The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision”

Well, this is odd. As regulars to this place know I left work last week after around 30 years with the same organisation – Not going to rush headlong into the next project yet, which could be all too easy, so until I start something new I find myself with plenty of spare time to sit down and partake in a little light blogging. Just as I do that however, it seems that inspiration has deserted me! Strange, as when I was a busy bee I had no shortage of inspiration and could often be seen bashing away on the laptop into the early hours of the morning.

But no, the problem this time is perhaps not a lack of inspiration but rather indecision as to what to write about next. I have a couple of series in progress and I have my trusty “blogging notebook” of ideas to refer to, but somehow neither of these routes work for me today so it’s time to search my digital database of tunes, to find something that relates to decision-making – Didn’t have to look far as immediately up popped Year Of Decision from 1974, by The Three Degrees. I haven’t featured anything from that stable of artists who went on to create the Philadelphia Sound before, so high time really. Also, my recent personal “big decision”, makes the lyrics very pertinent.

Year Of Decision by The Three Degrees:

Ok, so if you watched the clip, you had to endure that faux banter that used to happen as a prelude to introducing the acts on light entertainment shows such as this one (plus Cliff’s edge to edge embroidered tunic) but the three girls, Sheila Ferguson, Fayette Pinkney and Valerie Holiday certainly knew how to ply their trade back in the mid ’70s and those glamourous matching outfits, usually chiffon with strategically placed sequins, were their trademark.

Philadelphia International Records was founded in 1971 by the very talented writer-producer duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, along with collaborator Thom Bell.  It very much showcased a new genre of music based on the gospel, doo-wop, and soul music of the time. Throughout the 1970s the label released a string of worldwide hits which featured lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass, and driving percussion. Other than The Three Degrees some of their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 1980s, the label sold over 170 gold and platinum records.

Watching shows like ToTP in the mid ’70s, rarely a week went by without an appearance by one of the aforementioned acts. The Three Degrees even become known for having our future king as a fan and after reaching No.1 in the UK Singles Chart with When Will I See You Again, they were well and truly propelled into the mainstream.

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Charlie’s Darlings!

We’ve now seen a fine example of what the Philly Sound served up in the mid ’70s when it came to the ladies – What were the immaculately dressed men doing around that time? If you did watch the earlier clip, you will know that Gamble & Huff’s first big success was this 1972 song, Back Stabbers, performed by the O’Jays. A fine tune indeed and one I have always liked although apparently a warning to men that although their male friends might be all friendly to their faces, they secretly plan to steal their wives or girlfriends. A far fetched premise indeed although after watching the current hit television drama Dr Foster, where the reviewers are lauding it for being so realistic, I am starting to realise that I must live in an alternate universe where relationships are concerned.

Back Stabbers by The O’Jays:

So, “What’s It All About?” – The move to a new, more home-based life has obviously robbed me of my decision-making abilities. As hobbies go, blogging is a relatively inexpensive one (as long as the technology holds out) so having not done much else over the last 20 months except work and blog, I have bought myself a few months of time before I have to make any more big decisions. Just as well as even deciding on a subject for this post was hard enough.

When I started this blog, I used to link each post to the previous one in some way but it might be more fun if I am set a challenge. I have put out a request like this once before and it worked well for me, so again, which song would logically follow on from either Year Of Decision or Back Stabbers for you? You know where the comments boxes are but please try and make it something I might have heard of!

Until next time….

Year Of Decision Lyrics
(Song by Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff)

Yes
This is the year
To make your decision.
Yes
This is the year
To open up your mind.

If you’ve been holding back kind of slack

Now’s the time to get the things you need.
There ain’t no reason why you should be shy

People have died to set you free.
Oh we need ev’ry one to succeed

Everybody to succeed everybody
Soul isn’t enough hey come on and join us

Please (come on come on and join us please

Yes this is the year . . .

If you’re strong out on a Jones
Better make sure that you leave the bad stuff
What ever you want to do think it over good
Cause the change is up to you

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

16 thoughts on “The O’Jays, The Three Degrees and a “Year Of Decision””

  1. I can show off again by saying I already knew about The 3 Degrees before they started tearing up the UK charts as they’d already appeared in one of my all time favourite films, The French Connection, released in 1971. They were a night club act singing the not very memorable “Everybody gets to go to the Moon”, although it works fine within the film itself. I sort of gave up on them when Prince Charles became a fan. Well, you have to draw the line somewhere. “Back Stabbers” is just one helluva great song and to answer your question, my choice for the logical follow up to it would be the O’Jays next hit single “Love Train” – a wondrous, joyous noise. And speaking of that song, you simply must listen to the version done by gospel/soul/blues The Holmes Brothers or your life will never be complete………………………https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y4c_jNRzSs

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    1. Yes I noticed they’d appeared in the French Connection when I was doing all that extensive research needed (!) – Next time I watch that film I’ll be looking out for them.

      Thanks for the suggestion – I get nervous that nobody will come up with anything. Just listened to that Holmes Brothers clip of Love Train – an excellent very slow bluesy version so thanks for sharing.

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    1. Good one although been featured here before ahead of the big Brexit referendum date last June. Glad to see that is all progressing nicely with that now though!?

