Saturday, 9 August 2008

TSOP & the Liberty Bell

The crack in the Liberty Bell is something I have seen a number of times on my visits to Philadelphia in the past. In addition I am familiar with the bell foundry here in London where it was cast all those years ago. I too had a bell cast there for an anniversary present for my wife a few years ago. Now, my plans are taking me from London to Philadelphia where phase 2 of my sessions will take place at the legendary Bobby Eli's 'Studio E' in the city. Bobby's legendary status is well respected not only for his song writing skills, but productions and guitar work on all those Philly hits created at Sigma Sound down Nth 12th Street!

I first became aware of Bobby around 1973 when I started to take note of writing and musician credits the back of LP covers. I noticed that his name appeared more and more with respect to TSOP, MFSB, Salsoul and indeed on song writing and production credits too. I was very curious about many of the song writing teams at that time and aspired to them like I did with respect to the Detroit scenario. I started to realise that names like 'Eli/Barrett', 'Baker, Harris, Felder, Young', 'Hurtt/Bell', 'Gamble/Huff' were influencing me greatly and started to analise the music and arrangements. What I would have given to be a fly on the wall on those early seventies sessions! It's no secret that defining moments came whilst listening to a number of Philly compositions and arrangements on the radio or dance floors of Hull night clubs. 'A mother for my children' by The Whispers, 'I'm doin' fine' by New York City and 'Got to get you back' by The Sons of Robin Stone were just 3 of the songs that had me investigating even more. All three were written by different partnerships, but shared a similarity. Again, a quest to learn more ensued and circa 1977 I purchased the a book called 'The Sound of Philadelphia' by Tony Cummings. Whilst reading it one day I flipped a page open and saw a picture of Bobby Eli, with his seventies cap on! I asked myself whether one day I would meet him just to say thank you for the melodies, and the reply came back 'yes you will'. That was the seed sown that so many years down the line would grow and grow, bear fruit and have me wondering which universe I resided in! Through technology and the Internet I met Bobby and we exchanged stories about the songs. On the one hand the exciting stories from the studios that I pined for from him, plus my humble offerings from a dance floor perspective. From back in the day I knew within 1 second of a record playing whether it would empty the dance floor or not and for Philly material, which was new, you could often see a slight stagger on the floor as dancers came to terms with a new sound they were not familiar with. I witnessed song s becoming classics even though they never charted and I often wondered what writers thought when they knew their songs were being played in discos half way around the world and moreover how much influence they were having on hundreds of soul fans.

So fingers crossed this September, I will be with Bobby in the studio witnessing first hand how the professionals create a Philly song in that early to mid seventies style I so admire. Must dash...I have some lyrics to write. More news soon...

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