Black Betty by Ram Jam (Epic, 1977)

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Imagine you had an older brother and/or sister growing up in the early 70s or maybe you truly did. It’s 1973 and you’re 12-year-old self is riding around with them in their shiny black Firebird with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of The Holy 8 track in the dash, the V8 motor struggling to overcome Jimmy Page’s guitar crunches during The Ocean. You sit back and think, ‘man when I can drive, I’m gonna burn rubber and crank some tunes’.

Flash forward to 1977. You got a brand spanking new driver’s license, your parent’s beat-up Dodge Dart and an empty 8-track player just waiting to be abused. You drive to your local mall, run into Record World and look for the hottest band with the hottest song. As you walk through the parking lot unwrapping your latest purchase, you push that clunky piece of plastic into the player, start the engine and take off down the street to the clanging of a gong a four on the floor bass drum, screeching guitar chords and “whoah-oh black betty, bam-a-lam, whoah-oh, black betty, bam-a-lam…”. Not exactly Dancing Days, but hey you can call Ram Jam you’re very own. Who’s Ram Jam, you ask? Exactly my point. I’m not even sure if Ram Jam knows who Ram Jam is, what a Black Betty is or why I need to even write about them in the first place, but I will.

Ram Jam was a band formed out of necessity rather than a struggling band trying to make it. Guitarist Bill Bartlett, who egged us on to watch him play his Green Tambourine in 1968 as a member of the Lemon Pipers, had formed a new band with 2 other former band members called Starstruck, not be confused with Starbuck. Between personnel changes and a lack of momentum to get a recording contract, Bill decided to play around with the Leadbelly song, Black Betty. He thought a one-minute long would be a good remake especially if you added some hard rock guitars to a disco drum beat. Not thinking much more about it, he recorded it with his band mates and released it locally. It was actually a nice regional hit around Ohio and Jim was pleased.

That’s when Jerry Kasenetz & Jeff Katz, pop producers who were considered the purveyors of the Bubblegum sound of the late 60s, picked up on it. They invited Jim to New York, tweaked it a bit and re-released it nationally on the Epic Records label. Not only did it become a surprise Top 20 hit in the US, peaking at #18 on Labor Day weekend 1977, it was a bigger hit in England and Australia where it climbed into the Top 10. So the guts in Starstruck should have been ecstatic, right? Only if we’re not talking about the record industry, who decided the Ram Jam should be Bill Bartlett and a stable of New York musicians. I call it the Alan Dennison effect.

Maybe they thought the playing on the track was sub par. They may have a point as the recording is stiffer than a starched Arrow shirt at the North Pole. Listen to that drum solo. This guy makes Carmine Appice come off like Steve Gadd. He can barely keep up with everyone. And the 45 edit doesn’t do him any favors, since they cut out the little honkytonk jam section and left in the licks that wouldn’t cut it in an 8th-grade battle of the bands. But I digress….

The song, while definitely inane, probably benefited from the controversy of the lyrics, which were openly boycotted by the NAACP, even though they were written more than 40 years earlier. This song was originally made popular in the 30’s being sung by convicts in State prison farms. It may have been lost altogether had not John & Alan Lomax recorded a version in the field a prison in Sugar Land, Texas. Leadbelly recorded his version in 1939 and was credited from there on and out as the songwriter. Many have debated what or who Black Betty was: a musket, whiskey, a slave whip or even a motorcycle. When sung by Ram Jam, it could’ve been anything from a prostitute to heroin. Nowadays it’s just used to artificially pump up the crowd at sporting events. Except for that one dude way down in Alabam’, windows down, Dodge Dart kickin’ out gravel down a dusty country road til it can’t bam-a-lam no more.

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Back Stabbers by the O’Jays (Philadelphia International, 1972)

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I will never understand the last meal request for death row inmates. Seriously, does it matter what you’re gonna eat before you die? Food is one of the few things you get to have as a prisoner. After eating tasteless mush for 10 years, you could throw a guy a stale cracker and, in the words of Eddie Murphy, he’d ask, ” Is that a Ritz?” If you’re doing it to be humane, surely there are other things that an inmate could experience one last time: a good book, a piece of art, a moving photograph, even a round of video games. For me, if I am ever on death row (for a crime I was obviously framed for), I would have one request – a pair of headphones, a record player and the 45 of the O’Jays’ Back Stabbers.

