Song Draft 2021 – Round 10 – Final Pick – Superstition – Stevie Wonder

We have reached the final round of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard. I want to thank Hans for allowing me to be a part of it, and also thank the other participants who welcomed me into the draft. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this!

Prior to the draft, I made a list of possible song choices. As the draft continued, each round I would look at my list (and at the songs picked by the others) and decide which one would be my next choice. Some of the picks were easy, while others were more difficult. A few of them were spur of the moment picks that weren’t on the original list.

As I looked at that list in preparation for my last pick, I see many artists that I’d love to have featured: Aretha Franklin, The Honeydrippers, Big Joe Turner, Bob Seger, The Go-Go’s, Bill Withers, Johnny Lang, Queen, Buster Brown, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Guy, Neil Diamond, Mel Torme’ and so many more! I stared at my list for a long time and thought about it. Since I began the draft with a Michigan artist, I should wrap up with a Michigan artist. So my final pick for the draft is – Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

Stevie was born a little over 100 miles north of Detroit in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. He would forever be associated with Detroit and Motown records. In a 1990 Detroit appearance at Tiger Stadium, Nelson Mandella said, “It is motor town that gave the world a great singer – Steve Wonder!”

In 1963, when he was known as “Little” Stevie Wonder, he had his first #1 song with a cut called Fingertips Part 2. Personally, I could never stand that song. It was in a heavy rotation at the first radio station I worked at, and I found it annoying. It would be 10 years before he received his next #1 song – Superstition.

The song was released on his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book.

Guitarist Jeff Beck was a fan of Stevie’s music and Stevie heard about this just before recording the Talking Book sessions. Though at this point he was playing virtually all of the instruments on his songs by himself, Stevie preferred to let other guitarists play on his records, and he liked the idea of a collaboration with Beck. An agreement was quickly made for Beck to become involved in the sessions that became the Talking Book album, in return for Wonder writing him a song.

According to legend, between the album sessions, Beck came up with the opening drum beat. Stevie told Jeff to keep playing while he improvised over the top of it. He improvised most of the song, including the funky riff. They wound up creating a rough demo of the song that day.

After finishing the song, Wonder decided that he would allow Beck to record “Superstition” as part of their agreement. Originally, the plan was for Beck to release his version of the song first, with his newly formed power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice. Their album’s release, however, was delayed.

From Songfacts.com: When Stevie turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.

This was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which is where Jimi Hendrix recorded. The studios stayed active after Hendrix’ death, with artists like Miles Davis and Deep Purple also recording there.

At the time, Wonder would keep the studio booked so he could record when inspiration hit. Stevie’s bass player at the time, Scott Edwards, told Songfacts this was not always convenient for his band. “Because he does not have sight, he’s not controlled by daylight,” said Edwards. “So he may begin his night at midnight. Which is bad, because if they want you to come do an overdub or something, he may call you at 4 a.m. and say, ‘Come on in.'”

I always loved the funky feel of this song, and I always played it when I was DJing Halloween parties.

Aside of Jeff Beck’s version, many others have covered this song. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version still gets radio airplay today on many Classic Rock stations.

In 1974, the song earned Stevie his first Grammy Award.

Superstition – Lyrics

Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Hey

Very superstitious,
Wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem,
Do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream,
Keep me goin’ strong,
You don’t wanna save me,
Sad is the soul

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
Yeh, yeh

Very superstitious,
Nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious,
The devil’s on his way,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck,
Good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
No, no, no

As a bonus – here is the official video of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s cover….watch for a cool cameo at the end ….

Song Draft 2021 – Pick 5 – I Heard It Through the Grapevine

As the Song Draft continues, we have come to my fifth pick. I have noticed that I have primarily leaned very “local”. In all honesty, I don’t think I did this intentionally. I have featured songs from my home state of Michigan, and primarily from the Detroit area. I would be remiss if I did not include a song from the Motown Label.

I thought long and hard about just which song to pick. As I looked through the LONG list of Motown groups, I saw The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Temptations, Edwin Starr, Marvin Gaye, The Marvelettes, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Isley Brothers, Mary Wells, Tammi Terrell, The Spinners and more! There were so many artists to chose from.

