Sunday, June 5, 2011

Midnight Confessions

American Response: Part 5

The Grass Roots were a band project created by songwriter/producer duo P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who wanted to cash in on the up-and-coming folk rock movement of the time. After going through a couple of groups with the incorporated Grass Roots name, the third and most successful lineup was found in a band that already existed in L.A., who then took on their new role as The Grass Roots in 1967. With Rob Grill as the lead singer/bassist, this lineup went on to have 21 singles to hit the charts (a feat beat by only 9 other bands in the entire history of rock n' roll), and they actually hold the all-time attendance record for a one act U.S. concert of 600,000 people on July 4th, 1982 in Washington, DC. Blending the British beat sound with soul music, rhythm and blues, and folk rock, the group released several hits like "Midnight Confessions" in 1968. As this tune was the first of theirs to use a horn section, the group was concerned that their fans would not like the "departure" from their previous sound, however, it became their biggest hit, reaching #5 that summer. I think I may have a crush on these guys...

Led by guitarist Tom King, The Outsiders (originally named The Starfires) had a built-in advantage over the many American bands that formed in the wake of the British Invasion. Since 1958, they had already been an active rhythm and blues band in the Cleveland, Ohio music scene, sometimes playing six shows a week. With lead singer Sonny Geraci's solid voice and the band's soulful sound accompanied by a screaming brass section, The Outsiders' released "Time Won't Let Me" in early 1966, which peaked at #5 and remained on the charts for 15 weeks. Although the group had three other hits singles that same year and released four albums in the mid-1960s, they are falsely remembered as a one-hit wonder since this song remains prominent on 'oldies' radio playlists. Is it just me or does this lead singer look an awful lot like Chachi from the TV show Happy Days?

With singer and keyboardist Domingo "Sam" Samudio, known for wearing a robe and turban (and for hauling his equipment in a 1952 Packard hearse with velvet curtains), the novelty rock group Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs were formed in 1963 in Memphis, Tennessee. Written by Sam and released in 1965, "Wooly Bully" was the band's first and biggest hit, becoming a worldwide sensation and reaching #2 on the U.S. charts. Influenced by the British rock sound mixed with traditional Mexican-American conjunto rhythms, this was actually the first American record to sell a million copies during the British Invasion. It was also nominated for a Grammy and was named Billboard's "Number One Song of the Year" even though it didn't reach #1. Because the lyrics were hard to understand, some radio stations actually banned this song. By the way, the lyrics, "Let's not be L-7s," means "Let's not be squares," referring to the shape formed by the fingers making an L on one hand and a 7 on the other. Too funny!

In 1965, The Doors formed in Los Angeles, California, after a chance-meeting between fellow UCLA film school alumni, vocalist Jim Morrison and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who decided to form a band. Completely the lineup with drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger, this group became one of the most controversial acts of the 1960s, mainly due to Morrison's crazy, poetic lyrics and his unpredictable yet charismatic stage presence. Even after Morrison's death in 1971 with the group eventually disbanding in '73, their popularity continues with over 90 million albums sold worldwide. After mainly recording blues rock, psychedelic rock, and hard rock, their sound shifted with the release of the symphonic rock song "Touch Me" in December of 1968, reaching #3 on the U.S. charts. Written by guitarist Krieger (who you'll notice has a black eye in this video, thanks for Morrison), this song was originally (and ironically) titled "Hit Me," but Morrison changed the lyrics in concern for the rowdy crowds at their concerts. This performance comes from one of their most famous TV appearances on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour where Morrison actually missed his cue for the lines "C'mon, c'mon" (at 1:09). Back by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra (bandleader for Frank Sinatra and many famous vocalists), this song is a blast. And I think I'd like to have a shiny belt like Jim Morrison.

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