Category Archives: 1970s movies

#168 – I Want To Take You Higher

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#168 – I Want To Take You Higher by Sly & The Family Stone

 – At the risk of sounding like I’m standing alone in the middle of a large field with no one else to support my opinion, I believe every teenage guy that played an electric guitar in 1970 learned the opening riff to this song. Okay, maybe that’s too much of a general assumption, but I’m basing it on personal experience.

I fit that demographic and pretty sure I wasn’t alone.

Sly & The Family Stone were definitely not alone in a field when they took the crowd higher with this blast of gospel rock ‘n’ roll at Woodstock in August 1969. For the 400,000 people camped out at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York – which over the decades grew to millions that claimed to be there –  the band’s performance was a festival highlight and a super charged Sunday morning wake-up call when they hit the stage at 3:30 am.

If anyone in that particular large field surrounded by people slept through it, I’ll make a general assumption they were in one of the emergency medical tents after dropping the brown acid the stage announcers warned festival-goers not to take.

How do I know this? Was I one of the thousands – later millions – who claims to have been at Woodstock?

Nope. I saw the movie.

Millions were there?

The Woodstock movie rolled through our area of northern Ohio during the summer of 1970. Most of us in my group of friends had listened to the three disc soundtrack LP, but the visuals proved to be an important part of the experience. I remember a carload of us (including my then current and future girlfriends – which is a different long story) heading to the theater decked out in our best hippie garb. In Ohio fashion sense, that just meant bellbottoms, a favorite t-shirt and probably blue-tinted round sunglasses. The girls enhanced their looks with southwestern style ponchos and yellow-tinted round sunglasses.

Yeah, we thought we looked cool.

For rockers the movie highlights included sets by The Who and Ten Years After. But the major impact for us came from Sly’s “Medley” performance of Dance To The Music, Music Lover and of course, I Want To Take You Higher. It was about 15 minutes of sheer energy and a main reason later to pick up the stereo needle on our soundtrack albums, place it back at the beginning of this song triad and listen to it again and again and again…

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It was also another reason to want to be in a band.

That was probably the biggest inspiration for my gang of friends to start planning our own outdoor music festival on the shores of Lake Erie. Now, that’s another long story that includes the transition between girlfriends at the same time, so I’ll save the results of this rock ‘n’ roll endeavor for another time. But basically it was just a group of high school friends looking for an excuse to have another party.

The preparation included forming a band that would headline this outdoor local extravaganza. Our first rehearsal was in a small room behind my parents’ garage. I had an electric guitar, but no amp. My best friend borrowed a bass guitar, but also had no amp. Our next move was to borrow an amp we could both use. We commandeered my dad’s drum set, which was vintage 1940’s big band style with a HUGE bass drum and only available because my dad had decided to focus his talent on playing the trumpet. We included another best buddy who didn’t have the talent to play anything, so we made him the singer.

And as another footnote, he really couldn’t sing. But it still gave us enough members to have a band.

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The final results didn’t improve much after this first rehearsal. We learned to play the riff from I Want To Take You Higher and… well, that was about it for that song. We’d play it, stop, look at each other, play it again, stop and repeat the process. We did the same with a couple Led Zeppelin riffs, The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash and then made plans for our next rehearsal.

Eventually we learned songs that were of the easier three-chord variety, like Blue Suede Shoes and Long Tall Sally, which in turn influenced the theme of our outdoor music festival. Instead of the hippie vibe of Woodstock, we renamed ours a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival” and now had a legitimate excuse not to play any song that had more than three chords.

Taking everyone higher!

But once again, I Want To Take You Higher and Sly’s performance in the Woodstock movie was the impetus to get our rock rolling. The song joined this Dream Song list on September 5th. The opening riff alone was a major jolt to my waking mind and no coffee was needed to kick start the day. But then again, I wasn’t going to skip my morning caffeine buzz just because my head was already buzzing. And since the song was currently in rotation on my digital playlist, it joins the recent memory category.