Now look at that list of artists again, and imagine the list of songs associated with them! The amount of hits (and non hits) produced out of Motown are plenty. However, as I looked through the list of songs, there was one stand out. I dare say that the song is THE BEST of all of the Motown songs. That song, and my fifth pick for the 2021 Song Draft, is I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

The song was written by another Motown artist, Barrett Strong.

Barrett is famous for his song Money (which was once covered by the Beatles) and for writing other songs like Papa Was a Rolling Stone. He got the idea for the song when he was living in Chicago and heard lots of people using the phrase “I heard it through the grapevine.” Barrett said, “Nobody wrote a song about it, so I sat at a piano and came up with the bass line.” 

From Song Facts:

The classic about a man who finds out his woman is cheating on him was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Strong came up with the idea and asked Motown writers Holland-Dozier-Holland to work on it with him. They refused to credit another writer, so Strong took it to Whitfield, who helped put it together. The song eventually became a Motown classic, but it had a rough start, as executives at the company thought it was too bluesy and lacked hit potential.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were the first to record the song, but their version wasn’t released until years later on an album called Special Occasion. The Isley Brothers then took a crack at it, but their version wasn’t released. Whitfield and Strong then had Marvin Gaye record the song but still no luck: Motown head Berry Gordy chose Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Your Unchanging Love” over “Grapevine” as his next single. Finally, a new Motown act Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded the song as a gospel rocker. Their version was a hit, entering the Top 40 in November 1967 and going to #2 in America.

Marvin Gaye’s version was included on his 1968 album In The Groove (later re-titled I Heard It Through The Grapevine). After E. Rodney Jones, the Chicago disc jockey at WVON, started playing it on the air, Berry Gordy reconsidered and released Gaye’s version as a single, which became even more popular and known as the definitive version of the song. Gaye’s “Grapevine” pounded the charts about a year after Knight’s, going to #1 in America on December 14, 1968.

On the Motown Box Set, Gladys Knight’s version and Marvin’s version are included. If I had to chose which version I like more, I’d lean more Marvin. However, that being said, Gladys version is really cool too. Hers has a more uptempo feel to it, the bass line (played by James Jamerson in both versions) is extra funky and I love to listen to the drum work in it. Check it out here:

Then you get to Marvin’s version. Slower, groovier, and perfect.

What makes Marvin’s so special? According to Song Facts: Marvin Gaye wrung out the emotion in the song thanks to Norman Whitfield, who produced the track and gave him very specific instructions. Whitfield had Gaye sing slightly higher than his normal range, which created the strained vocal, and he made him do it over and over until he got it right. Gaye explained to NME: “I simply took direction, as I felt the direction he was expounding was a proper one. Had I done it myself I would not have sung it at all like that, but y’see there are many benefits in just singing other people’s material and taking directions. The job of interpreting is quite an important one, because when people are not able to express what is in their souls if there is an artist who can… then I think that is very valuable.”

With that in mind, one of the most amazing videos on YouTube is this version of Grapevine where Marvin’s vocal is isolated. I still get chills listening to the perfection in his voice.

WOW! Just WOW!!

Heard It Through The Grapevine – Lyrics

Ooh-ooh, bet you’re wond’ring how I knew
‘Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy that you knew before
Between the two of us guys, you know I love you more

It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

You know that a man ain’t supposed to cry
But these tears I can’t, hold inside
Losin’ you would end my life you see
‘Cause you mean that much to me

You could have told me yourself
That you found someone else

Instead I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

People say you have from what you see
And not not not from what you hear
I can’t help, bein’ confused
If it’s true, won’t you tell me dear

Do you plan to let me go
For the other guy that you knew before

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine

Song Draft – Pick #1 – Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

This blog is part of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard…. I have followed his blog, for some time and he always posts some great musical and movie stuff! His blog can be found here:

https://slicethelife.com/author/hanspostcard/

I’d like to thank Hans for allowing me to participate in the song draft (and Max for asking if I’d be interested).