      Hope you’re enjoying your holiday – Discovered last year when I did a bit of research about the Clash and Joe Strummer that his mother was from Bonar Bridge just a mere hop, skip and jump from where you are now. When I went on holiday to Dornoch last summer I felt sure that the young Joe/John/Woody would have spent time on that very beach as a young lad.

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  2. It’s always the way isn’t it? When I’m charging around all over the place without a spare moment, I come up with all manner of cunning blog-related ideas, but on those rare occasions that I sit in front of the laptop with a cup of coffee and all the time in the world – nothing comes!
    I’m afraid I’m coming up pretty blank with a tune suggestion to follow on from ‘Year Of Decision’ and ‘Back Stabbers’, all I’ve got is ‘Big Decision’ by That Petrol Emotion or ‘Stab Your Back’ by The Damned, neither of which is really up your street I reckon! Of course I also wholeheartedly endorse CC’s suggestion of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’!

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    1. Yes if you need something done ask a busy person! As for your suggestions, you all know me too well now as I can’t say I’m familiar with either of them so if would be hard to write about them. And, as mentioned to CC I have already featured Should I Stay…., ahead of last year’s Brexit vote. Didn’t know the outcome back then but good to know it’s all going so well now with our European friends! What a debacle.

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  3. Once again I am quite envious of the long months of leisure that stretch ahead of you. Enjoy them and don’t worry about blogging. It will come if you start trying to do something else. I can’t remember the last time I had free time, but if I could, I’m pretty certain it would have coincided with a lack of writing ideas.

    Next song? The obvious link for me from Backstabbers would be Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself by Morrissey, wherein he sings “I’ve been stabbed in the back, so many, many times I don’t have any skin”. But that’s not really you, so…

    Three Degrees? Cold As Ice by Foreigner. (Melting ice, obviously.)

    O’Jays? If Edwyn Collins isn’t quite your bag, then how about Oran Juice Jones? Or Peter Sarstedt’s Frozen Orange Juice?

    Wow, this is filling The Chain gap this week!

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    1. Don’t be too envious as I don’t get paid remember and as I’ve worked since I was 14 (bar a baby break which is the hardest work of all) I think I deserve a little work holiday. Was meant to be busy with Mr WIAA’s business but his speculative sculptures (remember the Alice In Wonderland one) are gaining interest so we don’t want to swamp him with other stuff in case they take off – High time as he’s well and truly done his apprenticeship.

      I love how you all know what would be “me” and “not me” now – One of these days I will surprise you. Would never have thought of Cold As Ice but good call – I think however I will use one of your other suggestions so watch this space. It is a bit Chain-like isn’t it but I remember checking with Jez last time I did this that I wasn’t stepping on toes and as a very different animal it was ok.

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  4. Seems to be a common thing! When we have the time we don’t have the ideas, when we have the ideas we don’t have the time, just as The Swede says too. I think of it like being switched on, as if once you’re plugged into the mains to provide the energy needed to work and do the compulsory stuff, the flow of metaphoric electricity is still buzzing through you and thus sparking ideas elsewhere and helping with decisions too. But once you ‘unplug’ it’s harder to focus. Solar power may be the answer 😉
    As for follow-up songs – like TS I was thinking ‘Stab Your Back’ by the Damned for Backstabbers. Re. indecision, how about the lovely ‘I Can’t Make Up My Mind’ by the Zombies? I also agree with CC;’s ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’. (The lyrics make me laugh though – the decision shouldn’t really be that hard, surely, I mean, if he stays “there will be trouble” and if he goes “it will be double”, well, surely he’d better stay, who wants double trouble?!)

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    1. Hi – You are all right. It seems to be that we can run on adrenaline for quite some time, fitting lots into our day but once it’s switched off it takes much longer to get things done. Hope it’s just short-term.

      As I’ve said to everyone else who suggested it, the Clash song has been featured here before (bet you didn’t expect that!) so won’t go down that route although you’re right, why would anyone want double trouble. Then again, as I’m witnessing with DD and her friends, sometimes they have to go through the double trouble to get to the other side, rather than just trundle along with a modicum of trouble! It’s a quagmire.

      Think I’ve picked my two choices for songs that link from this post now so watch this space. Relieved I didn’t have to think of them for myself. Thanks for all these great suggestions though.

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    1. Thought it would appeal being all Philadelphia-themed although I suspect you didn’t live there in the early ’70s. Now that I’ve done a bit more research there is no end of material emanating from Philadelphia so there will be another post to follow.

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  5. Great minds think alike, Alyson, as I am just finishing up a post that also features the mighty O’Jays “Backstabbers” which became one of my son’s favorite songs this summer after we heard it. It was also #1 in Boston 45 years ago this week!! I also love that Philly soul although as the Soul Train host noted, the O’Jays were originally from Cleveland.

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    1. Hi there – I’ll look out for that post! Isn’t it great how our kids just love all this stuff. My daughter told me one of her all-time favourite songs is Love Train by the O’Jays – When I asked her why she said it was because I’d given her a Sounds of the 70s CD that came free with a Sunday newspaper when she was young so she played it all the time – It also had September by EWF and Mr Blue Skies by ELO, both of which have appeared in films she loves as well.

      We didn’t often see Soul Train in the UK but as you can probably ascertain, compared with our home-grown presenters and studio audiences, they just always looked so “cool”.

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