Back Stabbers is the crowning achievement by Gamble & Huff, who as a team with Thom Bell created such a distinctive style of music, they had to create a new genre for it – Philadelphia Soul. From the opening Ellery Queen piano roll to build of the strings and horn hits – Da-da-da. Da-da. Da. – you are placed into a world of deception and paranoia, one where your neighbor might be the one with a long blade clenched tight in his fist, not unlike the world in 1972 where the Watergate scandal was beginning to brew. The music is at once hip and dangerous. You can imagine John Shaft strutting down the street on his way to a capture a bad dude just as you can imagine the criminal getting down to the same beat.

If there is a note out of place, I can’t hear it. They may buried it so far into the mix, it can’t be heard. But considering the audiophile quality of the recording, I highly doubt it. The vocal sparring between Eddie Levert & William Powell is a double blast killshot, like two excited witnesses of a happening trying to outdo each other retelling what they saw. (The third O’Jay, Walter Williams, must have been out brokering deals with the Minute Maid Company.) There’s no way a single like this could be topped.

Yet, their follow-up, Love Train, did just that, hitting #1 in early 1973. How do you go from ‘ a few of your buddies, they sure look shady’ to ‘people all over the world join hands’? Lyrically that was the difference between Gamble & Huff (McFadden & Whitehead co-wrote Back Stabbers, but hell, they also wrote Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now). They took completely different personal and political world views and wrapped them in this beautiful candy shell. They were Philly Soul’s Willy Wonkas.

Me And Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul (Philadelphia International, 1972)

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I love soul music. But Philadelphia soul music transcends love and puts somewhere in the heavens when I hear it. The Spinners, The O’Jays, The Stylistics, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, The Delfonics… – Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell knew how to take vocal groups left on the industry scrap heap, play to their vocal strengths and give them tight classy instrumental arrangement to sing over. The early 70s is filled with one classic after another. Unfortunately paranoia and greed killed their momentum when in 1976, the MFSB house band went on strike and signed with Salsoul. PIR carried on, even had some more hits, but it was never the same again. That’s the story of Billy Paul’s career in a nutshell.

Billy Paul was born Paul Wiliams and had been recording since the late 50s, with hardly any commercial success. His first LP release for Gamble & Huff came in 1968 with a live recording called Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club on their Gamble label. Two years later, he’d release Ebony Woman on their Neptune label and followed it with Going East in 1971 on the newly formed Philadelphia International label. They let Billy record standards and soulful covers of popular tunes of the day like Mrs. Robinson and Magic Carpet Ride. But it felt like one misfire after another for poor ol’ Billy. No one knew what to do with that low raspy voice.

Then one day Kenny & Leon were inspired to write a story about a guy who came into a nearby cafe every day and met a girl. They’d play sit, talk, play music on the jukebox. And that was enough for their imaginations to go wild and create the scenario in Me And Mrs Jones. They let Billy hear the demo they recorded and while he was away, he got into character, imagining himself as the lead and belting out of the most passionate and soul wrenching vocals in PIR history. Gamble & Huff would try to use Billy a mouthpiece for more Afro-centric, political songs and would up killing his career in the process.

But as far as ‘cheating’ songs go, this one is the tops. You can stack it up with any old blues or country standard – Billy’s is the best. Shame that it’s become a lost genre. Outside of some misogynistic rap songs, cheating songs died out in the late 70s, about the same time as the Women’s lib movement coalesced. Coincidence? Hey, it takes two to tango.

When this song comes on, it’s like someone has just slipped me into a warm bath. From start to finish it’s one long velvet groove, even when the horns and string hit their climactic strikes just before the chorus when Billy smoothly screams “Me-iyee-iyee Ahh-uhannnd Mrs….Mrs Jo-oh-ohhhnes”. Poor dude. He’s either beggin for some more and missing that it’s gone. This song made a big impression on me as a kid and does til this day. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its faults.

For example, this is supposed to be an illicit passionate affair that are so attracted to each other but have significant others. So they’re torn apart, confused, yearning, heart-broken, whatever. But the lyrics tell a different story.

Me and Mrs Jones, we got a thing going on
We both know that it’s wrong
But it’s much too strong to let it cool down now

So Billy is telling us that he’s cheating, but since there’s feeling involved, there can’t be a clean break right now. Let’s assume for argument’s sake he’s speaking to us or to a therapist, but probably not his wife.

