Vintage Ads: Dusty Springfield, ‘Learn To Say Goodbye’ (1973)

Dusty Springfield, 'Learn To Say Goodbye' ('Cashbox' magazine, June 30, 1973). Click to enlarge.

Dusty Springfield, ‘Learn To Say Goodbye’ (‘Cashbox’ magazine, June 30, 1973). Click to enlarge.


“From the ABC Movie of the Week ‘Say Goodbye Maggie Cole’.”

Dusty Springfield’s “Learn to Say Goodbye” originally appeared in a 1972 ABC TV Movie of the Week and was re-recorded for Springfield’s 1973’s Cameo L.P. You can grab a listen below.

(Image source: Cashbox via American Radio History)

Dusty Springfield: ‘Learn To Say Goodbye,’ 1973

Previously on Vintage Ads: Talking Heads, ‘Take Me To The River’ (1979)

Disco Lab (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Babe Ruth – ‘The Mexican’ (1972)

Babe Ruth, 'The Mexican' - 'First Base' L.P., 1972

Babe Ruth, ‘The Mexican’ – ‘First Base’ L.P., 1972


Editor’s Note: This is our fourth, and final, Disco Lab entry spinning the Seventies tunes found in the Netflix series The Get Down. You can play the previous entry right here.

Disco Lab #29 (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Babe Ruth – ‘The Mexican’ (1972)
Today’s lesson: how a 1972 hard-rock song about the Alamo became a pivotal disco and hip hop tune, still referenced and sampled four decades later. (No, I’m not sure I understand it either, but here we go.)

Babe Ruth was a heavy-rock group from England, with the progressive-rock leanings you’d expect from the era. Roger Dean, famous for his Yes album sleeves, painted the cover for their first L.P., First Base, showing an outer-space baseball game. The record included a fascinating cover of the Zappa/Mothers tune “King Kong,” but the original compositions, including the band’s first single “Wells Fargo,” showed a fascination with the American Wild West and border skirmishes with Mexico. This was most evident on the track “The Mexican,” a dramatization of the 1836 Alamo conflict that saw Mexican troops successfully reclaiming a mission from American settlers (Texas was not yet a US state).

In Jenny Haan’s urgent, angry vocal, the lyrics sympathize with the Mexican soldiers, and the music is very Spanish-influenced as well: keyboard and guitar lock step to perform the song’s signature flamenco riff. Underpinning all this is a Latin-flavored rhythm track with some of the funkiest bass and drums ever heard outside of R&B. And just when you think the record can’t get any better (at about 3:33), the band switches melodies and performs a riff by famed score composer Ennio Morricone, the theme to “For A Few Dollars More,” adding to the Western epic feel. (Article continues after song…)

Babe Ruth – ‘The Mexican’ (1972)

Babe Ruth ran out of steam a few years later (though they’ve recently reformed), but “The Mexican” had only just started its long battle to immortality. In 1978 the song saw a proper disco cover (justifying this rock song’s presence in the Disco Lab): The Bombers’ version is very similar to the original, improving on Babe Ruth’s only by making it nearly twice as long. In 1983 hip-hop combo Funky Four offered an electro-rap version called “Feel It,” and the next year dance producer Jellybean did his own affectionate remake, even tracking down Jenny Haan to reprise her memorable lead vocal. Since then the samples, remakes, and homages have continued, most recently in the 2015 cover by Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA.

Babe Ruth’s original “The Mexican” is heard in the Netflix series The Get Down, but only as the end title theme for episode 4; sadly we’re denied seeing this wonderfully oddball hit placed in the context of the South Bronx scene. But we do know the song was a favorite of deejay and music consultant Grandmaster Flash; he included it on a mix CD of favorite tracks. Its inclusion here is significant; clearly Flash wanted to keep this Latin-funk gem in the spotlight and help “The Mexican” fight on to win over a new generation.

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Previously on Disco Lab: (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Machine – ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ (1979)

Vintage Ads: Talking Heads, ‘Take Me To The River’ (1979)

Talking Heads, 'Take Me To The River' ('R&R' magazine, Jan. 19, 1979). Click to enlarge.

Talking Heads, ‘Take Me To The River’ (‘R&R’ magazine, Jan. 19, 1979). Click to enlarge.


“Everybody with Ears Nose these Four Heads Have Eyes for the Top!”

Talking Heads version of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” appeared on the More Songs About Buildings and Food L.P. of July 1978. The tune was released as a single and reached #26 on the Billboard US Hot 100 in ’79.

I find it endlessly fascinating that we can have both Shotgun Willie and Talking Heads existing in the same decade. Go, Seventies, go!

(Image source: R&R via American Radio History)

Previously on Vintage Ads: Willie Nelson, ‘Shotgun Willie’ (1973)

Vintage Ads: Willie Nelson, ‘Shotgun Willie’ (1973)

Willie Nelson, 'Shotgun Willie' ('Cashbox' magazine, June 30, 1973). Click to enlarge.

Willie Nelson, ‘Shotgun Willie’ (‘Cashbox’ magazine, June 30, 1973). Click to enlarge.


“Willie Nelson is gunning for you with a great new album…”

Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie L.P. fired into stores in June of 1973.

The record was Nelson’s first for Atlantic, and one of the first in the “Outlaw Country” genre. Two singles were released from the L.P., the title tune and “Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer).”

(Image source: Cashbox via American Radio History)

Previously on Vintage Ads: Dire Straits, ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (1979)

Disco Lab (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Machine – ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ (1979)

machine-there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-i-1979

Editor’s Note: This is our third Disco Lab entry spinning the Seventies tunes found in the Netflix series The Get Down. You can play the previous entry right here.

Disco Lab #28 (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Machine – ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ (1979)
Looking for a true musical hero, a cross-cultural alchemist, an auteur of the disco era? Meet August Darnell, multi-ethnic product of the Deep South, college-bred would-be English teacher and frustrated actor. With his brother Stony Browder he cut three albums of intoxicating, swing-infused Latin disco under the name Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band (their first LP garnered a Grammy nomination). In 1980 he formed Kid Creole and the Coconuts, a dance combo blending swing-era pop, Caribbean rhythms, and ironic postpunk sensibilities.

In 1979, between these two band projects, Darnell joined the New York disco group Machine, who fused dance rhythms with meaningful, socially conscious lyrics. Darnell co-wrote the track that would become Machine’s biggest hit, “There But For The Grace Of God.” The lyrics describe Latino parents that leave the Bronx to raise their daughter in a supposedly secure environment. Yet their excessive coddling turns her into a wild, renegade spirit: “Too much love is worse than none at all.” (Darnell recorded an excellent remake the following year with Kid Creole and the Coconuts.)

In the Netflix series The Get Down, “There But For The Grace Of God” serves as the very unholy church-altar audition piece for choir vocalist Mylene. The song isn’t presented as a cover version but as an original composition created by Mylene, her band, and lyricist Zeke. The lyrics are slightly altered to fit the singer’s situation: Machine’s “And when she’s ten years old / She digs that rock ‘n’ roll / But Poppy bans it from the home” becomes, “And when she starts to grow / She finds a sound of her own / But Papi bans it from the home.” However, the message is the same: in trying to crush a rebellious soul, you only make it stronger.

The 12” remix of the song presented here is only 30 seconds longer than the album version, adding a longer instrumental break. The track is nervous, intense, and much different than The Get Down’s live gospel interpretation (it’s a shame that Mylene’s version wasn’t included on the official soundtrack). Prominent in the Machine version is a synth keyboard that performs a long solo from about 2:30 to 4:15, interspersed with a breakdown and some wordless backing vocals. (Article continues after song…)

Machine – ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ (1979)

To hardcore disco fans, “There But For The Grace of God” is famous. But to the other 99.9% of the population, it’s utterly unknown. Hats off to Baz Luhrmann and his music team for not only plucking a great disco tune out of obscurity but using its narrative as inspiration for the series’ own plotline.

See you next week with another disco gem from The Get Down!

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Previously on Disco Lab: (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Vicki Sue Robinson – ‘Turn The Beat Around’ (1976)

Vintage Ads: Dire Straits, ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (1979)

Dire Straits, 'Sultans Of Swing' ('R&R' magazine, Jan. 19, 1979). Click to enlarge.

Dire Straits, ‘Sultans Of Swing’ (‘R&R’ magazine, Jan. 19, 1979). Click to enlarge.


“You’ve heard the talk…Now hear the record!”

Have you heard about this hot young band, Dire Straits, and their new single? They may be on to something here.

Sultans of Swing” was the band’s debut single and appeared on the group’s first L.P. in 1978. It took an early 1979 re-release of the single to help the song crack the charts and climb into the top 10 in both the US and UK.

(Image source: R&R via American Radio History)

Previously on Vintage Ads: Buddy Miles & Ginger Baker Tour (1972)

Playback!: ELO, ‘Last Train To London’ (1979)

'There was music in the air...' (ELO, 'Last Train to London,' 1979)

‘There was music in the air…’
(ELO, ‘Last Train to London,’ 1979)

In honor of Jeff Lynne’s ELO who played locally this weekend at The Hollywood Bowl to sold out crowds – here’s Electric Light Orchestra performing “Last Train to London” in 1979.

“Last Train to London” originally appeared on the late spring, 1979 L.P., Discovery, and hit #39 in the US and #8 in the UK.

