By Phill Marder
This is the 19th set of 10 selections in The Goldmine Hall of Fame.
Great Blogs Of Fire will be announcing 10 inductees approximately every two weeks until all 700-plus inductees are announced. Bios of all selections and criteria for induction can be found on our website by clicking the Goldmine Hall of Fame tab. A running list of all announced inductees will be listed, also. These also can be found under “Great Blogs Of Fire” at the bottom of the page or by following this link – http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/goldmine-hall-of-fame-inductees
181. THE IMPRESSIONS – There were three Impressions – Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash. Yes, the group had other members, the most notable being Jerry Butler. But the group that recorded all the classics under the name The Impressions was the trio. Butler left after the group’s debut, “For Your Precious Love,” became a smash and Mayfield became his guitarist, penning and singing harmony on several early Butler hits. “The Ice Man” had enough of a solo career to merit Hall of Fame induction on his own. He’ll be revisited down the road.
But now we’re talking The Impressions, who surpassed most of the great vocal groups of the past 60 years with recordings that became a catalog of Mayfield-penned classics. None of the three had the greatest lead voices, but all were more than competent. When the three blended, few groups could come close to the harmony they produced. Matched with producer Johnny Pate’s brilliant orchestra, the gems came fast and furious.
Three years after Butler left, Mayfield had put together enough money and songs to get The Impressions back together. The resulting LP – “The Impressions” – showing the trio on the cover, yielded six hits, though only “Gypsy Woman” was a major success, reaching #20. “It’s All Right,” not on the original release, was quickly added as it soared to #4 and the trio was on its way. Hit single followed hit single in 1964, “Talking About My Baby” hitting #12, “I’m So Proud,” #14, “You Must Believe Me,” #15, “Amen” #7 and “People Get Ready” #14.
Today, “Gypsy Woman” has been covered extensively and has been a hit by several other artists, and “People Get Ready” is considered one of the greatest songs of the Rock & Roll Era, also being well covered. From 1967 until 1970, the trio scored with #14 “We’re A Winner,” #22 “Fool For You,” #25 “This Is My Country,” #21 “Choice Of Colors” and #28 “Check Out Your Mind.” Before Mayfield left the group, it had posted 13 top 10 R&B hits. Even after he left, four recordings hit the R&B top 10, including the #1 “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m A Changed Man)” in 1974.
182. THE 5th DIMENSION – Another great vocal group, but much different than The Impressions in that the 5th Dimension had five members – three male, two female – and did not write their own material. They were similar to The Impressions in that they were exceptionally popular and two of their recordings became all-time classics.
The group consisted of Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr., Florence LaRue, Lamont McLemore and Ron Townson, all capable lead singers who, when joined together, presented a formidable lineup. Signed by Johnny Rivers’ Soul City label, the 5th Dimension benefitted by having top-flight tunesmiths feeding them material. Ironically, their first hit, “Go Where You Wanna Go,” was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas, a group the Dimension often was compared to. It also had been the debut single of Phillips’ group, but didn’t even chart. The 5th Dimension’s 1966 almost carbon copy reached #16 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada, though.
The next year, Jimmy Webb provided the group with its first modern standard, “Up, Up & Away,” which did just that, reaching #7 in the U.S. and #1 in Australia, later capturing Grammy Awards for Song Of The Year and Record of the Year among others. It was later covered by many, including The Impressions. The group’s next big blast came with a cover of Laura Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic,” which reached #3 U.S. and #5 Canada. As 1969 opened, the quintet took over the U.S. #1 spot for six weeks and also topped the Canadian charts with “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” from the hit musical “Hair.” Again, the 5th Dimension was awarded a Grammy for Record of the Year. Many have fallen by the wayside trying to follow a hit of that magnitude, but before the year was over the 5th Dimension was back on top with another Nyro favorite, “Wedding Bell Blues,” and the next year the Hal David-Burt Bacharach composition, “One Less Bell To Answer” just missed, stalling at #2. In 1972, they hit the top 10 twice more with “(Last Night) I Couldn’t Get To Sleep” and “If I Could Reach You,” but the hits stopped coming and McCoo and Davis, by this time married, left in 1975.
The 5th Dimension also proved a force on the LP charts, “Up, Up & Away” reaching #8, “The Age Of Aquarius” #2 and a greatest hits package climbing to #5. The group also had five other long players reach #32 or better.
183. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND – When we began this endeavor, we intended to create a Hall of Fame encompassing the true stars of music for the last roughly 60 years based on the one indisputable statistic – sales, recordings and concerts. But, our criteria also included credit for those who are critically, if not publicly, favored, the final formula being designed to make sure those truly deserving gain entrance, be it at #1 or #700.
The Velvet Underground is the first true example on this list of an artist or artists who gain entrance to our group without being best sellers. When released, the five studio albums under the moniker of The Velvet Underground barely scratched the Billboard Top 200, the last three not getting there at all, and they didn’t do much anywhere else, either. They also never had a hit single. But over the years, they have amassed enough sales thanks to various compilations and re-issues to move into the upper half of the best-selling album artists lists. That, plus their strong ranking on the critics’ charts, enable the band to not only make the Goldmine list, but to come in at a pretty high ranking.
The Underground lineup varied somewhat, the first LP, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” featured, at the insistence of manager Andy Warhol, the German vocalist on lead vocals on three tracks and one background vocal. But the rest of the band was really The Velvet Underground, John Cale on keyboards, viola and sometimes bass, Sterling Morrison on guitar and bass, Lou Reed on guitar and Maureen Tucker on percussion. All contributed vocals. Nico and Warhol were gone by the time they recorded their second LP, “White Light/White Heat.” While the debut had reached #177 on the chart, this follow-up barely made it at #199. And the eponymous third which saw Cale replaced by Doug Yule and Reed writing every song, didn’t come in at all.
Various drummers filled in for Tucker, who was on maternity leave, as the quartet put together what, in reality, was their last album, “Loaded.” Again, it was a commercial flop and by the time “Squeeze” came out three years later, Yule was the lone remaining member, making it, for all intents and purposes, a solo album.
The inductees are John Cale, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker.
184. GRAND FUNK RAILROAD – Between 1969 and 1975, the power trio of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher and Don Brewer, later expanded to a quartet with Craig Frost on keyboards, placed 12 albums into the top 30, eight reaching the top 10. And they did it without the benefit of a smash single, 1970s “Closer To Home” being the closest they came to a blockbuster, reaching #22. In 1971, they sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall without having a hit record in Britain and New York’s Shea Stadium in less than 72 hours, reportedly breaking the Beatles’ record.
The 1972 single “Footstompin’ Music,” helped propel Grand Funk’s 1972 “Phoenix” album to No. 7. But the next album, “We’re An American Band,” did even better, climbing to No. 2 as the single of the same name became the group’s first No. 1. The first, but not the last. In 1974, their remake of Little Eva’s 1962 smash, “The Loco-Motion,” equaled the original’s No. 1 finish and helped propel the band’s “Shinin’ On” album to No. 5. “All of The Girls In The World Beware” was the last GFR long-player to hit the top 10, yielding two more huge singles, “Some Kind of Wonderful, which reached No. 3, and “Bad Time,” which peaked at No. 4.
The usual impediments, contract squabbles, personal differences etc., that occur when a band is together for an extended period, eventually knocked Grand Funk Railroad off track. But success continued for the group members, Farner, going on to a successful solo career in Christian music, while Brewer and Frost, who joined in the early ‘70s, eventually ended up with Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band. Meanwhile, Schacher has continued to keep Grand Funk in the mix, appearing with Farner and Brewer on occasion as well as with other GFR lineups.
185. THE MOODY BLUES – From 1968 until 1972,Britain’s Moody Blues released a string of some of the most revered albums of the last 60 years. The Moodies’ magnificent group of seven gems began with “Days Of Future Passed,” which paired the group with The London Festival Orchestra and was followed by “In Search Of The Lost Chord,” “On The Threshold Of A Dream,” “To Our Children’s Children’s Children,” “A Question Of Balance,” “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and “Seventh Sojourn.” There were very few hit singles to buoy sales, “Nights In White Satin” being the biggest when it was re-released four years after its original appearance. Still, the albums dominated the U.S. charts, the first and fifth reaching #3, the sixth #2 and the seventh #1. Even after the eighth album, “Octave,” became the first to show signs of a popularity slippage reaching just #13, 1981’s “Long Distance Voyager” brought the group back to the top of the LP charts. And five years later, “The Other Side Of Life” reached No. 9. On the British charts, the band had even more success, “Threshold,” “Every Good Boy” and “Question of Balance” all hitting No. 1.