In preparation for the draft, I went through years worth of Billboard charts, scanned my entire DJ library, and listened to all of the songs on my iPod (more than once). After going through a list of songs, I came up with my list. I have a few extras picked, just in case one of the other drafters pick one of mine.

My first draft choice is probably a song that many have never heard. I was born and raised in the Detroit area, and worked on the radio in Detroit for 10 years. Because of this, I decided to find a song that is not only a favorite, but showcases my hometown. The song is not a Motown song, but there certainly is a Motown connection to it that I hope you will find interesting.

When I first started at the radio station in 1988, my dad gave me a list of songs to put on cassette for him. They were almost all songs from his childhood that he couldn’t find in stores. While at the station, I searched for many of the songs on the list and heard them for the first time as I recorded them for my dad. The first song on the list was “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong.

The Diablos with lead singer Nolan Strong was one of Detroit’s most successful early vocal groups. The group’s classic 1954 recording of “The Wind” would have probably been a national R&B hit were it not for spotty distribution by the tiny Fortune record label.

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Motown’s Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. The story goes like this:

It’s early in the evening one day towards the end of September, 1962. The Temptations fourth single, “Paradise,” is being pressed up (along with a bunch of other new Motown records), ready for signing over to the distributors. The Motown rep who periodically comes to the pressing plant to check the print run notices stacks and stacks of boxes piled up in the corner, all full of seven inch singles.

The rep casually enquiring as to what’s going on, he’s informed that those boxes contain the complete inventory of the latest Fortune Records single, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong and the Diablos. The record was officially meant to have been released by now. It’s been getting some radio play, and indications across Detroit are that it’s going to be big. (For sure, the rep notes to himself, Berry Gordy Jr has remarked loudly and often how much he liked the record, and how he’d previously tried to sign Nolan Strong to Motown, with no success.) But some sort of organizational screw-up has meant that the distributors haven’t been able to get them out yet, so there they all are, still sitting in their boxes, still waiting to be taken away.

The Motown rep nods, makes his excuses, hurries out to a payphone and gets Berry Gordy on the line. Urgent, he says. Fortune Records has dropped the ball, he explains. The Nolan Strong record’s on the radio, but it’s not in the shops. Nobody can actually buy a copy. The rep doesn’t need to explain any further. Berry gets the point. Berry hangs up without a word. He’s got some calls of his own to make.

Gordy calls A&R. He calls the studio. He calls producer Clarence Paul. Got a top priority mission for you. Drop everything else you’re doing right now. Don’t care what group you cut it on. Just get me the damn record as soon as possible.

Within five days, Motown has its own cover version of Mind Over Matter recorded, pressed and in stores. That, in itself, it pretty amazing! What a turn around!!

A clip from the local paper shows how Motown tried to really capitalize on the fact that Nolan Strongs version was unavailable:

The story wouldn’t have a happy ending for Motown, as someone at Fortune got wind of the ploy and made sure the Nolan Strong record found its way into local stores, where – backed with Fortune’s undivided attention – it promptly flew off the shelves and became a regional chart-topper, squashing Motown’s competing version before it had had a chance to get started. But it’s illustrative of just how much could be achieved if Berry Gordy wanted it to happen badly enough.

The group Clarence Paul wound up recording Mind Over Matter were the Temptations, who (as noted above) already had a new single lined up; their record was due out on October 1st, and there was no point having two Temptations records out at once battling each other’s sales and damaging the group’s image. The quickly-recorded cover thus went out under an adopted name; enter “the Pirates”.

(The Gracenote CD database, and thus much of the Internet, insists that this group is actually white British novelty rockers Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but that’s a bad mistake; these are the Temptations, under a stupid name, with Eddie Kendricks on lead).

Some people like the Temptations version better, however, there is something magical to the Nolan Strong version for me. Maybe it is the simplicity of it. I feel like his vocal is more solid than the Temps. Of course, maybe it is just because I never even knew that another version existed until a few years ago.

I’m not saying that the Temps version was bad, because it isn’t. Berry Gordy was an astute judge alright – and it came out as a decent single with a strong, driving groove, only to be denied a chart hit by the circumstances in which it came to be made. One cannot dent that the song is an important early record by one of Motown’s most important groups nonetheless.