ELO, ‘Last Train To London,’ 1979

Previously on Playback!: Waylon Jennings, ‘I’ve Always Been Crazy’ (Live ’79)

More ELO at Cherry Stereo: Disco Lab: Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Shine A Little Love’ (1979)

Vintage Ads: Buddy Miles & Ginger Baker Tour (1972)

Buddy Miles & Ginger Baker Tour ('Billboard' magazine, June 03, 1972). Click to enlarge.

Buddy Miles & Ginger Baker Tour (‘Billboard’ magazine, June 03, 1972). Click to enlarge.


“Heavyweight Championship Battle Of The Drummers.”

Two fantastic drummer-led bands together on tour. Oh, Seventies, how I love you! Buddy Miles, best known for his time playing with The Electric Flag and Jimi Hendrix. Ginger Baker, best known for being the percussion third of Cream.

(Image source: Billboard)

Previously on Vintage Ads: Rolling Stones, ‘Made In The Shade’ (1975)

Disco Lab (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Vicki Sue Robinson – ‘Turn The Beat Around’ (1976)

vicki-sue-robinson-turn-the-beat-around-1977

Editor’s Note: This is our second Disco Lab entry spinning the Seventies tunes found in the Netflix series The Get Down. You can play the previous entry right here.

Disco Lab #27 (‘The Get Down’ Edition): Vicki Sue Robinson – ‘Turn The Beat Around’ (1976)
I’ve always enjoyed self-referential songs, including “Turn The Beat Around,” a disco record about the making of a disco record. (I also love James Brown’s ’70s funk classics, with lyrics seemingly crafted to coax the band into ever more soulful jams—“make it funky!”). I always thought it was clever that “Turn The Beat Around” didn’t turn its beat around but its melody: the descending tune and chords of “turn the beat around” are reversed for the ascending “love to feel percussion.”

Like so many great records, this one came about purely by coincidence. After a chance hearing, musician Peter Jackson’s girlfriend Vicki Sue Robinson flipped out over the tune, but was told it had been promised to Peter’s band Touch of Class. Incredibly TOC’s label passed on the tune, claiming “You have that jungle beat in there. It’s not what’s happening.” (That’s like Decca telling the Beatles “guitar groups are on their way out.”) Then Vicki Sue cut her own smoldering version, singing both lead and backing vocals. Even then her own producer was repulsed by it and sat on it for five months. A disco expert told him to release the damn thing, and the rest is history.

In the Netflix series The Get Down, the song is used in its original version quite charmingly. Singer Mylene’s mentor Francisco Cruz convinces record producer Jackie Moreno to hear the girl sing in church. But what should she sing for her audition? Mylene thinks she’ll perform a traditional Latino spiritual—but is that too boring? Suddenly the radio blasts the Vicki Sue Robinson record, which has exactly the spirit Mylene needs. “It’s like a sign!,” says a girlfriend. As they dance, Mylene’s pals use the lyrics to convince their friend to cut loose and boogie, leading to her very expressive showpiece (coming up on next week’s Disco Lab!).

In the song’s lyrics, Vicki Sue coaxes inspiration from the standard disco instruments: strings, horns, flute, guitar, drums, with each one’s contributions heard briefly. After the song proper, this fairly compact 12” remix includes a few short instrumental breaks broken up by vocal reprises of the chorus. Most unexpected is the sizzling fuzz guitar solo that erupts at about 3:23 and continues under the final fadeout. (Article continues after song…)

Vicki Sue Robinson – ‘Turn The Beat Around,’ 1976

In 1974, three years earlier and light years away, producer and prog-synth artist Brian Eno collaborated on a deck of cards called “Oblique Strategies” meant to provide inspiration to creatively blocked musicians (including himself). These included such odd commands as “Disconnect from desire,” “Fill every beat with something,” and “Abandon normal instruments.” “Turn the beat around” was not included… yet “Turn it upside down” was. Coincidence? I think not!

See you next week with another disco gem from The Get Down!

Visit Mr. Groove on Facebook!

Previously on Disco Lab: Disco Lab (‘The Get Down’ Edition): C.J. & Co – ‘Devil’s Gun’ (1977)

Vintage Ads: Rolling Stones, ‘Made In The Shade’ (1975)

Rolling Stones, 'Made In The Shade' ('Billboard' magazine, June 14, 1975). Click to enlarge.

Rolling Stones, ‘Made In The Shade’ (‘Billboard’ magazine, June 14, 1975). Click to enlarge.


“The best of The Rolling Stones.”

The Rolling Stones’ Made in the Shade L.P. comprised hits from the band’s first four albums for Atlantic (1969 through 1974). The collection made it to #6 on the US charts.

(Image source: Billboard)

Previously on Vintage Ads: Joan Armatrading, ‘Lonely Lady’ (1973)