Garage Sale Vinyl
Garage Sale Vinyl: Ohio Players

Garage Sale Vinyl: Ohio Players

Honey / Mercury Records / August 1975

C’mon, man! It was the bell-bottomed, shag-carpeted, zodiac-crazed ’70s. During that wonderfully wide-eyed era, we young people didn’t have (or need) Spotify to inform us of what was cool. Our curators were engaging radio DJs. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars! And our influencers were TV talk-show hosts and producers, such as Don Kirshner, Dick Clark, Burt Sugarman, Mike Douglas, and Merv Griffin — visionaries who brought many of the latest and greatest artists right into our living rooms via televised music programs. Sugarman’s weekly Friday night series, The Midnight Special, presented live concert performances from an array of artists as eclectic as David Bowie, Ray Charles, the Bee Gees, Dolly Parton, KISS, and Ike & Tina Turner — many in a single 90-minute episode.

As a result of being exposed to truly open-minded content as a kid, I developed a certain lifelong, organic awareness. I’ve never recognized musical genres. And I still can’t “hear” race or gender. To quote the carefree character Christine Sixteen, from the 1999 box office flop, Detroit Rock City, “Good tunes is good tunes.”

During my early middle-school days, I had minimal interest in such rock bands as the Beatles or the Stones. A fortunate beneficiary of colorblind AM radio, I gravitated more toward such R&B groups as Rufus and the O’Jays.

It was around that time that I was introduced to an amazing music act via the aforementioned TV show, The Midnight Special. Combining heavy rock riffs with legit funk rhythms, the band was brutal. At age 12, I was wrecked by their high-energy, six-minute performance, and throughout my ensuing teenage years, the Ohio Players would be my “Led Zeppelin.”

Monster musicians and prolific producers, the Ohio Players checked all the boxes — a beautiful collision of rock, R&B, and jazz. Their funky horn arrangements scratched a personal itch that Chicago just couldn’t reach. And they famously transformed free-form studio jams into infectious hit songs. Darker than Earth, Wind & Fire, more dangerous than Kool & the Gang and (way) dirtier than the Commodores, the Ohio Players were the real deal.

While many of my peers spent their Study Hall time carving KISS logos into their desktops, I was busy drawing full-color, live-performance pictures of the Players on sheets of notebook paper. Often, I’d add a caricature of myself to their lineup, as I fantasized about having an afro and donning a sequined jumpsuit with platform shoes while jamming with my dudes from Dayton. Gee, Mom! You mean I’m gonna STAY this color?

Honey, Ohio Players, 1975
photo by Christopher Long
Honey, Ohio Players, 1975

In those days, for the casual observer perusing record bins down at the local Kmart, one image likely comes to mind quickly when now recalling the Ohio Players — nekked ladies. But, for their more fervent followers, it wasn’t the sexual imagery depicted on their album covers that made them so appealing — it was what was oozing from the grooves. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess gleefully that the names Diamond, Billy, Merv, Jones, Sugar, Pee Wee, and Satch were as revered to me as sports All-Star names were to the “normal” boys in my world.

After dropping several less-than-spectacular-selling LPs on the Detroit-based indie Westbound label, the group ultimately signed with major label Mercury Records. In short order, their 1974 album Skin Tight moved a million units and spawned the single “Jive Turkey,” as well as the Top 20 title track. Fueled by the chart-busting hit, “Fire,” their follow-up release, Fire, scorched the Billboard top spot. However, their next album, Honey, proved even sweeter, going platinum and delivering three impressive Top 40 singles: “Sweet Sticky Thing,” “Fopp,” and the iconic #1 hit, “Love Rollercoaster.”

Aside from the hits, the seven-track collection boasted a bounty of other highlights, including the seductive, smooth groovin’ opening title track and the unapologetic, down-n-dirty, “Ain’t Givin’ Up No Ground.”

Decades later, Honey would inspire a slew of prominent rising artists. Soon-to-be platinum-selling noisemongers Soundgarden covered “Fopp” on their 1988 EP, Fopp. The Red Hot Chili Peppers contributed a well-intended remake of “Love Rollercoaster” to the 1996 Beavis and Butt-head Do America movie soundtrack. And in 2005, pop-soul princess Vanessa Williams included a beautifully faithful recreation of “Let’s Love” on her album, Everlasting Love.

Nearly 50 years later, I still can’t fathom how my ultra-conservative mom ever felt compelled to buy me a record with a honey-dripping nekked lady on the cover. Where my original Honey LP is now, only my ex-wife’s attorney knows for sure, yet my CD copy always remains within an arm’s reach. And I was super-stoked when the GF and I spotted a playable used vinyl copy recently down at the local flea mall, for three bucks.

In sum, I’m reminded of that old axiom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” A few years ago, while accompanying me on one of my book tours, my (then) teenaged son spotted and scored his own LP copy of Honey at a used record joint in Chattanooga. A shining example of solid, effective parenting, to be sure!

(5/5) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Honey, Ohio Players, 1975
photo by Christopher Long
Honey, Ohio Players, 1975

Honey Track List

SIDE ONE

  1. Honey (5:15)

  1. Fopp (3:45)

  1. Let’s Love (5:15)

  1. Ain’t Givin’ Up No Ground (1:45)

SIDE TWO

  1. Sweet Sticky Thing (6:13)

  1. Love Rollercoaster (4:52)

  1. Alone (4:40)

The Ohio Players


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