ith its first number one single "Fire" in February 1975, the Ohio Players finally overcame 15 years of struggle to become one of the hottest record and concert attractions in the music industry. But leader Clarence "Satch" Satchell was determined not to give in to the pressures of cutting a follow-up right away.
"We just jam and let things happen naturally," Satchell told Billboard in 1975. "Afterwards, when we feel that we've got something, we'll add the finishing touches, vocals, mixes and effects. But first, it's gotta happen spontaneously." It took the group four hours to lay down their 1971 album Pain (which had cost $400 to produce) and three days to do the same for their Fire LP.
Following a tour of 48 one-nighters, the Players went back in the studio and emerged with their hit-making, progressive soul groove still intact. The cover of Honey, the band's second LP for Mercury, again pictured a sexy model, this time dripping in the sticky substance.
Honey yielded a single, "Sweet Sticky Thing," that only reached number 33 in October, 1975. The second single from the album, "Fire," was the monster. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 51 on November 15, 1975, and was sitting on top of the chart 11 weeks later.
The Ohio Players had come a long way, but not so far as to forget their roots. They were heavily involved in community affairs in their home town of Dayton and regularly gave free concerts at their old high school. For their efforts, the city honored the group with "Ohio Players Day."
By now, the Players were a conglomerate, and to take care of business, they set up their own booking company, publishing firm and management subsidiary. But, as their leader Satchell kept stressing, "Music is still the main thing, and you can't choke off art for dollars."
Still, as the '70s wore on, Satch's fears had come to fruition. What had been the funkiest band in music lost its freshness and now just seemed to be going through the motions. They had indeed become "mechanical robots," grinding out lifeless riffs. And gradually dwindling record sales bore concrete witness to the loss.
In 1979, the Players switched to Arista for a one-shot album, and later tried again to regain the magic in a stint with Neil Bogart's Boardwalk label. Though the band had changed to a more mainstream funk/pop fusion, this new, melodic sound never caught on. Ultimately, they slid back into obscurity that for one funky stretch they had risen above.
One final note about "Love Rollercoaster": When the song was first released, erroneous rumors persisted that you could hear a murdered woman's screams in the instrumental break in the middle of the song, at about 1:24 in. This was actually a sound effect deliberately mixed into the rhythm track, an effect that later showed up in other disco-era hits of the 1970s. The sound is also audible in Paul McCartney's 1976 live Wings Over America album.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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