Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1981 Rick James – Super Freak

1981 Rick James – Super Freak

James Ambrose Johnson Jr. grew up in Buffalo, New York. He played in several bands before joining the US Naval Reserves to avoid the draft. He deserted from the military and moved to Toronto in 1964. He got into a fight and was rescued by Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of Levon and the Hawks (which would later evolve into The Band). He joined them on stage and impressed them enough to get an invitation to join their group, which they renamed The Sailorboys.

Singer Shirley Matthews suggested James begin using the stage name Ricky Matthews, the name of a cousin who had died. His name morphed into Ricky James Matthews and settled into Rick James. The Sailorboys became The Mynah Birds. They even recorded The Mynah Birds Hop for Columbia Records.

Some lineup changes took place, including the addition of future Buffalo Springfield member Bruce Palmer. In 1966, Neil Young joined the group, and they recorded the song I’ve Got You (In My Soul) for Motown Records. The song was never released as a single because it sounded more than a little like the single Little Girl by Van Morrison and Them.

The band’s manager stole the group’s advance money, and when the band complained to Motown, the now ex-manager told Motown that Rick was AWOL and wanted by the US military. Rick was subsequently arrested and went to prison for a year.

Neil had met Stephen Stills in 1965 and he and Bruce decided to go looking for him. They pawned the Mynah’s equipment, bought a hearse, and drove to Los Angeles.After a week, they had given up finding him and decided to drive to San Francisco instead. They got stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard. Stephen and Richie Furay were driving the other direction and spotted Neil. They turned around and drove after him until they met up. The net result: Buffalo Springfield.

When Rick got out of prison, he moved to LA and crashed on Stephen’s sofa. He awoke the next morning to find Jim Morrison meditating in the room.

It was a small world back then.

Rick spent the next decade starting and dissolving bands. In 1976, that finally paid off with the formation of the Stone City Band in Buffalo. The group signed with Motown and recorded their first album.

In 1978, Rick recorded his first solo album with the Stone City Band helping with the music. The album sold over two million copies. It contained his first hit single, You And I. The record topped the R&B chart and reached #13 on the Hot 100.

Several more gold records followed. In 1981, Rick released the single Super Freak. The record was just a little too funky for many radio stations, but it topped the Dance Club chart and reached #3 on the R&B chart. The single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100.

Rick’s career peaked and then declined rapidly. His 1989 album was only released in the UK, and in 1990 his label dropped him completely.

His career was reignited that year by MC Hammer when the mega-hit U Can’t Touch This sampled Super Freak. It took a lawsuit, but Rick finally got writing credit for the use of his music.

Rick’s drug use led to complications with the law, leading to imprisonment in the mid-nineties.

Rick struggled with diabetes, suffered at least one major stroke, and a heart attack, and his poor health finally overwhelmed him. He died in 2004.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1980 Carole King – One Fine Day

1980 Carole King – One Fine Day

Carol Joan Klein grew up in New York City and her mother began teaching her to play the piano when she was very young. Carole was born with perfect pitch; when she heard a note played, she could identify it. While in high school, she formed a group named the Co-Sines and changed her name to Carole King. She also began making demo records with her friend Paul Simon. When she turned 16, ABC Records released her first single in 1958, The Right Girl. She wrote the song and Don Costa arranged and conducted the music.

Carole continued writing songs, often with the man who became her first husband, Gerry Goffin. They wrote several hit songs together. They wrote the song The Loco-motion, their babysitter, Little Eva, recorded the song, and the single reached #1 on the Hot 100 in 1962. Carole finally reached the charts herself that year when the single It Might As Well Rain Until September peaked at #22. Carole recorded a few other singles over the next five years with no success. She did, however, write or co-write at least 118 songs that reached the Hot 100.

Carole and Gerry wrote a follow-up song for Little Eva: One Fine Day. They based the song on the aria Un bel di vedremo from Madama Butterfly, an opera written by Puccini. They recorded a demo of the song that featured Carole playing piano and singing. They intended the song for Little Eva, but for some reason, she did not record it.

When they were unable to figure out a good arrangement for the song, they passed the demo tape along to the Tokens. The Tokens kept the piano part that Carole had played on the demo and added vocals by the Chiffons and arranged the musical backing for the record. The resulting single reached #5 on the Hot 100 in 1963.

Seventeen years later, Carole recorded Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King, an album of remakes of songs she and Gerry wrote together. Her remake of the early Chiffons single put One Fine Day back on the charts. The single peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 in 1980. It also turned out to be Carole’s last top forty solo single on the Hot 100.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1979 Sniff ‘n’ The Tears – Driver’s Seat

1979 Sniff ‘n’ The Tears – Driver’s Seat

Paul Roberts was the singer and songwriter for the first version of Sniff ‘n’ The Tears in England in the early seventies. The band couldn’t find a recording contract, so Paul ended the band and moved to France. He recorded a few demos in France in 1975. Drummer Luigi Salvoni heard the demos and convinced Paul to reform the group and record an album for Chiswick Records. Paul wrote all the songs and Luigi produced the album, which was completed in 1978.