The group’s success was just as powerful in most other European countries and in the Pan Pacific area, making it one of the worldwide top 100 album selling artists.
Spearheaded by guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, with drummer Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas on flute and keyboardist Mike Pinder, the Moody Blues produced a stream of magical, mystical, musical moments guaranteed to float you away. All five wrote and contributed vocals. Patrick Moraz replaced Pinder in 1978 and remained until 1991, appearing on four studio LPs, after which the band continued as a four-piece unit until the recent retirement of Thomas. Hayward, Lodge and Edge continue a busy personal appearance schedule, playing to massive crowds.
186. CREAM –Lead guitarist Eric Clapton, having finished in the No. 37 position as a solo artist, becomes another double entry in the Goldmine Rock Era Hall of Fame as one-third of the power trio Cream.
While the group received heavy hype as a supergroup, the members, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker plus Clapton, weren’t that well known in the States. In reality, Clapton, due to a brief stint in the Yardbirds and heavy publicity as Britain’s premier guitarist, was the only one with great notoriety outside Britain. But in their homeland, all three were considered tops on their instruments, Baker and Bruce having played together in the Graham Bond Organization.
As Cream, they were a super success right from the debut album, “Fresh Cream.” And though they issued just four – actually 31/2 – studio albums in their brief, 27-month stay, their impact was such that they became one of Rock’s most beloved groups.
Each of the four studio albums improved in chart position in the U.K., “Fresh Cream” reaching No. 6, “Disraeli Gears” No. 5, “Wheels Of Fire” No. 3 and “Goodbye” No. 1. In the U.S., the debut barely reached the top 40, but the next three went 4-1-2.
187. JIM REEVES – Plane crashes have robbed us of many great performers over the years, and one of the greatest was Texan Jim Reeves, who left us at the age of 40 and at the peak of his career. Possessed of one of the smoothest voices ever recorded, Reeves was a worldwide phenomenon considered largely responsible for spreading Country music to new audiences around the globe. In doing so, he became a universal superstar.
In 1955, he was signed to a 10-year contract with RCA by Steve Sholes, who also signed Elvis Presley that year. By that time, Reeves, recording for a minor label, already had notched two #1 singles on the Country charts, “Mexico Joe” and “Bimbo,” both of which also crossed over as major pop hits also. Those started a remarkable run that saw Reeves register approximately 50 singles on the Country Top 10, including 11 that reached #1. Though he died in 1964, his singles still were reaching the Country Top 10 15 years later and an LP, “The Very Best Of Jim Reeves” peaked at #7 in the United Kingdom in 2009.
Another amazing stat involved the recording of “Distant Drums,” which held the #1 position in the U.K. in 1966, two years after Reeves’ passing, in spite of competition from The Beatles’ double-sided threat of “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine.” “Distant Drums” went on to U.K. “Record of the Year” honors. While Reeves never had a #1 single on the Hot 100, he came very close as 1960 began when “He’ll Have To Go” sat at #2 for three weeks unable to dislodge Percy Faith’s “Theme From A Summer Place,” which became one of the most popular singles of all time, holding the #1 position nine weeks.
In spite of a relatively short career, Reeves today ranks as one of the all-time top album and single sellers worldwide from Norway, where he had his first major successes and continued to score #1s, to South Africa, from Ireland and England to North America. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, Reeves was cited as one who “…brought millions of new fans to country music from every corner of the world.”
188. THE TALKING HEADS – Definitely different in that they were critics’ darlings who also managed to sell records and concert tickets. That combination of support lifts this New York City foursome to this impressive slot in the Goldmine Hall of Fame.
The group, consisting of David Byrne (guitar and lead vocals), Tina Weymouth (bass), Chris Frantz (drums) and Jerry Harrison (guitar and keyboards), with the latter three all contributing background vocals, first drew notice when their 1977 single “Psycho Killer” became a major hit in the Netherlands. While its parent LP, “Talking Heads: ’77,” didn’t do as well with the Dutch, it did become a big seller in Switzerland and broke into the LP charts in the U.S. and U.K. It took a 1978 cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” to break the band in North America and the Pan Pacific, where it reached top 40 in both areas, the home album, “More Songs About Buildings And Food” climbing into the U.S. and U.K. top 30. The next long player, “Fear Of Music,” contained no hits, but did climb to #21 in the States and #11 in New Zealand, with “Life Before Wartime” eventually becoming one of the band’s fan favorites.
