The Detroit Sound Book


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The Detroit Sound Book

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The Detroit Sound Book

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  2. 2. PRODUCTION Kamran V LICENSING Graham Kurzner RE-MASTERING Peter Lyman [except 96 Tears] ILLUSTRATIONS Ben Lamb SLEEVE NOTES Bill Holdship DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Levi’s® XX © 2013 Levi Strauss & Co. 307333-1_BK.indd 3 8/8/13 12:01 PM
  3. 3. THE DETROIT SOUND Motor City Music from 1960 to 1966 In the early 1960s, Detroit was still the heart of the American car industry, which drew thousands of migrants from the South and elsewhere to work in the auto factories. The pulsing beat of the factory was reflected in the music, and Detroit soon became a hotbed for a diverse range of sounds. Detroit’s biggest export was Motown Records, founded by local Detroiter and former autoworker Berry Gordy with an $800 loan from his parents. Gordy’s “Hit Factory” worked on the same principles as the Detroit car assembly lines, churning out charttopping hits by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, the Supremes and more. If Motown was the sound of the city, then the garage rock of the Hideout club was the sound of the suburbs. The first teen shack in Michigan to feature live music, the Hideout soon had its own record label which spawned the careers of Bob Seger, Glenn Frey and Suzi Quatro, among others. This sound was the bedrock for local artists like The Stooges and The MC5, who would pave the way for the punk rock movement that was to follow. For Fall Winter 2013, Levi’s® Vintage Clothing pays tribute to Motor Town’s musical revolution and the slick stylings of the people that were there. In addition to reissuing iconic garments from the era, the Brand is offering up the soundtrack to its “Boom Town” collection: Seven singles released between 1960 and 1966 that cover a wide breadth of Detroit genres and labels. Like the archival reproductions that Levi’s® Vintage Clothing is famous for, each record in this set is a classic in its own right and has been faithfully pressed and packaged exactly as it was when it was first introduced. 307333-1.indd 1 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  5. 5. LITTLE WILLIE JOHN I’m Shakin’ KING (1960) James Brown called him his favorite singer and everyone who saw his amazing live performances testifies that Little Willie John was one of the primary architects of what became “soul music”. His 1968 death at age 30 – in a Washington state prison following a 1966 manslaughter conviction – undoubtedly accounts for his lack of mainstream recognition. His family moved from Arkansas to Detroit when Willie was four. The John children formed a popular Detroit gospel quintet in the ’40s. But Willie preferred secular music and began winning talent shows as a solo artist throughout the city. His parents rejected touring offers from Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, but Willie eventually signed to King Records, and, at barely age 18, recorded the original version of Otis Blackwell’s “Fever,” later a smash hit for Peggy Lee. Willie’s recording of “I’m Shakin’” was released by King Records in 1960. Although it wasn’t a hit at the time, it has since become a classic of its genre and showcases his raw vocal power. 307333-1.indd 3 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  7. 7. JOHN LEE HOOKER Boom Boom VEE-JAY (196�) John Lee Hooker was born a sharecropper’s son in Mississippi, and spent years in Memphis before relocating to Detroit for auto factory work in 1943. Most Delta blues greats only made it to the Billboard pop charts via reinterpretations of their material, usually by young white British groups. But Hooker had the remarkable distinction of crossing over to the pop charts himself with his own original recording of “Boom Boom,” which reached No. 60 in 1962. British group The Animals also hit the American pop charts in 1964 with their take on “Boom Boom” Before cutting “Boom Boom,” Hooker put together a band for the session, complete with horns, featuring mostly players who’d come to be known as Motown’s Funk Brothers, including legendary bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin. The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, which inducted Hooker in 1991, included this record on its list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock.” 307333-1.indd 5 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  9. 9. THE DYNAMICS Misery BIG TOP (1963) This marvelous pop confection perfectly illustrates the racial and cultural melting pot that was Detroit in the 1950s and ’60s. There are numerous other examples of the city’s musical crossbreeding but this one surely ranks as the best. The Royal Playboys were a popular show band, opening for national acts like The Four Seasons. The Dynamics – an R&B vocal quintet – saw the band play a Detroit Catholic church across the street from their low-income housing project and convinced them to play backing on Misery. The song’s creation remains shrouded in mystery. But everything about this garage-style take on doo-wop, complete with falsetto shrieks and a sax solo, is perfection. The song was a major hit in Detroit, only months before The Beatles arrived, reaching a respectable position of number 42 on the national charts. Meanwhile, in England, The High Numbers, the quartet soon to become The Who, were seeking material for their first single. Manager Pete Meaden took “Misery,” rewrote the lyrics, put his name on it and “Zoot Suit” became The High Numbers’ highlyplagiarized debut release. Pete Townshend claims he hadn’t heard The Dynamics’ song. Nevertheless, the controversy rages on. 307333-1.indd 7 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  11. 