We meet every day at the same cafe
Six-thirty I know she’ll be there

OK, Billy. It feels like you want to get caught. You meet every day? That’s not gonna cause suspicion? And at 6:30? That’s dinnertime. Unless you’re talking about AM and in that case, who cheats at dawn? Hit the snooze, buddy.

Holding hands, making all kinds of plans
While the jukebox plays our favorite song

Holding hands? Making plans? Unless the plans include 15 minutes alone in the cafe bathroom, this feels like two six-year-old kids on the playground pretending to be adults. Which would then make their favorite song Playground In My Mind.

We gotta be extra careful
That we don’t build our hopes too high
Cause she’s got her own obligations and so do I

Now for the first time it just hit me. What is she telling her man every night? I’m going grocery shopping, be back in 3 hours? None of this is making sense, unless these two are having their own secret affair or they’re just plain dumb.

Well, it’s time for us to be leaving
It hurts so much, it hurts so much inside
Now she’ll go her way and I’ll go mine
Tomorrow we’ll meet the same place, the same time

For more coffee and hand holding…I understand Gamble & Huff wanted to do this classy. But if anyone besides Billy sings this song, they’s be bored to tears. Teddy Pendergrass would just scare you if he sang it. Why do I feel like Billy’s really not cheating with anyone. Maybe he’s just getting together with the guys for a Fantasy Football draft or whatever the equivalent to that would be in 1972.

Fun facts: Billboard, the jokesters that they are, reported that Me & Mrs Jones replaced none other than Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman at #1 in December of 1972. Billy had his only big hit at the ripe old age of 38. Then yuks-a-plenty when in January of 1973, Me & Mrs. Jones was replaced at the top by Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

Rock And Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers (Haven, 1974)

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As the 70s decade dawned, the Righteous Brothers had broken up and gone their separate ways in pursuit of more successful solo years. Even though Bobby Hatfield & Bill Medley were accomplished singers, that never happened. The duo decided to get back together at the end of 1973 and by the Spring of 1974 they had surprised everyone with their first Top 40 hit in 8 years, a #3 hit, Rock And Roll Heaven. The song, with its soulful pop melodrama and grandiose intro seemed custom fit for the two. But in fact it was written and recorded 2 years previous by the group Climax, who had a hit with Precious & Few. <

Folks have often wondered why the writers chose the musician they did. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison & Otis Redding were legends and were representatives of the 60’s counterculture (well maybe not Otis as much, but he definitely influenced man). Jim Croce had died suddenly almost a year after making the charts. His full impact was yet to be felt, but moreover, he was a folk singer/songwriter. It’s actually silly to think of him & Hendrix in the same breath, no disrespect to Jim – didn’t mean to tug on Superman’s cape. Bobby Darin had belonged to a different generation, having the bulk of his hits in the pre-Beatles era. And even though he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (jeez, so is ABBA) not many people siting him as an influence. Michael Bolton didn’t even attempt to rip him him off. So why didn’t they include Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Eddie Cochran or Duane Allman for that matter.

Supposedly they did. Alan O’Day, who co-wrote the song, gave it to producers, Brian Potter & Dennis Lambert who rewrote a few of the lyrics to add Jim Croce & Booby Darin who had both passed away at the end of 1973. So think about this: 5 of the folks knew each other or of each other and their music. But only Bobby Darin was alive when Jim Croce went from unknown trucker to pop songsmith. If Croce approached those others at a jam session, they would tell him to take a hike, probably Darin too. They didn’t wanna hang around with any squares. Of course if you believe that heaven is an all-inclusive place, then they would all be singing American Pie together. That means that Roy Orbison and 2Pac are kickin it, and that Elvis and Kurt Cobain crooning duets on a cloud. It also means that one day Lady Gaga, any one of the Backstreet Boys, Frank Sinatra and Falco will start an accapella group together. And everyone will love it. Maybe even someone will write a song about it.

This week Alan left his ‘one night stand’ and got to join a helluva band…and hopefully rewrote the lyrics.

Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton (RSO, 1978)

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It’s tough to figure the moment when I became officially into music as a kid, Top 40 specifically. There was always music playing in my house, in the car, at my school, in department stores and supermarkets, doctors offices, and from kids playing their radios outside. But the Spring of 1978 sticks out in my head for some reason. Whenever I heard Feels So Good or Baby Come Back, I get sucked into a wormhole of time travel and placed in my backyard between our red barnyard-like shed and a yellow blooming forsythia.