I don’t have any recent memories of Sly & The Family Stone, but they really made an impact all those decades ago. The more serious minded stoner hippie bands that stood on stage for too-long jam sessions were quite frankly mind numbingly boring for a group of 17 year old high schoolers looking for any excuse to throw a party, dance and laugh a lot. So when Sly appeared on the big screen and cut loose – it was like a rock ‘n’ roll magnet.

That’s what we were looking for – and that’s when we found it.

I Want To Take You Higher first came out in 1969 as the flip side of the band’s 45 rpm single, Stand. But I don’t remember anyone taking notice of it until Woodstock hit our local theater and the high-octane live version had us lifting up our blue and yellow round shades to get a better look.

I actually think I had the opening riff down on my electric guitar after only a few tries. It’s just too bad my borrowed amp wasn’t loud enough for anyone else to hear it.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Sly & The Family Stone performing a live version of I Want To Take You Higher (sometimes called Higher and Higher) from 1969. It’s not Woodstock but still brings the energy!

 

To purchase The Essential Sly & The Family Stone with I Want To Take You Higher visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

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Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

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Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

 – It doesn’t matter what generation you fit into on the pop culture chart, even if you’ve reached the status of “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The end of summer means one thing:

Back to school.

Okay, I’m not using that as an incentive to quit your job, pack up your vinyl album collection and move into a dorm. I’m only giving reason to the memories swirling through your mind after you’ve realized it’s too quiet around the house. Another younger generation of kids or grandkids is heading off to the halls of higher learning, which was once our domain. Our former turf where togas were considered formal wear and empty beer kegs served as coffee tables.

For many of us college was our first real taste of freedom. Also, for many of us, it goes down in the mental bank as the final four years of freedom until these same kids and eventually grandkids punched our admittance tickets into the real world.

Yeah, we all have something to remember about school when we hit this time of year. Grade school, junior high, high school or college – we’ve been there and done that. Some of these memories are great while others recall pure embarrassment. You might be dreaming of your old dorm room and wishing you could do it again knowing what you know now, or simply glad it’s all over.

Either way, like any memory, it should have a soundtrack. And since I’m not writing these ramblings for the incoming freshmen who will be glorifying Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Justin Bieber behind their memories decades from now… Wait. I take that back. Will anyone even remember Nicki, Kanye or Justin decades from now?

Sorry, guess I was stirring up the feeling of “been there, done that” while staring at my vinyl album collection. And since most of them date back to my college daze, it gives me an idea.

Using these historical grooved references tucked in designer cardboard sleeves as inspiration and to pay respect to Hollywood’s favorite college freshman, Rodney Dangerfield, here are my selections for the top three Back To School Classic Rock Songs. But keep in mind these are more than just songs about the topic. That’s not the main point. I’m going for the feelingattitude and just flat-out fun that were important memory-makers prior to our admittance into the real world.

It was – and still is – called college.

You may not agree with these choices because they may not even mention the word school or be associated with the end of summer. But if it’s been a few decades since you called your roommate a jerk, slept through a test because the Student Union had dollar drafts the night before, or know more about Leave It To Beaver than you do about Justin Bieber, you’ll find a reason to relate.

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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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Signed by the author and only through the website – BeatlesSheaStadium.com

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No. 3 – Student Demonstration Time by The Beach Boys.

What’s a list about songs connected with summer that doesn’t have at least one connected to The Beach Boys? Except this choice has nothing to do with daddy’s T-Bird, surfin’ girls, California girls, or even staying true to your school. It’s all about the attitude of America’s college students in the early 1970’s from a group of college dropouts later revered as America’s Band.

College students in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t Tweet or Instagram their complaints about not trusting anyone over the age of thirty. They took over administration buildings, protested, and basically did whatever they could to make it clear they weren’t happy with what was handed down to them.

In this case, we’re not talking about tacky furniture and smelly closets left by graduating seniors for incoming frosh. Student Demonstration Time is about protesting an older generation’s policies in Southeast Asia that made college campuses more popular than a government job for males over the age of eighteen, thanks to student military draft deferments.

