The Reflections’ Blue-Eyed Soul

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There are multiple musical groups that write and perform under the name, “The Reflections,” but there is only one of those groups with Detroit roots and a catchy hit from 1964 that remains the group’s signature number when they perform to this day.  “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” was penned by songwriters Bob Hamilton and Freddie Gorman (who wrote another classic Motown song performed by The Marvelettes, “Please Mr. Postman”) and when sung by the five members of The Reflections, injected a heavy dose of upbeat, harmonious top-and-bottom Doo-Wop into listeners which resonated and drove the song to classic status.  The Reflections were among several “Blue-Eyed Soul” R&B groups signed to the Detroit label Golden World Records in the early to mid 1960s, but only The Reflections achieved the #6 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with one of their singles.  Lead singer and original member of The Reflections Tony Micale and Detroit-born bassist John Dean still tour as The Reflections to this day and frequently visit the city they achieved their stardom in, playing at several shows and festivals throughout Michigan and keeping the spirit of  oldies and R&B  available to all generations of music fans.  Terry Stewart, President of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, summed up the impact of The Reflections and their staying power very well when he said, “These guys could sing the phone book and still bring the house down”.

 

Please enjoy the classic “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” by The Reflections below.


The Woolies Hit With A Bo Diddley Classic

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In 1967, East Lansing natives The Woolies recorded a cover of the classic Bo Diddley tune, “Who Do You Love?”  This would prove to be the group’s biggest hit, and with many covers of “Who Do You Love?” out there by bands like George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Woolies’ version still comes out on top.  Formed as a band in Dearborn in 1964, vocalist Stormy Rice, keyboardist “Boogie” Bob Baldori, guitarist Jeff Baldori, bassist Ron English, and drummer Bill “Bee” Metros got their first taste of success before “Who Do You Love?” winning a Vox-sponsored “Best Band In The Land” contest which won them a set of speakers, as well as a trip to Los Angeles and a recording contract.  It was Lou Adler of Dunhill Records in LA who first ushered The Woolies into the recording studio after hearing their demos to create their first record, “Who Do You Love?,” split with an original song by the group, “Hey Girl.”  Soon after recording in Los Angeles, The Woolies were on their way back to Michigan at Russ Gibb’s request to open The Grande Ballroom on October 6, 1966 along with the MC5.  The fast-paced punchy rhythm of “Who Do You Love?” caught the attention of radio DJs and promoters upon its release, and remains their biggest success as a band.

 

Enjoy The Woolies’ classic, energetic cover of “Who Do You Love?” below!


The Heavy Metal Horror Show : Halloween

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When the Motor City Metal record label released Don’t Metal With Evil by Detroit band Halloween in 1985, the glam and hair metal genres were just on the verge of exploding larger than too much hairspray near an open flame.  Halloween had every quintessential element to make you love their 80s metal schtick…they had the cheap horror-show theatrics, falsetto-howling vocals, and the raw, don’t-give-a-shit attitude about their whole presentation which metal thrives on at its core.  The video for the week says it all — “What A Nice Place” is the 7th track from the album Don’t Metal With Evil, and once you get past the cheese-tastic D-list horror movie credits (there is definitely some intrigue when a music video thanks Elmwood Cemetary in the opener), you get to reapers, pyrotechnics, and Bill Whyte using a couple of femurs(?) as drumsticks. When you get down to the actual music, Brian Thomas, Rick Craig, George Neal, and Bill Whyte know how to mix speed riffs and punch-in-the-face bass drumming to create really authentic metal, even if some of their imagery would lead you to believe they are mostly appearance and not much substance. The fact is, Halloween never broke through into the mainstream as the story goes with many Detroit bands, but they are still together and now 3 decades later recording their latest album without ever being signed to a major label…and that’s fucking metal.

Enjoy Halloween’s magnum music video opus for “What A Nice Place” below.


Juan Atkins/Model 500 “No UFOs,” Original Detroit Techno

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To say that Juan Atkins is an innovator in electronic music is like saying Beethoven wrote epic symphonies — it’s a hackneyed statement that becomes clearly obvious once you listen. Juan Atkins was the pioneer in an influential group of like-minded musicians (including also Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May) who dealt with the surrounding artifacts of industrial culture in their neighborhood of Detroit by embracing the influence and spearheading the urban techno movement. Atkins had learned to play bass, drums, and guitar when he was young, but after hearing electronic music for the first time around the age of sixteen, the alien sounds of the synthesizers had worked their mystique on Atkins and he dedicated himself to it from then on. In the early 1980s, Juan Atkins collaborated with Rik Davis on Cybotron, releasing the groundbreaking single “Techno City” in 1984. Creative direction drove a wedge between the two, and Atkins developed the Model 500 alias on his own and founded the Metroplex techno label in 1985. “No UFOs” was the first single released by Juan Atkins under the Model 500 name and on the Metroplex label. The song proved to be a smash around the Detroit area and Chicago as well, inciting Atkins to produce a string of monumentally influential techno tracks which earned Atkins the title “Godfather of Techno.”