As mentioned above, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong reached #1 locally around Detroit, but only made it to #112 nationally on Billboard. One of my favorite songs of all time!

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. “Berry Gordy thought it was such a great record that he took the guys in the Temptations and they recorded a version of ‘Mind Over Matter’ as the Pirates for Motown, but Nolan Strong had the bigger hit.”

Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

My mind is made up ’cause you’re so cold
I want your love to have and to hold
I’ll have your love cause you are so fine
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine


And I believe that someone wants someone bad enough
The way I want you for you’re the one that I love
I’ll command all my powers to make you fall in line
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

[Chorus]
I’ll put a spell on you, put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

(Instrumental Break)

I’ll put a spell on you, I’ll put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

Oh baby, so nice, ohh, you gotta be mine
Oh baby (fade out)

___

Here is the Temptations version, since it played so prominently in the story:

Thanks for reading – and listening!

That Time I Ticked Off Soupy Sales … and His Wife!

The great comedian, Soupy Sales, was born today in 1926. In honor of his birthday, I thought I would share a story I don’t talk about often, because it still makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

Back in 1989, I was working at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit. I was doing the overnight show and often hung out afterward to help the morning guy, Paul Christy. I had contacted Soupy’s manager and asked if he could cut a few lines for my show. (My favorite was: “Hi Everybody, this is Soupy Sales! Whenever I’m in Detroit, I never miss the Keith Allen Show. I don’t listen to it and I don’t miss it!) In a few weeks, Soupy sent them to the station on a cassette for me along with a note with his phone number. He said to call him If I ever needed any more lines.

A few months later, we were all in the studio and Paul noticed that Soupy was going to be playing a show in town that weekend. He asked me if I still had his phone number. I told him I did. Without missing a beat, he said, “Give it a call and find out where he is staying, so we can get him on for an interview.” Now, it was like 6 am, and the show had just started. I gave him a look and he was dead serious. “Go make the call!”

Paul was my boss. I didn’t want to make him mad, so I was off to the production room and made the call. I’m not sure who I thought I was calling, but I guess I hoped it was his office. It was his home number! His wife, Trudy, answered the phone and it was obvious I woke her up. I told her who I was and why I was calling. She gave me the name of the hotel where Soupy was staying and she assured me that Soupy would get a hold of me. Oh, he did.

That afternoon, I was at home and the phone rang. When I answered it, it was Soupy. He was not very happy. It was obvious that his wife had called him wondering why some schmuck had called her at home at the butt crack of dawn! He gave me a “talking to!” My heart sank as my comedy hero yelled at me for bothering his wife so early. I felt awful.

After it all sank in, I knew I had to make it right. I sat down at the computer and wrote two letters. One to Soupy and one to his wife. I explained how I was wrong for calling so early. I explained how I was just trying to do what my boss had asked me to do. I apologized profusely in both letters. I felt so bad for being disrespectful and for what happened. It was the absolute worst feeling! I cried as I wrote those letters. I felt so bad about the entire incident! Even writing about it now brings back that feeling of “nausea” I had when it happened.

I friend of mine knew the hotel that Soupy was staying at. He said that he would take the letters there for me. He dropped them at the desk and that was that. I would have taken them myself, but the last thing I wanted was to run into Soupy, who at that time I had never met yet. I already felt like crap, and I certainly didn’t want to meet him under those circumstances.

Fast Forward a few years:

Soupy was playing a show at Pine Knob. My buddy Vic and I were going to the show that night. Vic knew Soupy because he worked in New York and often worked near where Soupy lived. That night, before the show, Vic wrote a note on his business card and sent it back to Soupy’s dressing room with a security guard. Next thing I knew, we were being escorted back to see Soupy. Soupy got up and shook hands with Vic. Vic introduced me and when Soupy heard my name, he looked at me and said, “Didn’t we have an incident a few years ago?” I once again felt my heart sink, but Soupy chuckled and said everything was ok. He said he appreciated my apology and proceeded to chat with us as if nothing had happened.