The first single off the album gave the group their only chart hit. Driver’s Seat reached #15 on the US Hot 100 in 1979. The single only got up to #42 in the UK despite an appearance on Top of the Pops because their record label did not have a working distribution agreement when the group began promoting the record. The record also reached #8 in the Netherlands.

The group released a second album in 1980. Everybody left the group except Paul after the album failed to produce a charting single. Paul recruited guitar player Les Davidson and three more musicians and recorded two more hitless albums. The group fell apart in 1983.

Paul released two albums as a solo act, but neither one sold well.

In 1991, a European advertising campaign for Pioneer music used Driver’s Seat as the principal soundtrack for the thirty-second commercial. The 12-inch remix single shot up to the top of the charts in the Netherlands and led Paul to reform Sniff ‘n’ the Tears with Les and three new group members.

Driver’s Seat keeps showing up periodically, including the soundtrack of the 1997 film Boogie Nights and a 2012 episode of The Walking Dead. Between 1992 and 2017, the band recorded four more albums.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1977 Stephen Bishop – Save It For A Rainy Day

1977 Stephen Bishop – Save It For A Rainy Day

Stephen Bishop grew up in San Diego. After seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, he convinced his brother to buy him a guitar. After learning to play it, he formed his first band in 1967. The Weeds did their best to appear as a British Invasion band.

After the Weeds broke up, Stephen moved to Los Angeles and pursued a career as a songwriter. Not much happened until a friend gave one of Stephen’s demo tapes to Art Garfunkel. Art recorded two of Stephen’s 1975 album, Breakaway. Those recordings helped Stephen finally get a recording contract with ABC Records, and he recorded his first album in 1976.

Stephen’s first single from his debut album was Save It For A Rainy Day. The recording featured a guitar solo by Eric Clapton and backup vocals from Chaka Khan, but the single only reached #22 on the Hot 100 in 1977. The record did better on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart, where it reached #6.

His second single from the album had Andrew Gold on guitar rather than Clapton but did much better on the charts. On And On reached #11 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the AC chart. The single spent 28 weeks on the Hot 100, an unusually long time for the early seventies.

Stephen appeared in a series of films with cameos where his role was listed as “charming”: “Charming Guy”, “Charming Trooper”, and “Charming G.I.” The most notable was a folk singer listed as “Charming Guy With Guitar” in Animal House. John Belushi smashed a guitar over Stephen’s head in the film; Stephen kept the guitar.

Stephen’s last solo hit came when he recorded the theme song from the film Tootsie. The single It Might Be You peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 in 1983. The record also reached the top of the AC chart.

Stephen had a lot of success as a songwriter. He wrote Separate Lives, which they used in the film White Nights. The single by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1985. The song received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song but lost out to Lionel Richie’s Say You, Say Me (which was from the same film).

He also wrote songs that are part of the soundtracks of at least a half-dozen other films, including Yvonne Elliman’s Your Precious Love from Roadies.

Dozens of artists have recorded other songs Stephen wrote.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1976 Yvonne Elliman – Love Me

1976 Yvonne Elliman – Love Me

Yvonne Elliman grew up in Honolulu, the daughter of a Japanese father and an Irish mother. She practiced playing several different instruments beginning at age four and became most proficient on the guitar. While in high school, she joined the folk group We Folk and competed in talent shows. After graduation, she took the advice of one of her teachers and moved to London in 1969 to work on a career in music.

Yvonne’s big break came when Tim Rice and We Folk cast her in 1970 as one of the singers on the original audio recording for the play Jesus Christ Superstar. Yvonne was cast in the play’s traveling show and played the part of Mary Magdalene.

Her new recording of the song I Don’t Know How To Love Him reached #28 on the US Hot 100 at the same time in 1971 that Helen Reddy’s version peaked at #13. Yvonne moved to New York and joined the first Broadway version of the play.

Yvonne sang background vocals on Eric Clapton’s hit record I Shot The Sheriff and subsequently sang on several of Eric’s albums.

Her second and third albums failed to put any of her singles back on the Hot 100, but in 1977 she recorded a song written by the Bee Gees, Love Me. The single reached #14 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1974 – Save The Last Dance For Me

1974- Save The Last Dance For Me

A good song can be a hit for a lucky artist. A Great song can be a hit over and over for lots of artists. Save The Last Dance For Me must be a great song. Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote the song and the first recording came from the Drifters.

While Ben E. King was still singing lead for the Drifters, Leiber and Stoller produced a collection of songs that became their next album. Ben left the group early in 1960 to begin a solo career, and the group’s record company had several songs from the album from which to choose a single. Their first choice for the A-side of a single was Nobody But Me. Fortunately for all involved, Dick Clark insisted they flip the record over because Save The Last Dance For Me would make a much stronger single, and the record company paid attention. The record topped the Hot 100 in October 1960.

