Tag Archive: disco music


Introducing a new category and maybe new “page” to my blog, “Tune Wedgies”. A “Tune Wedgie” is like the cloth “wedgie” that gets stuck in the crack of your ass, except it is a song that you cannot get out of your mind for a period of time.

For this one, the group is: Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes

I did not plan to post this in-advance, but this song is in my mind as I cook a gourmet dish this Friday evening at my mama’s house. It is a classic from my college days of the early 1970s on Philadelphia International records which was a subsidiary of CBS records.  The late Teddy Pendergrass is singing lead and it is one of the first songs I ever announced as a hip DJ on college radio during “the disco days”. Yet I do not think of this cut as “disco” but a heartfelt “soul” record. Do your homework and understand the solar plexus singing pain of the man, “Now I don’t have nothing/I’m so all alone/All the friends I once had/And I need a loan!” .

 

Where it came from within my musical mind, is a question that only a musical psychologist can answer. What happened to all of the Black American, descendant of American slavery people? Now I only see Caribbean blacks when I visit New York City, thus, “where have all my friends [gone]?” My own theory is that because of my temporary living situation that does not allow me to PLAY my thousands of musics that I amassed over a DJ career of over forty years, my brain takes over randomly to sustain the history which will be my legacy.

“(Where are all my friends)
Oh Lord, oh Lord
Use to have lots of fancy clothes
And drive a big white cadillac
Not knowing all the time I had these things
My friends were stabbing me straight in my back, no, no, no.

Even had a house then
Out there in Beverly Hills
I was moving so fast y’all
I didn’t even have time to worry about paying my bills.
(Something started changing)
My life started rearranging
(Now I’m all alone. All the friends I wanted)
I don’t have anymore
So somebody tell, tell me
(Where are all my friends)
I can’t find nobody
(Where are all my friends)
Oh Lord, Oh Lord

Use to take my friends out
Everywhere I went
But I use to tell them that y’all
Y’all ain’t gotta spend a red cent
Cause I use to have lots of money
I had ’em in big old stacks
I use to lend ’em my clothes
But they never, never ever, never, never brought ’em back
(Now I don’t have nothing)
I’m so all alone
(Don’t even have a home)
I ain’t got no place to lay my head
(Wish someone would help me)
Cause I, I, I, I, I, I need a loan

Yeah baby
(Where are all my friends)
I’m looking y’all, I’m lookin’ all over
(Where are all my friends)
I’m looking for the friends I use to call my very own
(Where are all my friends)
I need somebody right now, hey
(Where are all my friends)
I can’t find a father or a mother
(Where are all my friends)
I remember the time I use to be walking
Up and down the streets
And I remember you, and you and you and you and you
I remember when you use to say that
Yeah trying to get me to spare a dime
And I use to come out the bottom of my heart
Cause I thought you were a friend of mine
But it seems yeah, it seems that you didn’t even give a damn about me, no
But now I’m down and out and I need a friend….”

Do you remember this song as fondly as I do? Please leave your comment or memory about it. Cheers.

My Vinyl: The Trammps

[March, 8, 2012 is when I began this post. I apologize that it took so long to complete, as such is everything a brain can manage and so full of nothing fun as my life is early this year – JB]

Now!…


I know…we all have to “go” at some point, but what saddened me about this particular musical talent’s separation was to learn that the lead singer of one of the most baddass-male-singing disco/r&b group of the 1970s and ’80s, The Trammps’, Jimmy Ellis (above in the picture at the far left) passed away at 74 years old on March 8, 2012…in a nursing home! My first thought was , “Oh My Godd, why was this guy, whose music hits must have sold millions, apparently broke like Joe Louis, the boxer, at the end of his life and in a nursing home?” Surely the other members of The Trammps knew of his decline and could have helped him!? Were/are they, like so many of us who pretend to be “friends until the end”, in truth are only “crabs in the barrel”?

