldn’t raid, I guess.
John Hughes himself once came into Hymie’s. You’re probably going to believe me because if I made this up I probably wouldn’t choose John Hughes. He bought a huge stack of country 45s.