It begins with one of the nastiest, funkiest bass lines of its era. It might well be one of the nastiest, funkiest bass lines of any era. There’s no doubt when people think of the song that the bass line features prominently in the memory. At least, it does for me. That excludes the greatness of the singers, the message that still resonates some forty-three years after the song first hit the airwaves, and the rest of the sound of the song. The cymbals from the drummer, that trumpet. And for the Philadelphia International record label, this song represented something far funkier than their previous releases.
“For The Love Of Money.” The O’Jays.
Lifted from one of the great message albums of the 1970s, Ship Ahoy, “For The Love Of Money” proved to be another big hit for the O’Jays. Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the founders of Philadelphia International Records, had worked with the O’Jays for years until their previous album Back Stabbers, found them riding the top of the charts. With a run of singles that included “Love Train,” the title track, and “Time To Get Down,” and album cuts that proved to be as popular as the singles, Back Stabbers put the O’Jays and the record label into the spotlight. For the follow-up album, not much changed, but the messages became more pronounced. The title track from Ship Ahoy referenced the slave trade; “This Air I Breathe” was about pollution in the air. The album wasn’t without love songs; “You Got Your Hooks In Me” and “Now That We Found Love” are classics in the group’s canon.
But there was nothing like “For The Love Of Money” in the group’s catalog. It ended up being a top ten smash, both pop and R&B, and a song that when funk bass lines are discussed, that cannot be left out. Credit for that funky line goes to Anthony Jackson, one of the co-writers of the song with Gamble and Huff. While rehearsing in the studio, Huff noticed that Jackson’s bass had a wah-wah pedal attached. Engineer Joe Tarsia recorded Jackson’s bass through a phaser and mixed in echo. There is a story that it was Gamble who added the echo effects heard at the beginning of the song while the song was in its final mix. Whoever was responsible deserves plenty of applause in my book.
With its message as a warning, it still was good enough to make the Funky Friday grade. I hope you enjoy today’s music choice, and as always, thanks for reading and listening. Enjoy your Friday!