Analysis of My Vinyls’ collection of The Trammps from the stacks (“my children”):
The Trammps: Earl Young, Harold Wade, Stanley Wade, Robert Upchurch and Jimmy Ellis became a Hall of Fame disco group from a slightly mundane R&B/Soul situation. I first remember them as warming-up for the likes of James Brown when I first started hanging-out in Manhattan, NYC clubs like the Cheetah – not saying exactly that I saw them there, but maybe I DID and that is the kind of act The Trammps were – until they covered the old Judy Garland, “Zing Went The Strings of My Heart”. Even then when I heard it, the song was kind of hazy and in the background except for the guy with what became one of their trademarks, that deep bass (“timbre” as Inna writes to me) voice.
Even when I heard of Mr. Ellis’ passing, I visualized the Trammps as just the original five guys. It wasn’t until I pulled all of my vinyls by them that I realized that around 1975, the group’s number doubled! Suddenly they became an aggregation known as the Trammps! lol The musicians like the late Ron (Have Mercy) Kersey became as integral to the sound as the basic vocalists! Some of that metamorphosis had to do with the record label politics of the day as they graduated from Buddah to their own “Golden Fleece” before being bought by Atlantic Records, who would profit the most from their brief in the larger scheme of musical vinyl and otherwise things. My early favorite Trammps jams were “Love Epidemic” and “Where Do We Go From Here” with ________ and his deep bass voice!
The Trammps arrangements embodied the epitome of the discotheque club experience while ignoring the “disco is dead” proclamations by the jealous of black music success’ haters of the day. I lived in Manhattan clubs like “Othello”, “Justine” , The Raspberry Freeze” and so many others back then and it was such a natural musical appreciation for our group as we were recent college grads out on the scene. When “Where Happy People Go” came out, I had one of the first two copies from my contact, Gunter Hauer, at Atlantic Records so I could double-mix them, back-to-back and over-and-over on the set! it really never dawned upon me that the group’s numbers multiplied. Either I thought, “Gee there’s a lot of dudes on this album cover this time – must be trick photography” lol or that the extra cats had always been there, but now they let them shine on the cover!
“Where Happy People Go” took them to another level; six of the seven cuts were such smashes, that to this day it is difficult for me to choose a favorite! The seventh, “Love Is A Funky Thing”, is one of their trademark instrumentals that they’d include on various albums! “Tom’s Song” from the “Zing” album comes to mind as another of those.
I remember that I mixed “Can We Come Together” over-and-over again as did radio at the time (Johnny Allen, WKTU FM) and I love “Disco Party (Dance, People Dance!)”. “Hooked For Life” s among my special DJ 12″ pressing collection and a very special song with a lover’s message; ‘Ninety-Nine And A Half” was the late Wilson Pickett’s original funky soul hit redone so you’d almost not know it unless you knew that and the title track “hooked” your ears from the first five very recognizable-to-this-day (after this lavish and classical piano interlude) brass and guitar notes! “Bold” and male is what The Trammps basic sound was; “party” still IS what you want to do and dance too when you listen to this album! Ellis, ‘you know I’m a Scorpio!’, always as much the party’s cheerleader as the lead singer. He is one of those singers who owns a unique scream like, “Oww!”, used to punctuate the lyrics and introduce the bridge. I used to love to “phase” these tracks as a DJ. [“phase” is when we would play two vinyls simultaneously in the same groove and try, with pitch control, to keep them in the same pocket even while they naturally tried to separate sonically, thus creating a growing “out-of-phase” effect] There were a lot of tricks we DJs could perform on the table with records like these that you simply cannot do today digitally.

So now, come to write about it, maybe it is not so surprising that Jimmy ended-up in the nursing home when, now that I look, they were just a “’70s group” who made their hay while the disco sun shined, and because of unknown or factors my space does not allow me to research, never progressed beyond that decade. They had two major hit albums release in 1976!

By the time the “Disco Inferno” dropped (came out), their sound was even more polished by the Atlantic Records studio machine. This album and the title track were destined for stardom, it seemed. I can only say that I did not know, nor did many that “Disco Inferno” would blow-up like it did, even though, we in the New York City dance and disco community (Dow Twins) at the time knew it was a “baad” album! “Burn Baby Burn, Disco Inferno” became the refrain of mass audience partyers once the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever” adopted it. Prior to that, it was just another anonymous soul/disco cut on major market city radio stations of the USA! I bet that you didn’t KNOW that! Right? The first time that my late radio mentor, Sonny Taylor, played the chorus refrain and hook of “I Feel Like I’ve Been livin’ (On The Dark Side Of The Moon), I thought it was The Spinners singing, that is how versatile The Trammps’ sound was by then. ! Well, “saaatisfacion, came on a chain-reaction…” into my next two vinyls. Both in the year 1977, and typical of the record label competition of the day and sadly to say, I bet the GROUP, THE TRAMMPS, received NONE of the spoils from these two albums: “The Trammps III” which features my favorite mellow jam bay them, “Season For Girls” and the mid-tempo, “Living The Life (Of A Single Man)” a real-deal flava cut for the men in the room. I STILL play “Season For Girls” like a ritual every September. AND THEN, finally and with an “encore!” request, my last vinyl is the Philadelphia International Records final attempt to make money off of the group with the 1977 release of “Disco Champs” The Tramps remain as a staple of R&B, Soul, and Disco history. Anybody who chumps the Trammps needs to have their head examined. And I am grateful that I have been able to put on their tracks via vinyl “wax”, relive the “magic” of the Disco Days while assembling and composing this post for you. What are your favorite “disco” day memories? Do you remember The Trammps? One thing that set them apart was their Chorus arrangements!
Inna, here is a relevant lyric for us by The Trammps, “Each Night I go to sleep, with nothing but your memories. Sweet thoughts come into view, all I see is your sweet body…”