Too heavy for you? Okay, let’s skip the bullets and free speech references in the song and soften the blow for our list…

College students will protest just about anything because that’s what they’re good at. It’s like the old Burger King “have it your way” commercials. When we were enjoying our first taste of freedom, we wanted it our way – or no way.

  • Bad food in the cafeteria? Food fight.
  • Conduct codes? Co-ed dorms.
  • Dress codes? Streaking.

When this song closed side one of the classic Surf’s Up album in 1971, The Beach Boys were developing a social conscious despite resident genius Brian Wilson being zonked out in his bed for three years. His heir apparent and brother Carl Wilson fuzzed up his guitar and followed cousin Mike Love’s lyrical makeover of the classic Leiber and Stoller jailhouse rocker, Riot In Cell Block Nine, to put a hard edge on student protest songs. You can put this one on the next time the government screws you over or when the mashed potatoes are too soggy.

Warning: Repeated listening might awaken your inner Howard Beale (Peter Finch) attitude made famous in the 1976 film Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Just do us all a favor if it involves streaking and keep your shorts on.

Sorry, no video for this one. But here’s an audio LINK for Student Demonstration Time on YouTube.

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No. 2 – Hot For Teacher by Van Halen

Oh man… This one is just wrong. At least that’s what the Parents Music Resource Center said when they tried to have the song and (especially) the video pulled from the airwaves in 1984. But when it comes to combining feelings of your nerve-wracking first day of school with a crush on your teacher, this one brings back both.

The song is powered by testosterone and a rapid-fire guitar and drum onslaught from the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, along with the trademark backing vocal from bassist Michael Anthony. But as always in the band’s pre-Van Hagar days (a quick nod to Sammy), Diamond David Lee Roth is the sleazy guy hanging around the schoolhouse that your parents warned you to stay away from, but will have the best stories to tell at future class reunions.

Whether you were a Waldo, the kid in the video being fast-tracked to a nervous breakdown on the first day of school, one of the mini-me Van Halen clones encouraging a show-and-tell with their playmate-worthy teacher, or somewhere in the middle, Hot For Teacher is like many of the stories we reminisce about with our old school buddies. An exaggerated fantasy.

If you haven’t seen this video in awhile, you’d better check it out. Just don’t tell the kids…

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No. 1 – Shout by Otis Day & The Knights

Hey, cut me a break. Don’t you think I know the original Shout was by The Isley Brothers in 1959? And there was also a shortened version by The Beatles from their 1964 television special, Around The Beatles, and included on Anthology Vol. 1. But when it comes to pure back to school fun, National Lampoon’s Animal House put Otis Day & The Knights on The Campus Wall of Fame.

The film is set in 1962 which means the Isley’s original was one of the newer party songs played by every cover band that set foot in a beer soaked frat house. The entire setting was an extreme lampoon (okay, maybe not for everyone) of college life, but after the film’s release in 1978 it would’ve been hard to find anyone on academic probation that hadn’t wrapped a sheet around themselves at one time or another and shouted, “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!

Otis Day & The Knights were originally cast as actors with DeWayne Jessie as Otis and a young Robert Cray as the bass player. But after the soundtrack’s huge success (including Shama Lama Ding Dong), the group became a real band and toured the country.

Shout is a time proven rocker that gives every former college student the opportunity to embarrass themselves by demonstrating dance moves they’ve had no reason to update since graduation. With a gospel flavor that could’ve been James Brown’s follow-up sermon in The Blues Brothers had Jake and Elwood had gone back the next Sunday, it’s an arm waving, gator-inducing mind eraser that makes memories of going back to school a lot more fun than thoughts of returning to real life. It’s no wonder Bluto (John Belushi) spent seven years in the Delta House gaining valuable partying experience for his future career as Senator Blutarsky.

You wanna SHOUT with the Delta Tau’s? Here’s the clip from Animal House...

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing