Tag Archives: 1970

#169 – 25 or 6 to 4

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#169 – 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago

 – Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. For me that feeling goes back to the early days of Little Richard (though I was too young to actually experience it at the time) when a dirty-sounding saxophone raged over his pounding piano. And even today since a young Little Richard is never too old for the digital age of listening, the volume is worthy of being turned up whenever The Upsetters – his backing horn section – kick it in with him.

The same can be said for Bobby Keys and The Rolling Stones. Brown Sugar would not be the same song without his sax, even if Keith Richards and Mick Taylor had practiced what Keef refers to as “the ancient art of guitar weaving” for the instrumental break.

Saxophone was one of the founding instruments in rock ‘n’ roll. But as also a big fan of rhythm & blues, soul and Motown, a horn section with brass trumpets and trombones are also requirements. I have a feeling any promoter suggesting James Brown, Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye could have cut costs by leaving the horns at home would have found himself with nothing but an empty stage to promote.

But when I was finally old enough to experience what was happening in the world of pop music, it was the beginning of The British Invasion. Other than The Dave Clark Five with Denis Payton on sax, groups featured guitar players. Even when American groups counterpunched with The Byrds and The Lovin’ Spoonful, no one was blowing into anything other than an occasional harmonica – and that includes Bob Dylan.

With a horn section!

In May 1966 The Outsiders caught my attention with Time Won’t Let Me and a great backing horn section. Then later that summer The Beatles released Revolver with the Motown influenced Got To Get You Into My Life. But it wasn’t so much that horns were changing the pop music we were listening to. It was more like pop was borrowing from the other styles to give us a lesson in what a big segment of the youngest baby boomers was missing by only listening to our local Top 40 AM radio stations.

What does that have to do with 25 or 6 to 4? I’ll tell you…

I remember a slight bit of personal confusion when Chicago hit big in 1970. Pop had morphed into rock and the main engine driver was a high-powered electric guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton were making that notion very clear. Horns could be a great background enhancement, but none of our radio favored bands seemed to have these jazzy players as permanent members.

So with embarrassed hindsight, my perception of Chicago predated the lyrics Dire Straits sang a few years later in Sultans of Swing:

They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band. It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

But then Chicago changed that.

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Their innovative style as a band in the pop-rock world wasn’t really new. Al Kooper’s original Blood, Sweat & Tears made the scene in the late 1960’s and was the first group I took notice of that had a permanent horn section. But just like the subsequent version led by David Clayton-Thomas, they were too jazzy for my tastes.

It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

Chicago’s first LP under the name Chicago Transit Authority went unnoticed by me. But the opening riff of 25 or 6 to 4 when it was released in June 1970 definitely caught my attention. It rocked. And I don’t think I’m saying anything dedicated classic rock fans will object to, but it struck a rock chord by sounding a lot like Babe I’m Gonna Leave You by Led Zeppelin. And then the horn section came in over the grungy guitar and…

That’s what they call rock and roll.

This sound was coming in through my grungy brain on the morning of September 4th. It rocks its way into the recent memory category because I had just heard it. In fact, this song has occasionally crept into my Top 25 list of Most Played Songs that iTunes so conveniently keeps track of. And by the way, in case you can’t tell from the countdown aspect of these Classic Rocker ramblings, I enjoy that feature immensely.

I should have been more welcoming to the brassy horn sounds of Chicago. But as mentioned, The Guitar Gods had taken hold of the rock scene. I say this because at the time I was a player that could have fit into either section.

My guitar fumbling (for lack of a better term) started soon after The British Invasion – like many other baby boomers. But my skills have never been anything to write home about. I tend to blame that on never having the best guitars. I went more for “looks” (does it look cool?) rather than ease of playing. But trumpet was the opposite. I had access to two very cool horns and a practiced ability to play them.

My interest in the trumpet didn’t start when my parents “told me” that’s the instrument I’d play in the junior high and eventually high school band. It was a tradition on my dad’s side that started with his father and continued with him. And believe me, they were both good players. Especially my dad who played bugle in the U.S. Navy and made trumpet his creative outlet by performing with numerous bands around where we lived. He could play anything from jazz, big band to marching band. I have memories as a very little kid going with my mom to watch his shows. He had invested in a very good (let’s call it expensive) trumpet in the 1950’s and yeah, he looked and sounded cool.

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My grandfather was a lot older than my friends’ grandfathers. He was 46 when my dad was born. I don’t know how young he was when he started playing, but know he had purchased a silver cornet in 1905 and was a member of the town’s concert and marching band. Not only do I still have my dad’s trumpet, but also my grandpa’s silver cornet – and the 1905 proof of purchase receipt.

Yeah, you could say I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff.