Looking back through my parents stack of 45s, a good deal of them came from this time period. I can remember my parents coming back from shopping and having a stack that they immediately cued up on the stereo: Natalie Cole’s Our Love and Samantha Sang’s Emotion led the mix. I get the feeling that things were rocky between my folks and that my dad thought a trip to Record World might help my mom forget whatever dumb shit he did. The power of music is such that it sometimes did.

One 45 I remember making that trip back home was Eric Clapton’s Lay Down Sally and I have no idea why. We didn’t really listen to Clapton’s music, but then again this song really didn’t represent what Clapton had been about. I knew my dad was a closet country fan and loved to fiddle around on his acoustic guitar, but this was still a weird choice for guy who hardly bought any music.

Regardless, this track took Eric back into the Top 5, 4 years after his breakthrough smash, I Shot The Sheriff and was another hit for the when you’re hot you hot RSO label, while also crossing over to the Country charts. But if Eric had kicked his heroin habit by the time he recorded this, you’d never know it from his performance. He sings like he’s a mile away from the mic and then suddenly gets closer and falls. I wouldn’t rank his guitar playing or solos on this high either, even if he was. It almost feels like he stops and looks around to see where he is or that he isn’t sure whether to even do a solo. Slowhand was definitely the right name for this LP.

I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s a weird entry in a catalogue that’s full of so many passionate soul and blues influenced rock songs. Of course this is the guy who would also turn Layla into the aural version of Sominex in 1992. Adding to the strangeness is the song itself. For starters, the title Lay Down Sally doesn’t sound very romantic or grammatically correct. And when Marcy Levy, who is a background singer and should be in the background, loudly comes in on the ‘dontcha ever leave’ part and takes over the chorus, it makes you feel like Sally might be in more trouble than she realizes, like a menage about to go horribly wrong, especially since there might be an unwilling participant. Marcy, take your hand off the door lock. Why can’t she just sit down if you just want to talk to her? Why does she have to ‘lay [lie] down’? There’s no difference from a ‘what’s your sign’ come on at a disco to this song. It makes Eric come off like some sleazy lounge lizard with a faux-Southern drawl who’s more likely to pass out if and when Sally does eventually lie down.

Saturday Night by Bay City Rollers (Arista, 1976)

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In the late 70s, Saturday night was acquiring a huge reputation for itself. It spawned two variety shows in 1975 – Saturday Night Live and Saturday Night Live with Howard CosellSaturday Night Fever – a little indie movie that took over 1978 with one of the biggest soundtracks of all time and of course the pop song, Saturday Night from the Scottish band, The Bay City Rollers, which hit #1 in early 1976. [The group actually performed Saturday Night on Saturday Night Live on a Saturday night.]

My 70s Saturday nights were a constant struggle to see how much TV I could watch and for how long, especially as I got older. I knew I didn’t have much leeway with the parents. But if they decided to go out dancing, meet friends, attend key parties, whatever, I knew I could work our babysitter, Loretta, over for a few extra hours. I loved those Saturdays when I knew my folks were going out. That meant I could pick out any TV dinner I wanted when we went shopping at Pathmark. Jolly Rogers made my favorite ones with the most variety and the best dessert. Man, I’d be thinking about that all day. Oh the power of the aluminum-flavered Salisbury steak and apple cobbler. What I should have focused on was figuring out how to watch Saturday Night Live. I knew I could push through the Love Boat, but I just could never make it past the Fantasy Island opening credits. And if Loretta’s boyfriend snuck over, I might not even glimpse Julie’s mug through the porthole. But I digress….

Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers actually written, recorded and released in the UK in 1973 and bombed. The Rollers replaced their lead singer with Les McKeown and within a few months, Rollermania took over. They had 6 straight Top hits, 2 of them hitting #1 before making their debut in the US with Saturday Night. Ironically it never charted in England, while becoming their biggest hit here. Do we dig the weekend more than the Brits? Are we a sucker for chants or any song that requires spelling?

The Rollers got huge and folks wore tartan knickers in their honor. Thankfully that didn’t last long and soon they imploded, although they kept releasing albums into the early 80s and even hosted a Saturday morning show in 1978 called The Krofft Superstar Hour, 2 years too late. I still watched it like anyone who comes upon a car accident. But by then it was over and Rod Stewart kindly asked for his Scottish plaid back, so he could ask folks if they though he was sexy….

