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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ladies' Night

I absolutely love music.  I think that was one of the motivations for why I not only brought back the Sunday Jukebox feature in this blog, but created it in the first place.

And I have to tell you, I love to find new places where I can listen to all the music that I want.

Back when I was a kid, there were really only two places where you could listen to music 24/7.  You could listen to it on the radio, or you could turn on the television to MTV (or MuchMusic in Canada).  The only problem with both were that you sometimes had to wait weeks before they would play your favourite songs (or videos).  Radio stations and video stations usually had a set playlist of songs/videos to play and they very rarely strayed from that set.  Mind you, you could call in to one of those all request lines and request that they play a song for you, but the problem was that you'd get a busy signal 95% of the time, and on the rare instance that you did get through, you'd only have a 15% chance of them actually taking the request.

Not very good odds.

But there is something to be said about the randomness of music stations.  You never know what sort of treasures will be played.  Certainly many of the songs that I have downloaded onto my iPod came about because I heard a random song playing on a radio station that I hadn't heard in years and wanted to have it in my music collection.

And quite recently I stumbled upon a group of music stations that air through my cable network (and yes, I am one of those who still subscribes to cable television - well, at least for now, anyway).

Ever hear of Stingray Music?  Well, on my cable dial, they are in the 300 channel range, and Stingray Music provides two dozen radio stations that play all different kinds of music from pop and dance to country and jazz.  There's even a station designed for children!  And much like the radio stations in the area, you never really know what you're going to get!

So, since I was having a bit of trouble selecting a song to spotlight today, I thought I would leave it up to Stingray Music to select the song for me.  So I randomly chose one of the stations (All Day Party), and took a picture of the television set that featured the song that was playing at the time.

My goal?  Write a blog entry about the song. 

So, let's put the spotlight on Kool & The Gang this week.

ARTIST:  Kool & The Gang
SONG:  Ladies' Night
ALBUM:  Ladies' Night
DATE RELEASED:  October 5, 1979

Now, I imagine that most of you have probably heard at least one or two Kool & The Gang songs.  I know "Celebration" was a big hit the same year that I was born, and that "Joanna" and "Cherish" were both successes on the charts for this group in the 1980s.

But here's something that not even I knew.  This song was only the second single for the band to make the Top 10 on the Billboard Charts (their first was "Jungle Boogie" which reached #4).  And that the album that this single was released on was the group's eleventh!

Wait, what?  "Ladies' Night" was the group's eleventh album?  How could that be possible?  Especially since the group reached the height of their popularity right around the time that this song came out?

Turns out that the band formed FIFTY-ONE years ago in Jersey City, New Jersey!  I know, I couldn't believe it myself when I did the research for this group.

Of course, back in 1964, they didn't call themselves "Kool & The Gang".  Their original name was "The Jazziacs" - a portmanteau of the two words jazz and maniacs.  The group was founded by then thirteen-year-old Robert Bell, his twelve-year-old brother, Ronald, and five of their classmates and friends, and at first they played instrumental jazz classics.  But as the 1960s came to a close and music began to get wilder and funkier, the group started playing more funk, R&B, and pop music.  In 1967, the group made their first name change, calling themselves Kool & The Flames (Robert Bell's nickname was Kool), but they only kept that name for a couple of years, as they didn't want to be confused with James Brown's "Famous Flames".

By the end of the sixties, they had settled on the name "Kool & The Gang", and in 1969 they had secured a record deal with De-Lite Records, releasing their first album later that year.

Of course, the climb to the top of the charts was a lot harder in 1969 than it is now.  You didn't have digital downloads, or music videos to promote your album or single.  All you had was the thousands of radio stations scattered around the country, hoping that enough people showed an interest in the music to keep demanding that disc jockeys spin their favourite tracks.  And for Kool & The Gang, they certainly tried their best to get heard.  But with so many groups in direct competition with each other, and their being signed to a lesser known record company, it took quite a while for the group to get noticed.

"Ladies' Night" was considered to be a song that marked a significant change for the group.  For starters, the group recruited a new lead singer, James "J.T." Taylor, and they decided to infuse a little bit of a disco beat mixed in with their classic funk style.  After all, it was the end of the 1970s, and disco was still quite popular despite the anti-disco protests that were taking place.

And as you can hear, the song was definitely a hit at parties, weddings...and I imagine it was probably played at a couple of bachelorette parties in its heyday. 

That was your history lesson on Kool & The Gang for today.  Isn't picking a song at random fun? 

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