Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sugarloaf - "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" (1975)

Claridge Records, 1974; Polydor 1974

I was listening recently to one of those Rhino Records Superhits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day compilations of (mostly) one-hit wonders, and came across Sugarloaf's 1975 hit "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" (US #9, Billboard Top 100). It brought back instant memories of an incredibly dated era in pop music (one that I lived through) when terms like "mama" and "child" were the descriptors of choice to denote women in the sexist-tinged, patronizing rock patois of the day (think Slade, Free, T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, Stories, Raspberries, and virtually any '70s band appearing on Midnight Concert or Don Kirschner's Rock Concert - the list goes on and on).

Sugarloaf was a Denver-based band that took their name from the Boulder, Colorado, ski resort (having changed their original moniker from Chocolate Hair). "Don't Call Us" was a follow-up hit to their biggest ever success, "Green-Eyed Lady" (US #3, Billboard, 1970). Keyboardist/vocalist Jerry Corbetta later moved on to enjoy minor success with Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes ("Get Dancin'") and as one of the Four Seasons with Frankie Valli.

Anyway, I love this song and can't get it out of my head, enjoying everything from its attempts to be lyrically outre ("Could you relate to our quarter-track tape/You know the band performs in the nude") and hip ("We got percentage points and lousy joints/And all the glitter we can use, Mama") to its Argent/Stevie Wonder/Edgar Winter Group keyboard sound that was so popular at the time. As one fan commented, it's the kind of song you listen to while driving around and smoking joints in a souped-up Camaro (maybe on 8-track, to boot!)

I can't find an official music video of the song (there weren't many back then!), but somebody did a nice synch-up of the tune with stop-motion footage from a 1947 AT&T/Bell System educational short called Just Imagine, in which animated character "Tommy Telephone" builds a telephone out of 433 separate parts (you can view the original in its 10-minute entirety at Prelinger Archives)!

Watch "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" (YouTube)

According to Wikipedia, "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" contains a practical joke at the expense of CBS Records, which had turned Sugarloaf down for a recording contract. "The song includes the sound of a touch-tone telephone number being dialed near the beginning and ending of the song. Those numbers were an unlisted phone number at CBS Records and a public number at the White House, respectively. In addition, the recording includes snippets of the guitar riff of The Beatles' "I Feel Fine," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and a line of dialogue from Wolfman Jack stating the call sign of a radio station; numerous tracks of this line were cut to match local markets."

Curiously, when the lyrics refer to the Beatles ("...Yeah, it sounds like John, Paul, and George"), they leave out Ringo. I wonder if that was intentional or simply for line scanning purposes. Poor Ringo - he could have been associated with the greatness that was Sugarloaf!

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Blogger Mike - said...

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1:10 PM  
Blogger Mike - said...

Yeah, that's a great song.

The lyrics are said by Jerry Corbetta, their writer, to be a true story, with the "hit" referenced being the song itself. I'm not sure how that works out, unless he's claiming it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I suppose it's possible, that he was just really confident that he had a hit on his hands. However, in a recent concert clip I saw on YouTube, he says he returned home from a failed record label appeal and wrote this song. In which case, it doesn't exactly fit the lyric plot, where the hit is a "a song [the A&R staffer] said he couldn't use," as it hadn't yet be written.

But, man, what a cool song!

1:12 PM  

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