Archive | November, 2018

Certain Songs #1381: O’Jays – “Love Train”

Album: Back Stabbers
Year: 1972

Boy, talk about message whiplash! It takes some balls to follow up your massive hit single about how you can’t trust anybody at all with a even massiver hit single about how we should all get together and create an utopia.

Which is it, O’Jays? Which is it!?!

The answer, of course, was both: after all, it wasn’t as if the O’Jays were writing their own songs. Instead, they were just plugging their vocal chops into a song that Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff had crafted to within an inch of its life.

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Certain Songs #1380: O’Jays – “Back Stabbers

Album: Back Stabbers
Year: 1972

As an adult, the smooth Philly soul that came out from Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff in the 1970s has always been kind of a blind spot for me, as from my teenaged years on I’ve tended to avoid music that has “smooth” attached to it, regardless of genre.

But as a kid, I loved a shitton of the singles that came out of that factory, especially the ones by the O’Jays, who rode on top of Gamble & Huff’s massive songscapes like the long-time pros they so obviously were. And as a matter of fact, they’d been kicking around since the late-1950s, but it wasn’t until they hooked up with Gamble & Huff that they had any kind of pop success.

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Certain Songs #1379: Oil Tasters – “Get Out of the Bathroom”

Album: Oil Tasters
Year: 1982

Even by the wild and wooly standards of early 1980s indie, Oil Tasters were pretty fucking weird.

Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Oil Tasters were a three-piece band consisting of bass, drums and saxophone. No guitars. They played a kinda funky, jazzy spin on punk rock. Perhaps the closest analogy was the Minutemen, minus the guitars and virtuosity.

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Certain Songs #1378: Oh-OK – “Such N Such”

Album: Furthermore What EP
Year: 1983

I’m 98.674% sure I’ll talk about the impact that R.E.M. had on our little tribe in a lot more detail at some point next year (!!), but for now all you really need to know that by the time 1983 was even half-over, we were mad for just about anything R.E.M.-related.

So you can only imagine the excitement when Oh-OK’s second EP (we never heard the first), Furthermore What, showed up at KFSR. Not only was it produced by Mitch Easter, whose Let’s Active afoot EP was also a big deal, but the bassist was Michael Stipe’s actual sister, Lynda.

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Certain Songs #1377: Off Broadway – “Stay in Time”

Album: On
Year: 1979

1979 was a weird year for music: while it was clear that punk rock and disco shook everything up, it was unclear what exactly came next, and so while “My Sharona” was the biggest song of the year, and the pop charts would make room for Nick Lowe, Cheap Trick and Supertramp, rock radio was at a crossroads.

While there was the beginning of the college / alt-rock radio revolution that would dominate some of our lives in the 1970, rock radio had spent a couple of years resisting punk rock while bands like Talking Heads, Blondie and even my beloved Clash were making serious inroads, being played next to supposed mortal enemies like Led Zeppelin, Rush, and Supertramp, who were fucking everywhere that year.

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