Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

B-Side Breakout Hits & CKLW

Besides “Tequila” by The Champs, I know of one other instance where an A-side was roundly disregarded in favor of its B-side.  As Robert Pruter, R&B editor for Goldmine, writes in the accompanying notes to the Atlantic soul music anthology, The Golden Age of Black Music (1970-1975):

King Floyd’s “Groove Me,” from 1970, was produced by Elijah Walker and Wardell Querzerque in Jackson, Mississippi, one of the first hits of the fledgling Malaco organization.  “Groove Me” was the B-side to a song released on Malaco’s Chimneyville label, but the deejays found the funky jerk-beat of “Groove Me” irresistible and flipped the record.  The song, with Atlantic distribution, went to position 6 and lasted an outstanding 20 weeks on Billboard’s pop chart.

From poking around on the web, I’ve learned that “Beth” by Kiss is another example of a B-side successfully shoving aside its A-side.  The song, despite strong objections from Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, was included on Kiss’ 1976 album, Destroyer, at the insistence of their manager.  “Beth” had been brought to the band by Peter Criss, who had written the song with Stan Penridge, back when they were bandmates in early 70s NYC group, Chelsea.  Despite early chart success with “Shout It Out Loud,” Destroyer was a new direction for the band that was not immediately embraced by fans, and enthusiasm for the album was starting to wain – until AM radio juggernaut, CKLW, added the song to its playlist at the prompting of the daughter of program director, Rosalie Trombley (both pictured here).  The single took off, eventually going gold (500,000 sales), giving the album a massive new sales injection, thus making the album Kiss’ first to go platinum (1 million).

End of an Era for The Big 8

In his review of the 2004 documentary, Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8,  Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun recounts the beginning of the end for Windsor Canada’s once mighty CKLW:

Canadian-content laws came into effect in 1971 that required stations to play at least 30% Canadian music. Given the benefit of hindsight, those laws did what they set out to do (whether they still are needed today is another debate). But 35 years ago the policy cut CKLW at the knees, since there wasn’t a lot of Canadian music that appealed to the rhythm-and-blues-loving audiences in Detroit.

CKLW somehow maintained its top-drawer status for another decade. But The Big 8’s open mocking of Can-con rules — playing the shortest Canadian songs possible, holding overnight Can-con marathons, saying “Here’s one for the CRTC” rather than even bothering to announce who the band was, etc. — hardened the government’s resolve to bring the cocky station down a notch.

Check out these jingles for CKLW – just across the river from “Motor City” — back when radio was fun:

One Response

  1. what happened to cklw’s signal? it was a powerhouse in the 60’s until radio bonaire in the carribean wiped out The Big Eight’s nighttime beacon along the northeast corridor of the USA. It inspired a generation of pop music enthusiasts and to this day it has never been topped.

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