That soulful dude Arthur from down south (hemisphere) asked me: “Are you planning a post on the end of Philadelphia International Records “The Sound of Philadelphia” (TSOP)? I’d be really curious to hear your take.” I hadn’t heard the news. As you may know, I do take requests, and any excuse to fill a post with music links is welcome.
Even before the official Philadelphia International Records label, you had the songwriting/production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who produced one of the very few singles I actually bought in the 1960s, Expressway To Your Heart by the Soul Survivors, a US Top 4 hit in 1967. I love songs that lived on the bottom.
It’s possible that I didn’t notice Gamble-Huff on records as songwriters until The Pointer Sisters’ Love In Them There Hills [LISTEN] in 1974.
It took me a while to recognize TSOP as a “sound.” I was familiar with Motown, whose move west in 1972 seemed to correspond with its lesser output, at least to my ears. Stax Records, out of Memphis, was in commercial decline around that same time. Philadelphia International filled that “soul” gap.
In fact, as it turns out when I hooked into that sound corresponds with that very year. LISTEN to these PIR songs:
Me And Mrs Jones – Billy Paul (#1 for three weeks in 1972).
If You Don’t Know Me by Now – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#3 in 1972)
When Will I See You Again – The Three Degrees (#2 in 1974)
TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)- MFSB (#1 for two weeks in 1974). This was the theme to the long-running television show Soul Train.
Enjoy Yourself – The Jacksons (#6 in 1977). This was the first hit after Michael and his brothers left Motown.
Still, in spite of a great roster of musicians, I most closely associate the O’Jays with the sound of Philadelphia. LISTEN TO:
Back Stabbers (#3 in 1972)
Love Train (#1 in 1973)
For the Love of Money (#9 in 1974)
I Love Music (#5 in 1976)
Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2008, three years after their biggest stars, the O’Jays.