Listen to “No UFOs” below and check out a video interview at the Submerge Techno Museum from 2012 where Atkins discusses the roots of his music.


Edwin Starr’s “War” Tops The 1970 Billboard Chart

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The song “War” has been through quite a battle itself — after the original Motown recording of the song by The Temptations was deemed too controversial for the group to release as a single (even after fans were writing to Motown asking for that very thing), the song was re-recorded at Hitsville USA Studio A by Edwin Starr. Starr was born in Nashville and moved to Detroit in the 1960s where he was recording at Ric-Tic Records, a label that was eventually bought out by Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown in 1968 and absorbed Starr as a result. Starr volunteered to re-record The Temptations’ song, and the outcome was a version which, unlike The Temptations’ original, was backed by a soulful, affecting power that resonated with listeners. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown in 1969 as a straight-forward protest song against United States involvement in the war taking place in Vietnam. For as weary as the label was about how the song would mar the image of The Temptations, Edwin Starr reached the peak of his Motown career with the single. On August 29, 1970, “War” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for three weeks.

Watch a video of Edwin Starr belting out his biggest hit, and the number one protest song to ever hit the charts below.


Martha and the Vandellas – Dancing In The Street First Charts Today In 1964

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Martha Reeves wore duel hats when she started at Motown records, being their secretary and also recording demos with other artists on the label. When she and her two friends Rosalind Ashford and Annette Sterling were asked to sing back-up on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow’ in 1961, the trio sang with such verve and conviction that some joked they were ‘vandalizing’ Gaye’s sound. Very shortly after, Martha & the Vandellas were formally signed as their own group to Motown and began their recording career. Dancing In The Street was written by Marvin Gaye & William Stevenson and originally conceived for Stevenson’s soon-to-be wife and fellow Motown member Kim Weston. Weston turned the song down, and when Reeves was summoned to record a demo, Stevenson is quoted as saying that “When Martha got into the song…that was the end of the conversation!” The song was released in July of 1964 (with Betty Kelly taking over vocals for Annette Sterling) and first charted on August 22, 1964. The song was written by Gaye & Stevenson as they observed Detroit on the hot days of summer when the fire hydrants would be spraying water into the street with people gathering and lining up to “dance through them.”

Please enjoy this performance by Martha & the Vandellas on the UK show ‘Ready Steady Go!’ and feel encouraged to get up and groove to this summertime Motown classic!


The Gories on “BandIn” Detroit

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For our second edition of Throwback Thursday, we are focusing on not just a track, but an entire performance from the too often under-appreciated garage rock goodness of The Gories. Mick Collins, Peg O’Neill and Dan Kroha formed The Gories in 1986, their formula being raw and minimal, rejecting the overwrought pop & rock that was being concocted so much in the 80s. Dan Kroha is quoted in Savage magazine as saying, “. . . no one was playing music the way we wanted to hear it. We wanted really fucking primitive stuff. Bands would call themselves primitive, but we wanted to show ’em what that word really means. Also we wanted to really show ’em what rhythm and blues means. No one was doing it the way we wanted to hear it, so we decided that we just had to do it ourselves.” The Gories went on the late-night local Detroit cable TV series “BandIn” for the show’s fourth installment, and filmed the entire session below in the same studio that their first LP, Houserockin’, was recorded in. According to Kroha, the actual recording studio at Wanghead Records was covered wall-to-wall in carpet that resulted in a dead and muddled sound, so the band asked if their equipment could instead be set up in the metal-walled machine shop that was next door, ultimately providing a large benefit for the bands signature sound.

Please enjoy this performance by The Gories on Detroit’s “BandIn” from 1989.


Question Mark and The Mysterians “96 Tears”

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? and the Mysterians had their first great success as a band when their song, “96 Tears,” was recorded in March of 1966 at Art Schiell’s recording studio in Bay City, located in the back of his house.  “96 Tears” was recorded on the back porch of Shiell’s studio and became the first mainstream hit for a Latino rock band in the United States, selling over a million copies upon its national release, certifying it gold.  The song was first written as a poem back in 1962 by  front man Rudy “Question Mark” Martinez, titled “Too Many Teardrops.”  Rudy Martinez hailed from Flint, while the rest of the Mysterians originally hailed from Saginaw.  Upon first organizing the band, Rudy’s brother Robert Martinez was the original drummer, and was replaced by Eddie Serrato when Robert was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces.  The lineup that you hear on “96 Tears” also includes Frank Rodriguez laying down the signature Vox organ riffs, who was only 14 years old at the time “96 Tears” was recorded.

Enjoy the rare clip below from Detroit’s “Swingin’ Time” back in 1966.