11. THE VELVELETTES Needle in a Haystack VIP/MOTOWN (1964) The Velvelettes often seem to be forever in the shadows of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (who would “steal” two Velvelettes over the years) and, of course, The Supremes. In fact, they were often relegated to recording demos of tunes that became huge hits for Motown’s preferred all-girl acts. This group, originally two sets of sisters, a cousin, and a family friend, formed at Kalamazoo’s Western Michigan University during the early ’60s. Berry Gordy’s nephew was a classmate who encouraged the girls to audition for Motown Records with his strong endorsement. Signed in 1963, The Velvelettes basically languished until new staff producer Norman Whitfield took them under his wing in the spring of ’64. Together, they created this dance classic, which, although it only reached No. 45 on the US pop charts, has since become a classic on the underground soul scene. The record was released on Motowns V.I.P. imprint in September ’64. 307333-1.indd 9 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  13. 13. THE PLEASURE SEEKERS What a Way to Die HIDEOUT (1964) There were self-contained all-girl rock bands long before The Runaways, who often get the credit. One of the finest was Detroit’s Pleasure Seekers, formed in 1964 by two sets of sisters, Patti and Suzi Quatro, and Nancy and Mary Lou Ball. The group was one of many garage rock bands that formed throughout the country in the wake of the exploding British Invasion. They were soon regulars at The Hideout, promoter Dave Leone’s teen club and ground zero for Detroit’s burgeoning garage rock scene. Suzi was 15, Patti 17 when they recorded a single for Leone’s Hideaway label. “What a Way to Die,” the B-side, featuring lyrics by Leone, is a prototype of the genre, celebrating teen sex and underage drinking. Suzi eventually joined forces with producer Mickie Most, who molded her into a black-leathered rock phenomenon in the UK during the early ’70s. Superstardom got her the cover of Rolling Stone, although she’s still best known to US audiences as The Fonz’s tough girlfriend, Leather Tuscadero, on TV’s Happy Days. 307333-1.indd 11 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  15. 15. ? & THE MYSTERIANS 96 Tears CAMEO (1966) “96 Tears” is not only one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll records of all time, as John Lennon once called it, but also one of the most important. Those three-and-a-half minutes of keyboard brilliance and punk attitude helped launch garage rock to the notoriety that continues today. Critic Dave Marsh coined the term “punk rock” in CREEM magazine to describe this group of Texas-born Mexicans, who’d relocated to Michigan for auto plant jobs. One week, they were in a Saginaw garage – and a few months later, they had America’s No. 1 song! But the “punk” was also notable in the tough image of the lead singer, born Rudy Martinez (never without his trademark shades) who legally changed his name to “?” in the mid-’60s. (The words “Question Mark” are reportedly on his Social Security card.) “96 Tears” was originally released by Pa Go Go, a small indie label where only 500 copies were pressed. But following nonstop local airplay, the single was picked up by Cameo for distribution, and the rest is rock ’n’ roll history. The band scored minor hits with several follow-up singles, never again striking gold. 307333-1.indd 13 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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  17. 17. THE CONTOURS Just a Little Misunderstanding GORDY RECORDS/MOTOWN (1966) The Contours are best remembered for 1962’s “Do You Love Me,” one of Berry Gordy’s earliest smashes. It was a tough act to follow, and the group never scored another hit – not even with this exuberant 1966 single, co-composed by Stevie Wonder (that’s Stevie playing drums behind the Funk Brothers). It was the first – and only – Contours record to feature new lead vocalist Joe Stubbs, brother of The Four Tops’ Levi, and the singer Wilson Pickett had replaced in Detroit’s much-beloved Falcons. Truth is, Gordy originally didn’t want to sign the group. The Contours were the hardest-sounding unit in his Motown stable, never really fitting the label’s rapidly increasing mainstream formula. It wasn't until R&B great Jackie Wilson, a longtime Gordy associate and cousin of The Contours member Hubert Johnson, asked him to reconsider that Gordy finally relented. This single was released on the Gordy imprint in 1966, and while it only hit No. 85 on the pop charts, it has since become a classic among Northern Soul fans. 307333-1.indd 15 8/8/13 11:56 AM
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