I came to the United States in 1975. Even then, at the age of 17, I haunted record stores, which used to be plentiful and places of great warmth, individuality and social interaction. In between classes at the University or as I transited downtown enroute home on the Number 6 bus, I would, as if by spiritual compulsion, wander into a record store and flip the racks.
Records cost $4.98 in those days, a princely sum to me. And an actual purchase was made probably once every couple of months. The music collection grew slowly in those days. Thank Jehovah for the C-90 tape though. While vinyl was precious, tape was cheap and friends’ record collections freely accessible. I remember reading the small print on some of the tapes, that recording music and ‘distributing it’ was illegal. Reminds me another practice, more contemporary, about which the same corporations rail on a daily basis. But I digress.
During those flip-through-the-racks-of-vinyl sessions several records consistently caught my eye. Honey by the Ohio Players was one. The photograph of a naked model holding up a jar of drippy, shining honey certainly got the blood racing. I often picked up the album and looked at it wondering what sort of music it contained. My tastes were extremely underdeveloped in those bygone years and there was no way I was about to risk $5 on a record full of music I might hate. But boy! Was that cover something.
Many, many years later I was cashed up enough to take the plunge. I saw it on the internet and typed in those fateful numbers on the Mastercard and have thrilled to the sounds ever since. The Ohio Players, from Dayton, Ohio, had been around for many years when Honey was released in 1975. Several changes to the personnel and as many changes of labels coupled with solid stints in New York and Detroit as backing band to other acts helped develop a brass-driven funky sound which was their signature. By the early and mid-70’s they were riding very high indeed, on the R&B charts and regarded as one of the top African American acts of the day.
Of course, in addition to their trademark sound, which also featured the very unique and powerful voice of ‘Sugarfoot’ Bonner who doubled on guitar, was the Players’ preference for sexy women on their album covers. When Playboy Ms October 1974 wound up on Honey, they were at their peak in every way.
The record was a huge success. Love Rollercoaster was the smash which dominated black radio stations for months. Obviously, I was not the only lonely horny kid who loved the cover, because soon after the record’s release, rumours began circulating in certain circles (none of which I was in anyway proximate to) about the lovely lady all covered in honey.
The story goes that during the photo shoot for the cover Ms October was in fact covered in a ‘honey-like’ acrylic, not the real thing. When the shoot was done, the poor woman was unable to get off the floor. She was glued down! With effort she was extricated but with much damage to her beautiful body which meant the end to her modelling career. When she stormed back into the studio some days later to demand justice, the Players’ manager jumped up and stabbed her. Fatally. It is her horrific death scream that can be heard on Love Rollercoaster!
Thankfully, this is an urban myth, but one the Ohio Players were willing to milk to drive the sales of this stunning 70’s icon through the roof. After Honey the band had a couple more hits but by the end of the decade this sort of music was considered out of date and OP disappeared from the scene. But their influence can be heard in everyone from Luther Vandross to Prince.
03 Let’s Love
04 Ain’t Givin’ Up No Ground
05 Sweet Sticky Thing
06 Love Rollercoaster