A 1970s history. Formed in 1976. Released three albums. Five charted R&B singles. One bonafide Quiet Storm classic that never charted anywhere (but probably should have). Broken up in 1980.
Thus, the particulars of one R&B/disco band from Detroit that went by the name of Brainstorm.
Their biggest hit was one of disco’s great songs. In fact, it was awarded the Light Radio/Heavy Disco Record of the Year for 1978 by none other than Billboard magazine (one heck of a name for an award). So well-regarded was this song that Betty Wright covered it one year after its release. Sylvester also covered it and even as late as the year 2000, former Sounds of Blackness lead vocalist Ann Nesby even took a crack at it. They are probably all pretty good versions of the song.
Today’s track is the one that stuck with me. The others might work for you, if you’ve heard them. “Lovin’ Is Really My Game” by Brainstorm is today’s Morning Groove.
A harp with a rapid-fire guitar lick kicks the whole thing off, followed by a throng of strings, drums and horns. Once that groove kicks in, you’re hanging on for dear life. The bass man (E. Lamont Johnson) and the drummer (Renell Gonsalves) are driving the thing, keeping it chugging along. And the late Belita Woods’ voice riding on top. The album version is just under five minutes of greatness. The 12″ version here may be too much for most to take. And dig those strings!
Not to mention, the first (at least that I am aware of) reference to chair dancing can be found in this song. Woods sings that she has her own way of grooving-just getting down right in her seat. That sounds like chair-dancing to me! Despite all this soul-stirring (at least to me) greatness, the song did no better than #14 on the R&B chart. It was, naturally, a #1 hit in the discotheques (where Belita couldn’t catch a man) and the dance charts.
That Quiet Storm classic that Brainstorm has is a song called “This Must Be Heaven.” Even now, 40 years after its initial release, some late night radio show has gotten a request for it. As it should be—a duet between Johnson and Woods that speaks of how their love is so great, it must be heaven they are experiencing. Wasn’t going to put that one up, but as a bonus, here ya go:
After their debut album Stormin’ had run its course, their second album, Journey To The Light was released, but had no hit singles. This was blamed on not having a song that was ready-made for the disco. So their final album was practically an all-disco affair. When it failed to find an audience, the band broke up.
Woods found herself joining George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic organization singing lead and backup. Jeryl Bright, who played trombone in the band, found his way to Cameo before they decided to drop their horn players. Deon Estus would join Brainstorm after Johnson left and played bass on the last two albums. He would then work with George Michael, and later had a hit of his own with “Heaven Help Me.” The remaining members worked in the music business in various capacities; Trenita Womack managed to tour with Motown’s Funk Brothers, and appears in the movie Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. You can read a biography of the group here, written by Gerald Kent, who played guitar in the band.
I hope you enjoy “Lovin’ Is Really My Game,” and if the spirit moves you, go on and chair-dance. Or get up, if you have to. And thank you, for reading and listening.