What a relief to finally know that Soupy (and his wife) did get my letters. That was the thing that worried me for years, never knowing if they had actually got to him. He was so gracious and pleasant to me that night. I am glad that I had the chance to shake his hand.

Happy Birthday, Soupy! Thanks for the laughs!

Drew Friedman’s rendition of Soupy Sales

A Little Mischief

All my life the night before Halloween was referred to as Devil’s Night. In some places it is called Mischief Night. Other places call it Goosey Night, Mat Night, or Cabbage Night. Whatever you called it, it was usually a night that kids/teens would go out and prank people. Usually those pranks were pretty harmless. Recently, Devil’s Night in Michigan (Detroit, in particular) became a night that folks would go out and set fires to abandoned house and buildings. It is now referred to as Angel’s Night as many patrol neighborhoods in hopes of stopping those fires.

I was not an innocent little teenager, as I would occasionally go out on October 30th and cause mischief. In discussing with a friend the many pranks associated with Devil’s Night, I did many of them, but not all of them. How many of these were you involved with?

Toilet Papering

Of all the pranks we came up with, I admit, this was my favorite. We TP’d houses even when it wasn’t Devil’s Night! You can read about that in a past blog. We had a group in high school called the TP Bandits. I swear we bought hundreds of dollars in TP in 1988! When we were done, we left works of art! The sheer beauty of TP blowing in wind …. ah, what a sight!

Soaping Windows

Probably one of the cheapest and least menacing pranks was soaping windows. You’d go into your bathroom and home and swipe a bar of soap and go up and down the street drawing smiley faces on car windows. Sometimes we’d write “hello” or draw things on home windows, but not usually. I can see where this might not be so harmless today. I have a feeling that most kids today would write hateful things on car windows. The nice thing about this prank was a car wash or rain would take care of the soap.

Ding Dong Ditch

I’ll be honest, I never heard it called “Ding Dong Ditch” until recently. We would usually just say, “Hey! Wanna go ring doorbells?!” This prank is more annoying than anything and if you were slow, you’d get caught. Basic idea – ring the doorbell and run. I would imagine that the Ring Doorbells with cameras make this not as fun. It really is a dumb prank. This is almost the same thing as …

Knock and Run

This prank is basically the same thing, except you knock on the door and run. I have a feeling this came about because of homes that had no doorbell! I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do this, but when I saw this picture I laughed. Imagine doing this to your own home!

He probably needs a longer hockey stick…..

Egging houses

A bit more expensive and a lot messier, this was a prank I only did a couple times. A buddy of mine busted a window by whipping an egg at it, and I think that was when I decided that “egging” was not my favorite prank. Most people just egged cars, but some threw them at doors and houses. It was always messy and I remember my dad hating having to clean that up. Some people took this prank in another direction and used tomatoes!

Forking

This is a prank I never really understood. Forking a lawn is just what it sounds like – someone puts a bunch of plastic forks in a lawn. I would think you’d need a whole lot of people to pull off this prank in a hurry, otherwise, it is gonna take you a while to get it done. I don’t know about you, but if I am pulling a prank like this or TPing, I wanna get it, get it done, and get out before I get caught! This is one of those pranks I never really understood.

The Flaming Bag of Poop

This is probably the cruelest of all the pranks. It is gross. Someone puts dog poop in a paper bag and lights it on fire. Then, they knock on the door or ring the doorbell and run away. The home owner comes to the door and stomps on the bag, getting poop on their shoe. This prank has shown up in Adam Sandler movies, on Saturday Night Live (in Matt Foley and Martha Stewart sketches), and on the Simpsons.

For the record, I never did this prank. I can’t even imagine wanting to pick up a piece of dog poop!

Smashing Pumpkins

I guess this prank is pretty mean, too. I know how hard my son worked on carving his pumpkin. If he woke up Halloween morning and found it busted up, I can only imagine how upset he’d be. I am not sure that this is really a Devil’s Night thing, as I think most pumpkin smashing happens after Halloween when the gourds are a bit more … mushy.

Did I miss any pranks? Let me know!

I hope that when I walk out to my car in the morning it is egg and soap free!