Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Stax: “In the Twilight Zone”

Dave Thompson points out in his 2001 history of Funk —

“The [Isaac] Hayes/[David] Porter team was responsible for hits across the Stax spectrum, including Carla Thomas’s ‘B-A-B-Y,’ Sam & Dave’s ‘Hold On! I’m a Comin” and ‘Soul Man,’ Ruby Johnson’s ‘I’ll Run Your Hurt Away,’ and The Astors‘ ‘In the Twilight Zone‘ — a song that was subsequently, memorably, borrowed by Blondie as the basis for ‘Rifle Range‘”:

“In the Twilight Zone” by The Astors (1965)

Rhythm Message‘s history of The Astors has this to say about “In the Twilight Zone,” the group’s follow-up to #63 pop hit, the (Steve) Cropper- & (Isaac) Hayes-penned  “Candy“:

“The fourth Satellite-Stax release was ‘In the Twilight Zone’ (Stax S-179), penned by Isaac Hayes, Dave Porter, and Sidney Bailey and again with Curtis [Johnson] on lead vocal.  This is probably the hardest to find of the three Stax label releases.  Whereas “Candy” with its up tempo danceable momentum is understandably a long time favourite on the [UK] northern scene with the ‘oldies’ crowd, ‘Twilight Zone’ complete with its eerie related theme intro and moody mid tempo quality has attracted more recent interest on the rare soul scene in the UK.”

Fascinating to learn that, at one point early in their career, The Astors were briefly named The Chips after the (recently-departed) Memphis-based guitarist, songwriter, and producer, Chips Moman.  The vocal group comprises four members:  Curtis Johnson, Harold Johnson, Eddie Stanback, and Sam Jones.

Al Jefferson of Baltimore’s WWIN AM radio, Billboard notes in its October 16, 1965 issue, would identify “In the Twilight Zone” as one of his top choices for (R&B) “Pick-of-the-Week“; the following week, Reuben T. (Mad Lad) Washington of KNOK in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area would do likewise.

Derek’s Occasional 45s suspects Booker T. & the MGs — and this only makes sense — to be the backing band on this recording.  The original 7-inch (also co-written by Lula Bailey) sells especially well in the UK, where it is considered a “northern soul” classic.

Astors 45-a

Is it merely a coincidence that this piece follows right on the heels of Zero to 180’s tribute to the Grateful Dead‘s participation in the 1980s ‘reboot’ of ‘The Twilight Zone‘ TV series?

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