Herb Alpert & TJ Brass

I alternated between the trumpet and cornet when I joined the school band, but again – I didn’t have much interest. I thought the guitar was cooler. But in April 1967 I watched a television special by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and beginning at that exact moment – by the end of the show – trumpet looked pretty cool. I’m positive that I immediately went to my room and started practicing on grandpa’s cornet. My dad – most likely shocked but overjoyed at the same time – got out his trumpet and started teaching me. Before long we were playing duets and it became a father-son bonding I’ll always have with him.

Another totally shocked victim of my new-found love for brass was our junior high band director. For close to three years I had been languishing in the lower reaches of the trumpet section, barely able to make any type of recognizable musical noise. A few weeks after the Herb Albert TV special we had tryouts for “chair placement” and I aced it.

I still remember him staring at me – smiling – and wondering out loud why this happened “to him” when I’d be moving on to the high school band and a different director in just a few months. My band friends were also flabbergasted (again – lack of a better term) when I propelled past about 30 other trumpeters from the back end of the section to third chair. I never looked – or went – back after that.

Beatles Horn Section

But would I have wanted to be in a rock band like Chicago? Honestly, not in the horn section. As Paul McCartney once pointed out, his first instrument had also been the trumpet – also a gift from his dad – but you can’t play and sing at the same time.

Since that’s what I had in mind when I auditioned for the high school musical – and aced it – my trumpet playin’ band days came to an end. When I took off for college and later New York City, a couple guitars were in the back of my station wagon and the brass horns were left behind.

But they didn’t go unused, since I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff. More than a century after my grandpa bought his cornet and half a century after my dad bought his trumpet, my son Paul was playing both in the high school band. But now that he’s a professional singer, they’re both on the shelf waiting for the next generation.

And as for Chicago, they’ve also lasted for a few generations. Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. And since there are still plenty of rock ‘n’ rollers from first generation baby boomers on down, I don’t hear that sound fading out any time soon.

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Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

To watch the original Chicago lineup performing 25 or 6 to 4, check out this video…

 

 

To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with 25 or 6 to 4 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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#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love

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#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love by The Supremes

 – I’d say there’s about a fifty-fifty chance I heard the word “Stop!” during a concert by The Supremes. The problem was that it wasn’t followed by, “In the name of love.” More likely it was, “Where do you think you’re going?

Alright, I didn’t belong there anyway. But at the time it seemed worth the try.

I’ll get to all that in a moment, but there’s no way to stop Stop! In The Name Of Love from joining this Dream Song list. It happened on the morning of August 16th. There’s a decent selection of Supremes songs on my digital playlist, but this number one hit from 1965 isn’t one of them. That’s strange because I like the song, but just haven’t gotten around to downloading it. Guess I’ll have to take care of that soon. In the meantime, since I hadn’t heard it in awhile, we’ll add it to the subliminal category and use it to bring back a memory that would’ve been better off left in my subconscious.

In past Classic Rocker’s I’ve gone through the valuable music heritage that was coming out of Detroit on a regular basis during the 1960s. There’s no need to repeat any of that here, especially for those of you that lived through it. If you’re of a younger generation, just retrace the roots of your favorite hip-hop, soul, rap and funk artists and you’ll wind up at Motown.

Top tier Motown talent

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say The Supremes were the top tier of talent for Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy. The trio of Diane (later Diana) Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard (later Cindy Birdsong) set records for consistent chart-topping songs (twelve number one singles) and were favorites on The Ed Sullivan Show and many others that we watched on a regular basis. And it wasn’t just the baby boomer generation that was enamored by The Supremes. Gordy self-guided their career to also include high-end, big-name nightclubs to include an audience of “mature” fans and in the case of Ross, a high-profile movie career in the 1970’s.

The fact that he also fathered one of her children only adds to the legend and why he took such special interest in her career. But that has nothing to do with our Classic Rocker ramblings today. And my rambling into a Supremes performance where I actually didn’t belong also has nothing to do with Ross since she had already split the scene in 1970 for a solo career and was replaced by Jean Terrell.

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The same year Ross split, my friends and I were joining. To be more specific, we into our last two years of high school and were involved. We joined various clubs and activities ranging from ski club to band to the school musicals. I was class vice president and prom chairman my junior year, and on student council as a senior. But that also has nothing to do with Classic Rocker ramblings. I don’t want it to sound like bragging and it’s only mentioned because it sets up the reason why we joined a club specifically meant for the smart kids.

It was called Quiz Bee.

Basically you had a team of students that – together – knew everything. We’d compete against other schools and whichever team answered the most questions correctly would win. There were about twelve of us in Quiz Bee, and we were divided into two teams. The really smart kids were on the A-Team. My closest friends (myself included) made up the B-Team. In other words, we weren’t really that smart. We just joined because we were just smart enough to know we could get out of school early and hang out together while traveling to compete at other schools.

But there was one really cool perk being a member of Quiz Bee. Two schools from each state in the U.S. would be invited to participate in a three-day student United Nations Assembly in Washington, DC. Ours was one of the schools from Ohio for both our junior and senior years.

