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Donna Summer
Donna Summer

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 24 - The Disco Years

The middle of another decade, the future of rock 'n' roll again up in the air. In R & R's corner, in the pale trunks, were AOR (Album Oriented Rock) acts like Styx, Foreigner, etc. Previously, 1974 Euro disco techno pop burned up the east coast in the gay discotheques, and was about to infect the nation with its Saturday Night Fever. In New York, acts like Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, etc., were spearheading the New Wave movement and across the ocean, 1975 saw the Sex Pistols debut late in the year.

  • Harvard Square danced when the electronic billboard announced guilty verdicts in the Watergate case, Saigon officially became North Vietnamese property and Patty Hearst was captured after a 19 month stint with the SLA. And the Red Sox! The Red Sox took it to game seven in the World Series, only to lose to Ohio's Reds.

  • The only place an original band was welcome on the club level was either The Club or The Rathskellar. It would be one more year before the local scene literally exploded with the likes of Reddy Teddy, Thundertrain, DMZ, local legend Willie Alexander, and many others.

  • Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic, spawning the top 40 hit, Sweet Emotion (#36, 1975), helped the band rack up three gold records (Toys, Get Your Wings and Aerosmith), for sales of over 1,000,000 units each.

  • The Doobie Brothers, featuring ex- Ultimate Spinach's lead guitarist, Skunk Baxter, picked up a gold record for Black Water.

  • James Taylor reeled in a gold record as well for Gorilla, with the remake of Marvin Gaye's How Sweet It Is" (To Be Loved By You.)

  • Chelsea boy Joe Smith picked up the National Association of Recording Manufacturers (NARM) Presidential Award for Outstanding Work for Warner Bros.

  • Vocalist Frank Dimino and members of Casablanca's Angel (former members of East Coast band Max and Boston band Daddy Warbux) release their debut LP. The band was discovered by Kiss' Gene Simmons.

  • Charlie McKenzie (WEA Boston) and Peter Casperson (Castle Music) took locals The Road Apples for a ride into the top 40 with #35 Let's Live Together, something The Jackals have not yet repeated.

  • Party band Duke & The Drivers released the second and last LP of their short-lived success, Rollin' On. The Rolling Stone record guide perhaps summed it up best: "The Drivers have enthusiasm and taste, particularly in choosing cover material. The faults of the first LP might be blamed on production (Tom Worman, what you got, sure's good), but the second's problems are entirely their own. A good bar band, but nothing more."

  • Brother James made the move from Capricorn to Island Records. Allen Toussaint, New Orleans producer with Dr. John, LaBelle, John Mayall and Joe Cocker, was assigned the Island debut. The James Montgomery Band yielded heavy airplay, but Island president Chris Blackwell did not believe in tour support, leaving James helpless.

    Boston, the band, not the city, formed late in the year.

    Strawberries' boss Morris Levy, spent the year in court in a famous battle with ex-Beatle John Lennon. Seems John's Rock And Roll LP was the brainchild of the Roulette Records president, and when the Phil Spector co-produced album was rushed off to pressing, with John's deportation imminent, Morris released a rough mix of the sessions, packaged as Roots,, and began selling it on TV in a mail order ad. Morris claimed a verbal agreement was made with Lennon, which was denied, and Levy filed a $42 million suit. Lennon won.

    Three famous dates to remember:

      January 6, 1975: 3,000 fans, waiting in an overnight line for Led Zeppelin tickets, riot at the Boston Garden. $30,000 worth of damage later, Kevin White cancelled the February 4th show.

      November 2, 1975: Bob Dylan detours the Rolling Thunder Revue (which began at the Plymouth, Mass. Memorial Stadium) to visit beat poet Jack Kerovac's grave site in Lowell, Mass. The scene was used in Dylan's Renaido & Clara and featured Dylan himself with his face painted white, sitting on the grave strumming a guitar, with Allen Ginsberg sitting next to him reciting poetry.

      November 19,1975: J. Geils Band wraps up taping of "Blow Your Face Out" at Detroit's Cobo Arena. Portions of their Nov. 15th Boston Garden show are also included. The band's 1975 release, Hotline, produced no top 40 material.

    And now for all of you who wore Disco Sucks T-shirts ...


    La Donna Andrea Gaines was born December 31, 1948 to a conservative, God fearing, Roxbury, Mass. family. Her father held down a butcher's job and was also a part time electrician and janitor to feed his 6 daughters and one son. Her mother also worked as a teacher. As a young teen she sang in the church choir, though not allowed to solo. By age 16, a sophomore at Roxbury's Jeremiah Burke High School, she joined the all white rock band Crow and housed at the Psychedelic Supermarket in 1968. Her idols were Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Dinah Washington, The Supremes and Dionne Warwick. Most closely, she emulated Janis. She quit the band and school (2 months and 200 truances short of graduation), and headed off to Germany for the European production of Hair. After the show closed, she became a popular comedienne with the Vienna Folk Opera. It was here she met her husband, Austrian Helmut Sommer.

