I was a big fan of Soul Train. It ran on Saturday afternoons on one of the TV stations we could get from Rockford, Illinois, and I must have started watching it as 1973 turned to 1974. The first thing I dug about it was the theme song, and as soon as I started hearing it on the radio, I ran out to the record store to buy the single: “T.S.O.P.” by MFSB (which probably should be on my Desert Island list but isn’t). I kept watching because it seemed like there was always somebody on the show I wanted to see. Earlier this year, VH1 ran a documentary called Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the show’s debut, and Time-Life released a nine-disc DVD best-of available only by mail. Now, Time-Life has boiled down the highlights to a three-DVD set called The Best of Soul Train, which will be sold in retail stores. Here’s a list of the seven best on-screen moments from the set, chosen by Soundspike.
Most of the performances on the Soul Train DVDs are from the 1970s. By the end of that decade, of course, soul music as the world had known it since the 1960s was pretty much dead, replaced by disco, which itself was about to be supplanted by rap and hip-hop, which were percolating beneath the surface as early as 1979. Back up at the surface, however, disco was going strong with no end in sight. People you’d never imagine going disco got into it: KISS recorded “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” Elton John made Victim of Love, the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” and Paul McCartney’s “Goodnight Tonight” were remixed for club play, and then there was The Ethel Merman Disco Album.
I have always believed the latter to be the best evidence that absolutely everybody was bitten by the disco bug. The other day, however, I was reminded of a record that might prove the point even more effectively. In late 1978, Dolly Parton was on a streak of three straight Number-One singles on the country charts, each of which had crossed over to pop—and “Here You Come Again” had climbed all the way to Number Three. Given that level of success, you wouldn’t expect a star of Dolly’s magnitude to have to fiddle with disco, but that would be a misjudgment of the historical moment in the winter of 1979. And so, this, which rose to Number 25 in March during a 14-week run on the Hot 100. (H/t Vinnie Rattolle’s, where you can download Dolly if you want.)
On an entirely non-soul/disco related topic: One of the first and most famous bootlegs was Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder, which first began circulating in 1969. Many of the tracks, alternates and works in progress, got official releases on The Basement Tapes and elsewhere, but the original Wonder remained fairly scarce—until now. Philip Cohen has recreated the whole thing at ROIO.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Stop back tomorrow, when we’ll set the Wayback Machine for a pivotal day in 1970.