Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blue Magic -- "Sideshow"/"Stop To Start" (1974)

Any discussion of Blue Magic's Side Show has to begin with this observation: between classic Motown and 70's Philly soul, composers had the most incredible run of slogans, warnings, metaphors, plays on words and sayings incorporated into songs. That was a formula that couldn't miss. Bonus points for a mention of "mama."

"Shop Around." "Ball of Confusion." "You Can't Hurry Love." "Stop! In The Name of Love." "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." "The Tears Of A Clown." "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game." "I Second That Emotion.""Can I Get A Witness." "Standing In The Shadows of Love." "ABC." "The Love You Save." "Love Train." "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show." "Want Ads." "Pay The Piper." "Crumbs Off The Table"

OK. Now I've got that out of my system...

The great Philly soul sound of the 70's was not just made by Gamble & Huff or Thom Bell, but other related production teams who just perfected was already in the bag. For Blue Magic, it was the WMOT team, starring producer Norm Harris, who packaged former members of the Delfonics and other local doo-wop groups (as was often the case), backed them with the legendary Philadelphia house band MFSB and out came the hits.

Could you tell the difference between Blue Magic and the Stylistics? Not really. But the quality was high in all cases.

Now it wasn't just the impeccable orchestral and brass arrangements, the major seventh chords, the corny lyrics, the glowing harmonies, the matching ruffled suits, or even the enviable falsetto of Ted Mills for groups like Blue Magic.

It was the moves.

Everybody was in classic precision with each other, much like the Motown groups like The Temptations and Gladys Knight & The Pips before them. There was always the lead singer -- kind of like the straight man who did his own thing -- and then there was the rest of the group, who twirled, swayed, and spun around in mechanical lock-step choreography.

Blue Magic's two incredible hits from 1974 -- "Sideshow" and "Stop To Start" were state of the art Philly soul musical productions with the robotic moves to match, true snapshots of an amazing era in soul performances. You have got to love the opening touches of "Sideshow" with the carnival barker calling: "Hurry! Hurry! Step right up and see the side show in town for 50 cents." And the chorus for "Stop to Start," that is inane when you think about it but it just works for this time period: "I only stop/So we can start all over again."

Special note: other real Blue Magic song titles (do you sense a gimmick?) -- "Three Ring Circus." "Born On Halloween." And the real album titles: The Magic of The Blue. How about Thirteen Blue Magic Lane?

Watch both of these 1974 videos from the TV show Soul Train because they are just unbelievable. A bit campy? Somewhat jaw dropping? Even I feel that way looking at them now and I lived through this back then! It's packaged soul music like we shall never see again.


1 comment:

Tom Stewart said...

Fun blog, I've been catching up on some of the older posts. i found you through the mighty Google while looking for info on an old song for a friend. If you know anything about obscure 70s AM radio pop, let me know, this song is driving him crazy!