    She also landed roles in German versions of Godspell, Porgy and Bess, Showboat and The Me Nobody Knows. She picked up a job singing backgrounds at Musicland Studios, home of the Munich Machine.

    22 Orgasms
    When Giorgio Moroder and Peter Bellotte of Oasis Records (also singers, songwriters, producers, etc.) together with Donna heard the French love-making song, Je T'Aime, they spoofed a three minute Love To Love You, Baby using the Kraftwerk genre Eurodisco music. Sommer (Donna) tried a comic approach - it didn't work. Moroder replied, "Groan, don't sing."

    Oasis Records had a lease deal going with Neil Bogart's American label, Casablanca, and they stiffed Neil with the three minute version. As legend has it, Bogart played the record at a party and the record player stuck and played the song over and over. Everyone danced and loved it. Bogart called Moroder and arranged to have a longer version. Moroder replied with a 16 minute, 50 second version complete with Sommer simulating 22 orgasms. For better image, Sommer's name was changed to Summer. Radio stations picked up the song for graveyard shifts, and discos in turn ate it up. In one week 40,000 copies were sold; six weeks later, 400,000 copies ... 8 years after ditching America, she returned with her 5 year old daughter Mimi, not knowing the record had gone #1. She was met at New York airport by screaming fans. She was a sex goddess in the U.S.A ... She flipped, literally; she forgot her name, came down with a cronic ulcer and checked herself into a hospital. Two years later, I Feel Love peaked at #6 on the charts. Regardless, the critics slayed her, saying the production did it, anyone could have sung it. Four more top songs followed. I Love You (#37,1978); from the Casablanca, Motown flick, Thank God It's Friday, came Last Dance, (#3,1978); the Jimmy Webb-Richard Harris ditty, MacArthur Park (#I, 1978); Heaven Knows (#4, 1979).

    If this wasn't enough to slay the critics, she took the reins in her own hands and rifled off some more #l hits. Bad Girls and Hot Stuff (featuring Skunk Baxter ) went platinum and Dim All The Lights went gold. Bad Girls and Hot Stuff were 1 & 2 on the charts at the same time, a feat accomplished only by the Beatles in 1964 and the Bee Gees in 1978.

    In 1980 she sued Bogart and his wife Joyce for mismanagement and 10 million dollars damages, married her guitarist Bruce Sudano and then became a born-again Christian. She's released LPs for Geffen since, and has appeared in Tahoe and Vegas.

    The Total
    2 Platinum LPs
    2 Platinum 45s
    8 Gold LPs
    IO Gold 45s


    From the Del Rios to the Realities to The Chorales to Chubby and the Turnpikes to Tavares. It was a long haul. Second generation U.S. citizens, the Tavares heritage lay in the Atlantic Portuguese province, Cape Verde. Like many before them, they settled in New Bedford, Mass. In the 50s, the boys began performing with their father. The eldest boy, John, turned the younger set onto traditional Verdean Island Folkand Doo-Wop. in 1964, under Chubby & the Turnpikes, the kids, minus john, made their professional debut in Onset, MA., at the club, the Blue Flame. There was Antone aka Chubby, Arthur aka Pooch, Perry aka tiny, Ralph just plain Ralph), Feliciano aka Butch (he later married Lola Falana), and Vic (he left in the early seventies for a solo deal with Warner Bros.). As well as recent New England gigs, the band began playing in the Bahamas, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.

    At the beginning of the seventies, Boston's Capitol Record promo man, Brian Pinnela, eyeballed the band. He became their manager, quit the label and then got the label to sign the act. Johnny Bristol (Hang On In There Baby, #8, 1974) produced the first effort, which was heavily promoted as Capitol pushed to break into soul. Check It Out (LP title and title cut) gave us four singles, including the Top 40 Check It Out (#35 pop, #5 R&B); Hall & Oates She's Gone (#50 pop, #1 R&B); Too Late"; and a version of Derringer's Rock 'n' Roll Hootchie Koo.

    The 2nd LP, In The City, brought Remember What I Told You to Forget (#25 pop) and their 1st pop Top 10 It Only Takes a Minute Girl (#10, #1 R&B). Their 3rd, Sky High, produced by ex-Motown great Freddie Perron, featured their 1st gold single, Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel. More Than A Woman on the Saturday Night Fever album spoiled them rotten.

    Next Issue: The Boston Underground-Live At The Rat.

    This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
    (c) Charles William White III

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