“Remain In Light,” released in 1980, established the group as a major LP mover, propelled by “Once In A Lifetime,” which became a hit in Europe and Canada, but didn’t cause a ripple on the U.S. charts. Finally, in 1983, The Talking Heads scored in the big time when “Burning Down The House” went top 10 in North America and New Zealand, with the parent LP “Speaking In Tongues” going top 20 around the globe. Two years later, the LP “Little Creatures” hit #1 in New Zealand, #2 in Australia and top 10 in most European nations. The album peaked at #20 in the band’s homeland, where it never had a top 10 album.
In 1986 and 1988, the group released two more albums, “True Stories” and “Naked,” both of which were hugely successful around the world in spite of no major singles, though various releases did score in different nations at different times. A somewhat acrimonious breakup occurred in 1991.
In total, eight studio albums, two live releases and a handful of greatest hits packages leave The Talking Heads one of music’s top-selling album artists of all time.
189. THE PET SHOP BOYS – Over the years this pair has had close collaborations with Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Elton John, Madonna and Johnny Marr of the Smiths, among others. They also have had major hits with remakes of Willie Nelson and The King’s “Always On My Mind,” and a pairing of U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” and Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” While much of their music is dance beat based, their lyrics touch on social issues with intelligence and wit, making for interesting listening as well as club fare.
1984, The Pet Shop Boys – Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – were well on their way to their eventual standing as one of the most popular acts of the ‘80s. “West End Girls” had topped the charts in the UK, Canada and the US, just missed in Germany, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland and went top five in Australia and the Netherlands. “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)” was a solid follow-up, hitting the US top 10 and just missing in the UK, while “Suburbia” clicked throughout Europe. In 1986, “It’s A Sin” pushed the duo back to the summit, going No. 1 throughout Europe and Canada and reaching the top 10 in Australia and the US. The successor, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?,” duplicated that success and also rejuvenated the career of Springfield, who sang a major part on the record. In 1987, “Always On My Mind” and “Heart” were also worldwide chart-toppers.
“Domino Dancing” and “Left To My Own Devices” each cracked the top 10 in the UK and US. Meanwhile, on the album charts, “Please” reached No. 3 in the UK and the next two, “Actually” and “Introspective” climbed to No. 2, the success in Germany being just as good with “Actually” topping the charts. The next release, “Behaviour,” really wasn’t much different, ascending to No. 2 in the United Kingdom, No. 4 in Germany and No. 9 in Sweden. “So Hard” became a huge smash in Europe, and “Being Boring” and “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” were cuts destined to become Pet Shop Boys fan favorites.
Success continued into the ’90s with their 1993 LP, “Very,” becoming their first British chart-topper buoyed by the worldwide success of the cover of the Village People’s “Go West.” And every one of the five Pet Shop Boys’ releases of new material in LP form since has reached the top 10 in the UK, from 1996’s “Bilingual” to 2009’s “Yes.” During that time span, the pair has placed 14 singles in the UK top 20. Though the success has been less in the States, the Pet Shop Boys have remained dominant on the US dance charts, adding four No. 1’s to bring their total to nine, with 14 others reaching the top 10. They continue to be a popular concert attraction as well.
190. LL COOL J – Recording star, television star, movie star, hip hop pioneer, author and entrepreneur…James Todd Smith, better known as LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James) has done it all, and continues to do it successfully after 28 years on top.
He was just 17 when his initial LP “Radio” became the first full-length release on Def Jam Recordings, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. Rubin produced it and it became a springboard for both LL Cool J and Rubin to become superstars of the music industry. The LP broke into the U.S. top 50, entered the U.K. charts, soared to #6 on the R&B list and was critically acclaimed. LL Cool J even became the first hip hop artist to appear on American Bandstand. Truly, he had arrived.
Once he broke the market, there was no stopping him. His second LP, “Bigger and Deffer” reached #3 on the Billboard Top 200, starting a streak of 11 straight long-players to reach the Billboard top 20, nine climbing into the top 10. In 2000, “G.O.A.T.” became his only #1 LP, with its successor, “10,” just missing, stopping at #2 in 2002. Six of his albums have hit #1 on the R&B chart.
In the singles’ market, LL Cool J has hit the U.S. top 10 six times and the British first 10 on 10 occasions. He has dominated the Rap chart with eight singles hitting the top and three more coming in second. Overall, he has been a sales force across Europe and in Japan and currently is preparing his first album release in five years.