Talk about a cool perk! But it’s better than that…

The idea was that each team would represent a different member country in a pretend UN session. Our school was given Norway and Malta. Our B-Team was trusted with the fate of the small island country and we prepared for this educational experience as if we were going to an island for spring break.

The Fab Shoreham

I must say this was a very good program to be involved with. We traveled to DC and stayed at the famous Shoreham Hotel, (where The Beatles stayed) and had schedules that included small group meetings, large assemblies (with schools from every state), speakers, debates and voting on (pretend) international policies. But once these were completed by early evening, we were still teenagers away from parental supervision, staying in a large hotel in a big city, and left to our own devices.

I shared a hotel room with my two best friends who had no more business being on the Quiz Bee team than I did. We were just out for a good time. And to add to the devices, our girl friends (two words, so not girlfriends) were staying only two doors down. Occupying the room in-between was our teacher chaperone, but he was old and we knew he’d be in bed by nine o’clock.

Suddenly I’m depressed by that term old. Thinking back, he was probably younger than we are now.

We were all basically good kids, but certainly not angels. We knew how to have fun as long as we didn’t get caught. My buddy Tim and I each claimed one of the two beds and told Gary he could sleep on the foldout cot. But that didn’t concern him at all. What did was the supply of booze he had packed in his suitcase for our B-Team’s wild weekend. Since we were only 17 years old he had gone to the trouble of finding “adults” (probably older kids with fake ID’s) to buy him bottles of whiskey and vodka.

We invited the girls over for a party.

That night got a little too loud with talking, laughing and the radio because we woke up our (teacher) neighbor. He banged on our hotel door and we had to keep yelling “Wait a minute” while hiding the booze and any evidence we were underage kids drinking it. As a preventative against real trouble, the girls stood in the bathtub and closed the shower curtain shut.

Of course we were all caught red-handed. The party ended with the girls being sent back to their room and a promise that all of us would be sent back to Ohio via bus the next day.

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Wisely, Tim, Gary and I woke up early that day and walked or bused our way to the Capitol Building. Either that morning or the day before, a radical group (we didn’t use the term terrorist in 1970) had set off a bomb and blown off a small chunk from the corner of the building. The area was cordoned off by police tape and there were a few guards hanging around. One of us reached over and picked up a small piece of brick. We went back to the Shoreham Hotel and gave this small souvenir from our nation’s historic Capitol as a peace offering to our teacher chaperone.

It must have worked because we continued as the Malta delegation for the rest of our planned weekend.

We attended all the meetings and only left one early on Friday to drop water balloons on our school’s A-Team from the hotel roof as they walked across the street for lunch. Otherwise we kept our fun to the evening hours. And for those two remaining nights we just made sure not to get caught.

I remember most of the other schools were just as adventurous as we were and there was never a shortage of underage kids using fake ID’s to buy booze from the liquor store about a block away. There was a lot of running around the hallways, shouting, laughing and acting like… well, teenagers on booze.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot about The Supremes.

There was a large lounge, or maybe a convention center turned into a showroom in the hotel. Coming back from one of our Saturday meetings, we saw a sign outside saying The Supremes were performing that night.

So a plan was set in motion…

Jean Terrell and Supremes on Tom Jones TV show 1970

Since we had to dress up for our pretend UN Convention, the guys had shirts, ties and jackets and the girls had dresses. We stayed in our “good clothes” instead of our “running around the halls clothes” and waited until the show had started. Then along with my two buddies and our girl friends we put on our best mature attitudes and walked around the velvet ropes and into the showroom.

The place was filled with a mature well-dressed audience that obviously didn’t need fake ID’s to enter. We probably got about halfway in and stopped because we couldn’t see any open tables or seats. The Supremes were on stage (sorry, I can’t remember the song) but that was also when we heard (fifty-fifty chance), “STOP!” I’ll go ahead and add “Where do you think you’re going?” only if you think it’ll enhance the story.

We were quickly escorted out by a few big guys in suits and left to our own devices for the rest of the night.

With no shortage of fake ID’s among high school students from all fifty states, the parties raged on in the hotel hallways for the rest of the night and into the early morning hours. As for The Supremes, our adventure became a good bragging right (“Yeah, we saw them!“).

And speaking of The Supremes and our adventures…

I remember seeing the three girls on stage wearing either white or cream-colored long gowns that sparkled under the spotlights. Mary Wilson would have been the only original member – but it still counts!

We left Sunday morning for the long bus ride back to Ohio. I remember it being a fairly quiet trip for the B-Team as we caught up on our sleep, while the well-rested A-Team probably talked about the educational benefits gained from our extracurricular activity. I also left with knowledge of how the UN works and the importance of countries working together to make the world a better place.

But the main lesson I learned was that teenagers from all fifty U.S. states are not that much different – as long as fake ID’s are involved.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a video from 1965 of The Supremes performing Stop! In The Name Of Love

 

 

To purchase The Supremes: The Definitive Collection with Stop In The Name Of Love 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