Sonny Taylor, pounded that song into my mind at the time. I HAD to play it when I came over to his house! lol

And my OWN FAVORITE is this one:

Now, notice please, I did NOT include “Saturday Night Fever” herein. There is a REASON for that. I would have loved to have just attended The Trammps rehearsals! Can you imagine being in the presence of a lead singer who could unleash that voice and carry such a group at-will? Please tell me YOUR favorite Trammps song or Disco memory while dancing to their music!

“I heard somebody say, Burn Baby Burn…” lol Listen at 10:10 on this long disco version…it is the best breakdown and vamp to the fade vocally and instrumentally.

They always did...

Like Holland-Dozier-Holland, Gamble & Huff, the names Ashford/Simpson under the titles of songs on my records were mostly insignificant to me, the “baby DJ” decades ago. I noticed the artists, and always thought that “Whitfield/Strong” were members of the groups (The Temptations in that case).
As usual with me and my vinyl, it wasn’t until I fell under the influence of the great New York City radio personalities like Frankie Crocker, Jerry Bledsoe, Bobby Jay and others of the day who conducted “live” interviews on the air and often educated listeners as they mentioned who wrote the hits of the day as part of their front or back-announcing of them, that I began to separate “songwriter” from the performers. Ashford & Simpson’s uniqueness was that they could do both roles successfully!
I have observed through the years, that very often, life is like a running play in football: full of misdirection. just when you expect things to go one way, they go in another or opposite direction. So it was again when I heard that Nick Ashford left the physical world, and his other half in so many ways more than usual with a couple, Valerie, behind in late August ‘011 at age sixty-nine; not old yet, but not young either. Nick seemed always a “cool” – yet curious cat to me, those times I was in their presence and too shy to intrude with anything but a brief “Hey, how you doin!” and brief introduction of myself as a DJ on WBLS who played their music. Innate shyness strikes again! I remember watching them from left-of-center stage at New York City’s Palladium, when it was near Union Square on 14th Street, and they opened for Luther Vandross. Shortly after their restaurant in Manhattan, the Sugar Bar, opened I went to check them out with my pals, and I was fortunate enough to be on the set with them at other venues while I was a New York City radio personality. I always looked at them as more of a collaborative couple than a romantic one, but as time went by, you could see that they respected and adored each-other by the looks in their eyes when the looked at one-another while in full song. Looking at their album covers is like watching a time-capsule in mutual evolution, so let’s get to my Ashford & Simpson vinyls! 

orig 1976 notes

First and with major thanks to Jackie Thomas, who was my Warner Brothers Promotion Lady at the time, is the back cover of “Come As You Are”, complete with my scribblings (DJ notes) from almost forty years ago!  You can’t read it, but my “pik” on this album was “One More Try” – the extended (with guitar solo) 12″ Disco version of  I also acquired! It still is one of my best A&S tracks and is very danceable!   My next fave on this album was “It Came To Me”, however, the popular hit, which is still poignant today is the lead cut  reminder, “It’ll Come, It’ll Come, It’ll Come”.  One thing I began to notice back then, even, was the lush presence of a harp flourish during their ‘vamps to the fade’.  I like that!

 The next one I have has my stamp of “Nov. 9, 1976; the ‘Nick-o-Val’  follow-up, “Tried, Tested & Found True” [5;25] twelve-inch!  What is overlooked or not even known these days  is that those “disco” 12″ vinyls played at 45rpm!  That dance favorite was culled from  1977’s “So So Satisfied” album, which I acquired because a neighbor was (“horrors!!”) throwing their records away in the dumpster because they were moving.  Knowing that I was a “DJ” he brought a charity crate over to me, asking if I wanted to “look through some of these…”  Well, “Hell Yeah!!”  When I pulled the vinyl out and saw it was in reasonably saveable shape, I humbly thanked him and went inside to clean it up like the rest of “my children”.  I never have lent my vinyls out over time…  “So So” had two other hit in-addition to “Tried, Tested…” and they were the deep, fulfilling ballad title song, “So So Satisfied” and a song that I think the late Sylvester made famous but was (of course) written by Ashford & Simpson, “Over And Over”.  I already had the Jimmy Simpson “Disco Mix” 12″ 45rpm of it, so getting the album completed that set of June 10, 1977 .