Damita Jo recorded the answer song, I’ll Save The Last Dance For You and it became her first charted record. The single peaked at #22 in December 1960.

The DeFranco Family were five members of a Canadian family. The editor of Tiger Beat magazine heard a demo from the group and convinced Charles Laufer to fly the group to Los Angeles to record some additional demos. The group signed with Laufer Entertainment, and that led to a recording contract with 21st Century Records. The group was fronted by thirteen-year-old Tony, who was perfect for pre-teens who felt Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson were getting too old.

The first single from the DeFrancos was Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat, which reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1973. The group appeared on several of Dick Clark’s shows for both lip-syncing and interviews. Their second single petered out when it reached #32. The group’s third (and final) top forty single was their cover of Save The Last Dance For Me. The single reached #18 in the Summer of 1974. The group continued to tour and even played in Las Vegas until they broke up in 1978. They tried to capitalize on a reunion in 1999 and 2000, but since then only Tony and his sister Marisa sing in public.

Emmylou Harris covered the song on her Blue Kentucky Girl album in 1979. Her bluegrass version reached the Country top ten.

It wasn’t the last version to reach the Country chart. Dolly Parton recorded a series of covers of songs that had been hits in the fifties and sixties for an album. She recorded her version of Save The Last Dance For Me with The Jordanaires singing background vocals. She released the single in 1984 and reached #3 on the Country chart. The single also reached #12 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart and even snuck onto the Hot 100, where it peaked at #45.

The song had one last spin in 2005 courtesy of Michael Bublé. Michael’s single reached #5 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. When the song appeared over the closing credits of the film The Wedding Date, enough requests resulted in a music video and a single remix that reached #5 on the AC chart. The single also charted in the Hot 100, but only spent a week at #99.


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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1973 Jerry Samuels – Writings and Recordings

1973 Jerry Samuels – Writings and Recordings

Jerry Samuels began working in the music industry as an engineer. He also wrote songs that other artists recorded and had hits with.

Jerry’s first big success came when soul singer Adam Wade released the single As If I Didn’t Know in 1961. Adam reached the top ten on the Hot 100 three times beginning in 1960, and Jerry’s song was the last time Adam even got into the top forty.

In 1964, Sammy Davis, Jr., recorded another song Jerry wrote. The single Shelter Of Your Arms reached #17 on the Hot 100. The record did better on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it peaked at #6. Sammy later reached the top of both charts in 1972 with The Candy Man.

Times got a little more difficult for Jerry after those two releases, and in 1966 he tried something different. He recorded a song with no music! He chanted and almost rapped over a looping ten-second drum beat and some tambourine smacking and a little thigh-slapping. Not wanting to work any harder than he had to, he created the flip side of the record by simply playing the tape backward.

Red Buttons recorded Strange Things Are Happening in 1953, and the single reached the top ten. The record was also subtitled Ho Ho, Hee Hee, Ha Ha thanks to a call and answer at the start of the record. Jerry may or may not have been influenced by that hit since the lyrics to his single included the identical line, “Ho Ho, Hee Hee, Ha Ha.”

Jerry ended up with a novelty record that instantly became controversial: They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa. Jerry chose to use the name Napoleon XIV on the label to hide his identity, and that only worked until Cousin Brucie revealed his name on WABC radio in New York City.

The song is…unusual. It’s also very politically incorrect, and, as a result, gets very little airplay now.

When they released the single in 1966, it shot up to number three and then fell completely off the Hot 100, all in the space of only six weeks. Some listeners (and the ASPCA) attacked radio stations that played the song because of its treatment of mental illness, and that helped get the song off the air quickly. It didn’t stop the record from selling a million copies.

Jerry quickly recorded an album that included nothing but mental illness songs, including the answer song, I’m Glad They Took You Away by Josephine. I’m fairly certain I have a copy of the album in a box in the garage, but I can’t think of a reason to search for it. I do, however, remember playing the album enough to still be able to sing at least the titles or choruses of some of the songs. I make no apologies; I was still a young teenager at the time.

That might have been the end of the record, were it not for Barry Hansen. Barry worked as a disk jockey in Los Angeles in the early seventies. Thanks to a surprisingly active response from listeners, Barry began playing mostly novelty records on his show. The single Transfusion by Nervous Norvus reached the top ten of the Hot 100 in 1956. When Barry played the record on the air, another disk jockey (“The Obscene” Steven Clean) insisted that Barry had to be demented to play that song.

Lightning struck! Barry began presenting himself as Dr. Demento. His show quickly became syndicated, and many of the songs he played on his show recovered public awareness of many lost and forgotten novelty records. They’re Coming To Take Me Away was re-issued and gained enough sales and airplay to reach #87 on the Hot 100 in 1973. The song even appeared regularly on Dr. Demento’s albums.

Jerry did not go on to a successful musical career after that. Instead, for a few years, he mostly made a living selling marijuana roach clips to head shops. When that played out, he switched to playing piano and singing at nursing homes and senior facilities in the Philadelphia area.


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