And so begins one of funk’s greatest thrill rides. Not long after this, there would be talk of going on the Mothership. And a few years after that, we’d take a ride on a “Fantastic Voyage.” But right now, we’re going to hang out with the Ohio Players, one of the best known funk bands out of Ohio, and purveyor of sexy album covers. That last part may have to be taken up in some other post, perhaps on some other blog.
But, what we have here is just under five minutes of good old funkiness, from a band that was hitting its stride.
The Ohio Players had been around for a long while before this song became a #1 hit on the pop and R&B charts. Starting out as the Ohio Untouchables, the group served as the backing band for a vocal group called the Falcons. You can hear the band (and its one-time lead singer Wilson Pickett) on a song called “I Found A Love”). That particular song gave listeners a glimpse of what Pickett would sound like throughout his career, but it didn’t really show what the Ohio Untouchables would be sounding like in the 1970s.
By the 70s, the Ohio Untouchables had become the Ohio Players, and began to release some of the funkiest music of the decade. First on Westbound Records, where their first big hit “Funky Worm” was released (I’ve written about that song on this blog before). By 1974, they had moved on to Mercury Records, where this particular song was included on their third Mercury album, Honey.
This particular song is also associated with an urban legend; that during the recording of the song, a scream heard by one of the band members was supposed to actually be that of a woman being murdered. The band never said whether it was or was not, but it would seem highly unlikely that it would be, given that recording studios are soundproof. The scream is actually keyboardist Billy Beck, and it begins around the 2:30 mark of the version posted here. As for the musical sounds on the track, the guitar riff is what sets it off, with its up and down movement suggesting the ups and downs of love and relationships talked about in the song. And being honest, just about any lyric Leroy “Sugar” Bonner released from his mouth was going to sound funky.
Come take a ride on the “Love Rollercoaster” today! I hope you enjoy this Veterans Day and be thankful for those who serve and have served in our military. As always, thanks for reading and listening.