Next in my collection is my hands-down favorite album by this dynamic musical duo, on Warner Bros., 1977’s “Send it”.  An “A” rotation on WBLS FM and any other burgeoning ‘Urban” black radio station of the day, you heard them hit their “stride” on this one!  it includes the best instrumental they ever produced IMO, “Bourgie` Bourgie`”. Notice how their cover photos evolved though these years?  These guys were fashion templates of the day!  it is about this time that I began to truly believe they were an in-love couple and not just an “act”.  Also featured hits on this LP , “”By Way Of Love’s Express”, the title song, “Send It” and the dance classic, “Don’t Cost You Nothin’ “.  On Nick-O-Val music, there are NO “bad” album cuts though…

Then, all of a sudden (to me, anyway) in 1978, Jackie Thomas laid the 12′ on me called “It Seems To Hang On”.  I’m not sure what album it is from, because I don’t have it.  All I know is that to this very day and as I write these words, it is my all time Hall Of Fame favorite Ashford & Simpson record!  At six minutes and fifty-seven seconds, I can play it a-gain, and again, and a-gainnnn… 

As Barry White would say, “it was such a groove…”  A great arrangement with orchestra, and those sexy horns. 

After that, I guess I lost track or maybe they had a lull, but the next thing I knew, Nick and Valerie were on a new label, Capitol/EMI. I am thinking that my record promo rep was the very amusing John Brown there (but don’t hold me to it, LOL).  I always wanted a gig in record promotion back then because all these guys and gals just went from company-to-company (and party-to-party!).  I went into my stacks looking for their last massive hit “Solid” (which is still hiding from me as I write this, dammit!) and came upon one that I didn’t even know I had, 1986’s “Real Love”.  Skip ahead in time!

I call this album something that every artist has, “one that got away”.  The only notable “hit’ was something called “Nobody Walks In L.A.”, and somehow I have the Capitol Records 12″ of it – by now they played at 331/3 rpm – looking like I never played it.  Not that it was a “bad” song; it just never really caught-on – on the east coast – in the USA.  There are “certain” memories associated with all of Nick & Vals music in my musical mind.  Observe again, the fashion evolution of their album cover pose… 

“Nobody Walks In L.A.” 12-inch

By now my collection is waning and I have performed on WBLS FM and all the major New York City Urban/Black/R&B?whatever name du jour radio stations.  “Solid… as a Rock” was the jam when I was on WBLS FM in 1984/85, but there came a little ditty which was the title track of that album called “High Rise” by them which was so appropriate because at that time I was living my dream of residing in one.

High Rise 45rpm cover

This is the jacket for the 1983 45rpm:

They should have been (and maybe were) fashion models!  Well last-but-not-least in my krates-full-o-jointz I found a 45rpm off of the album ‘Performance’ which will serve as a timely and true finale to this post, “It Shows In The Eyes”.  Look!…”it” does and always will. 
Please comment with your
favorite Nicholas Ashford/
Valerie Simpson memory,
concert or song.  I had no
idea he was ill; makes it all the more sad and surprising to think that he is gone, but their voice –  harp-flourished arrangements – will live eternally.
 

There is not much to say about this except for the fact that this song came to me today as I try to “hold on” against the storm, realizing that I have more loyalty and companionship thousands of miles away from my current location in Nina, than I have from some people who I THOUGHT were my loyalists.

Little known fact about this record is that it has this cornbread feel to it back in the day, and it is truly amazing that it made the top of the charts.  There is this “pickin and strumming” aspect of the guitar and yes a banjo licks of this extended version that was just incredibly unusual at the time this record came out – like Kelloggs Corn Flakes theme or somethin’…the beauty of the “disco era” was that it embodied many aspects of society, musically all at once.

It is sad that when you reach your mid-fifties, or whatever age it sets in, that some people, even “family” will betray a  good person like me [or you] as Brutus did Julius Caesar; it is happy however when you have forever loyalists who continue to have your “back” as well, and therefore I shall accentuate the positive as much as possible herein.  Some try to insinuate that I “forgive” the Benedict Arnolds of my life…I say no, “forgiveness'” has been a trait of a thousand years of random societies, and the downfall of empires.  If I would have lived back in the ages of Caesar, I would have been the most benevolent, King of the  Bruce, yet the most harshest of …  Be that as it may…

This is a classic record from my collection, and it is truly amazing that all of this music  that is on You Tube is available at the click of a mouse!  Holy COW!!  How did this happen to be found, and how can I get in on the sharing part of  it, because I am sure that my collection has some titles that even You Tube does not have. LOL  Cha-Chingg!!

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