Rise by Herb Alpert (A&M, 1979)

After being one of the biggest artists of the 1960s, Herb Alpert didn’t have a song of his hit the Top 40 until the last 4 months of the decade. It rose all the way to #1, making Herb the first artist to have a #1 song as a vocalist and a #1 song as an instrumental. In fact I’m not sure anyone else has even duplicated this feat or ever will.

The story of Rise starts in early 1979 when the 3M company gave A&M records a brand new 32-track digital recorder to experiment with. Herb decided to try out this top-of-the-line equipment pby recording some new material. Someone suggested to disco versions of his old catalog, like The Lonely Bull, but that sounded pretty cheesy to Herb. That’s when he got a call from his cousin, the aptly named Randy Badazz. Aptly named, because he handed the man that once outsold the Beatles during the 60s, a funky tune written with his buddy, Andy Armer, that would extend Herb’s fortunes through the next 20 years.

Herb dug Rise, bu thought it might be a little too fast for his crowd. So he slowed the tempo from the coke-fueled 120 BPM down to the Arthur-Murray-dance-lessons speed of 100 BPM. But the switch worked and it created a nice steady groove for Herb to blow his Spanish horn to. You could couples dance to it. You could pump up the bass in your low-rider to it. Or you could wind down a romantic evening to it. It went #1 on the Pop & Adult Contemporary charts and Top 10 on the Disco & R&B charts. A nice little crossover. But as good as the tune was, it needed a little help to get there. And it got some in the creepiest way possible.

Anthony Geary was an actor who got his big break on the soap opera, General Hospital, in 1978. His character, Luke Spencer, was a college student running the Campus Disco, when he first met, Laura Webber. His character was brought in to help break-up Laura’s marriage and add some youth to the show. His character would fall in love with her and slowly torture her at the same time, once almost causing her to die in a car accident. But his big scene was around the corner. He was about to confess his love to Laura by raping her. Yes, you read that right.

The writers on the show planned a big rape scene. I’m not playing this up – that’s what they called it. In fact it was gonna be pretty brutal until they toned it down (whatever that means). Geary suggested to the music director of the show that play this new song by Herb Alpert called Rise during the scene. It worked, at least from their end. The rape was big news and everyone wanted to know what song Laura was raped to. Again I’m not making this up. And whenever Laura replayed the rape in her mind, there was Herb’s trumpet – da da da da daaaaaaaaa da da da-dee daaaaaaa.

Flash over to Herb’s office in the late Summer of 1979. Someone tells him, ‘Man your song is really moving up the charts. People are diggin’ it.’ Here’s Mr Whipped Cream & other Delights, Mr. This Guy’s In Love With You, finally climbing back with a hit on his hands, due to its popularity during a fictional rape scene. General Hospital didn’t back down for a long time either. They played it up as much as they could. And when the Luke & Laura characters became so popular, they tried to turn the rape into a seductive moment. Nice try, sickos. You had a rape victim fall in love with her raper using Herb’s song as a backdrop for hundreds of thousands of impressionable young girls or whoever watches that crap. And they had to know this was wrong, cause they had the actors go to counseling sessions before they filmed the scene. Guess that sensitivity didn’t extend to their audience.

Maybe the song would have been popular on its own. Maybe not. Most people probably thought Herb Alpert was a square in 1979. Didn’t hurt that his song was played daily for weeks on a popular soap opera, this before MTV. But man, how icky!

If Herb was uncomfortable being associated with that, imagine how he felt being linked to Notorious BIG’s hit Hypnotize which Puff Daddy sampled, days after he was shot and killed in a drive-by. Now he was making money on a dead guy’s song.

I think about my life in a new house in a new neighborhood in a new school, trying to make new friends. Rise brings back Fall colors and slowly disappearing warm breezes. A quiet and questioning young boy adjusting to his surroundings in 3rd grade, creating a soundtrack of his own.

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3 Comments

  1. Another superb post. I remember as an Australian listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem in late ’79; hearing this song make its climb to the top; and thinking ‘wow this is way too sophisticated for the Australian charts. I think it barely cracked the top 50 here.

    Reply
  2. The comment above is interesting, because “sophistication” is a term that isn’t often used when it comes to American hit records.

    Reply
  3. I was a trumpet player in band when this came out, and I just loved the whole album. But then again, trumpet players like other trumpet players, not just Herb, but Chuck Mangione and Al Hirt.

    I had no idea that it had been used in a soap opera.

    Reply

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