I’d seen them all over the place. Earth, Wind & Fire were in advertisements for ones by Panasonic. Older guys had theirs and were parading up and down streets all over the country, and yes, even in the tiny small town where I grew up. They were the must-have piece of audio equipment of the younger set back in the late 70s-early 80s.
The Boom Box.
Mind you, I got one. Actually, I went through several. Once I started making my own money at a summer job that I truly despised, I bought my own “D” battery chewing, bass-pumping, dual-speakered and cassette decked monsters and paraded down the street just like all the other “cool” kids. But the first one I got, my mother bought it for me. Let me just say that it was lacking in a certain eye catching design.
Still, it was the first one I had, so it had to do. I can’t tell you how sad I was, tiptoeing around those small town streets with my meticulously crafted radio mixtapes. But I wouldn’t let mom know how disappointed I was. How could I? So I plotted while working that summer job. I knew that if I made enough money, I could go into a store and get the one that I wanted. Finally, that day arrived. Money in hand, I went in the store and picked out something like I had seen in the EWF ad.
Below is a mix of tunes that you would have found me playing no matter what boom box I had. You’ll find some early hip-hop, some SOLAR records funk, and some of the discofied funk records that were very popular around the time I had one of these things. By way of brief introductions:
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, “Freedom”: Their first “hit” record on Sugarhill Records. One of my cousins (not the one with the record collection) loved this so much, he played it non-stop. You’ll notice that a lot of early rap records had a funky R&B base underneath.
Mass Production, “Firecracker”: Aww, yeah. This may have been one of the first jams that the old boom box blasted (well as much as it could have, anyway). This Norfolk, Virginia band had a few R&B hits, but this was their biggest.
Gap Band, “Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)”: I lived for the opening of the engine revving up, and so did the boom box. Incidentally, Charlie Wilson, the lead singer of the group, is still performing and recording today.
The Brothers Johnson, “Stomp”: From the house of Quincy Jones and his sophisti-funk, one of the last great tunes he produced for the Brothers Johnson. Louis Johnson again stars on the bass.
Lakeside, “Pull My Strings”: From Solar Records came this monster funk slice from Lakeside. This was before “Fantastic Voyage” put them on the map for good.
Dynasty, “Do Me Right”: Solar Records house producer Leon Sylvers III had a band he played in as well. That band, Dynasty, cut a few hits for the label, but it wasn’t as big an act as label mates Shalamar, the Whispers or Lakeside, but they did produce one top ten hit. This isn’t it.
Secret Weapon, “Must Be The Music”: Prelude Records was home to a lot of disco smashes in the 1970s; when the 80s came into vogue, they transitioned to funky danceable numbers. This was one of the more memorable ones from that era, and it even features a small rap in the middle.
Change, “A Lover’s Holiday”: From the “if we can’t be Chic, we can sound a little like them” department: the first hit record for the studio-created band that continued music-making in the Chic style once disco became a bad word.
Kurtis Blow, “The Breaks”: Bookending my list of boom box favorites, this was the first rap record on a major label (Blow recorded for Mercury Records) to make the top ten of the R&B chart, getting as high as #4 in 1980. Much like the early rap records of its day, the music is clearly R&B, with Blow rhyming over the beat.
I hope you enjoy the boom box memories I’ve shared, along with these nine funky tracks. Feel free to share any boom box memories you might have! I hope you have a great Friday, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.