(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Someone Done Somebody Wrong Song by B.J. Thomas (ABC, 1975)

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The born-again Christian phenomena, although it still exists today, was a uniquely 70s experience. A generation that took every drug imaginable combined with search for self-fulfillment went completely out of control as the decade wore on and needed something or someone to help them get their shit straight. Why not bow down, admit you’re lowly and give in to a higher power? You could call yourself a ‘born again’ and start a new life with a new family and pretend that you weren’t snorting lines off of a teenage prostitute’s ass at behind a truck stop in Des Moines just a few months earlier. Plus you could help all of those other wayward sinners without the realization that you were a hypocrite, mostly because you turned off 99% of your brain.

B.J. Thomas was a popular singer who would pop out a Top 10 hit every few years since his cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry back in 1966. And once he had his first #1, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, he added some wealth to his fame. But by the time ‘Wrong Song‘ hit #1 in late April 1975, he was on the verge of going broke.

You see Billy Joe was pushing those royalty checks up his nose and into his veins and chasing the dragon. In fact by making ‘Wrong Song‘ a Gold-certified 45, we probably kept that junkie life going for him a little longer. But broke and busted B.J. did what many out of control hedonists did and gave himself up to Jesus and the Myrrh record label. That is usually the kiss of death for an artist, but sometimes it does allow you cross over to the more forgiving Country chart, which he did in the late 70s/early 80s. Luckily for him, he planted the seeds to that new career here with this song.

The ‘Wrong Song’ was the song with the longest official title to ever hit #1 and it eventually sailed to top in Nashville as well. With its soft shuffle and perfectly in its place steel guitar solo, lots of folks dropped a dime in the jukebox to hear it and proceeded to stare into their mug of Schaefer. Or sashay onto the floor with a stranger to ease the pain of missing their baby. (In a perfect world, Please Mr. Please would have been on the B-side) Good to know that a percentage of that dough went to B.J. hanging out with Captain Jack.

I like to break this out at a karaoke bar after a bunch of drunk girls get finished slurring and screaming Love Shack. It doesn’t just bring the mood down. It usually gets those girls to leave, so they can get home safely. When I sing it, my mind wanders back to the 2nd floor of the J.C. Penney’s in Bay Shore, standing in line at the customer service department with my Grandma, restless and fidgety, until the opening guitar strum and Billy Joe soothingly lets us know it’s lonely out tonight…..

Nice To Be With You by Gallery (Sussex, 1972)

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In 1972, during a stagnated economy, America had to choose what was more valuable – a Diamond or Gold? We all know diamonds are forever and are a girl’s best friend. We should remember (but never do) that diamonds aren’t a very rare mineral, but that they’re value only reflects a cornered market by DeBeers company (that and a few armless miners) But I digress….

When it comes to Neil Diamond & Jim Gold, leader of the pop band, Gallery, we can clearly see who the winner is. But in that fateful of 1972. Gold & Diamond duked it out for pop glory, both charting 3 Top 40 hits. While Neil had a number #1 that year with the sleepy Song Sung Blue, Jim and his band clearly had more energy and charisma starting with their Top 5 hit, Nice To Be With You. The track was produced by guitarist Dennis ‘Scorpio’ Coffey and fittingly the 45 went gold.

The reason I bring up the Diamond/Gold comparison is not just because Jim sounds uncannily like Neil. Listen to the song next it comes up on some 70s hits station and I’ll guarantee you, you’ll think it’s Neil before you realize it’s not. Also if you search online for Nice To Be With You, count how many links you get to Neil Diamond. The fact that he covers Sunday & Me on the Nice To Be With You LP really doesn’t help set himself apart either.

The song itself is very simple and catchy, the way a good pop song should be, hitting you right off the bat with the chorus, the way an old Motown song would. And who doesn’t dig the couplet ‘ I got the notion you’re causing commotion in my soul?’ Right on, Jim. And who wouldn’t think it’s nice to hear someone say that they’re gonna please you in every way? Check out how Jim digs this chic.

At night I call your name
Darkness fills my room.
I’m only dreamin’ about the time I’m gonna be with you

Sounds like Jim is having a party of one in his bedroom. Save yourself, Jim. She’s gonna please you in every way

Verse 2 is boring though. Lots of you’re there for me, I’m there for you, blah blah blah. Where did horny Jim and freakazoid girlfriend go? Must be out looking for Mr. Goodbar…

Everything Is Beautiful by Ray Stevens (1970, Barnaby)

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Whenever I hear this song, I have this fuzzy memory of singing it during a Church service with the pastor, a tall Paul Williams lookalike leading the way. They were Lutherans and it was the 70s, so why not invite some ‘rock’ into tho worship. Then again I’m wondering if I’m making it up. Maybe I did sing this in Sunday school. Or maybe I just think I did, because this song just lends itself to that vibe. Then again maybe it was sang through the decade by the idealists, who remembered that time when the song represented hope and a simple message of togetherness, knocking those cynical Canadians, The Guess Who out of the top sport with their caustic American Woman.

To me, it’s more of a testament to the people who bought into this song and the singer who released. For, the earnest Everything Is Beautiful was recorded by novelty singer, Ray Stevens. If you want me to put this in context on how this strange this is, imagine ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic singing Wind Beneath My Wings, from the movie, Beaches [that song really did need an accordion solo]. You wouldn’t get 15 seconds into it before you laughed it off. And it’s not as if Ray made a permanent change in type of tunes he started performing. He wrote and sang The Streak, just 4 years later and boogity-boogity’d his way to #1 again.

Now Ray is not a great singer, but a good one and he puts his all into Everything Is Beautiful. But how did the public take the guy, who recorded Gitarzan just the year before, seriously and not absolutely vomit and throw tomatoes when the record starts off with a children’s chorus of Jesus Loves the Little Children? Are you kidding me? Bravo folks. I don’t know how you kept a straight face. Ray even won a Grammy for Best Pop song, Male. I’m not dissing Ray, but in a year that saw great popular songs from Mark Lindsey (Arizona) and Edwin Starr (War) even Tom Jones (Without Love(There Is Nothing)), let alone John Lennon’s Instant Karma, how does Ray even stand a chance? Was Bobby Sherman too radical? Just more proof that the Grammys are a joke.

Although I will say for Ray, getting in some lyrics about loving the long hairs and people of color was a bold move, even in 1970. So the fact that this was universally accepted was a coup for him. I just wonder if the joke was on us. Not that last part, but the whole Hippie, everything’s great, love each other sentiment. I wonder if Ray thought to himself, I’m going to write the best novelty song of all by playing it so serious, no one knows I’m kidding. Kind of like a gospel Andy Kaufman, if you will. I’ll think about that the next time I hear this song get to its 3rd key change and Ray vamps on beau-ti-fu-ooo-ulll and wonder if he was snickering inside.

I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You by Alan Parsons Project (Arista, 1977)

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Alan Parsons had a well-known pedigree in the early 70s. He had worked at Abbey Road studios as an engineer working the Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road LPs. But it was his work with Pink Floyd, first on Atom Heart Mother in 1970 and then on Dark Side of The Moon in 1973, which raised his status as an engineer legend. He also received his first Grammy nomination for Best Engineered album. He would begin producing as well as engineering starting with the English band, Pilot which had a Top hit in 1975, Magic. Alan would engineer the first two Ambrosia LPs, getting 2 more Grammy nods. But all of this was a warm for a different ‘project’ he had in mind.

In 1976 took himself off the market and focused on the Alan Parsons Project, a group which would release 11 albums of prog-pop, each one a themed after a specific concept. [Alan did produce Al Stewart’s Year Of The Cat & Time Passages, but otherwise, it was all about APP]. His 2nd album, I Robot, was based on science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov’s first 2 books of his Robot series, The Caves of Steel and the Naked Sun, as well as his short stories, I, Robot, exploring a world that was slowly becoming more dependent on technology.

The first single was I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You which gave us the feelings from the robot’s point of view, comparing himself to the human, saying in effect, you may be better than me, you may be smarter than me, but I don’t want to be you. Every time I hear this track, I’m surprised it never rose higher than #36 on the charts. Backed by the members of Pilot, singer Lenny Zakatek, who would also sing of later APP hits gives a soulful reading over a dark, chunky disco beat. With its ominous Rhodes chords slinking in and then sliding the song out, you would never hear this in a disco, but you may hear in the background of a bar scene on Baretta. Then again it may make you wanna dance the robot.