Rock n’ roll stardom can be a strange experience as has been pointed out by everyone from The Moody Blues with their “I’m Just A Singer in a Rock n’ Roll Band,” Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band” and even The Rolling Stones’ “I Know, it’s Only Rock n’ Roll.”
Those are all bands that made the big time and once they arrived they didn’t get quite what they thought they would. Not that they’re complaining mind you. Money, girls, endless amounts of booze and drugs were pretty much the staple of the times when you actually were a rock n’ roll star.
As most people know, for every band or singer who makes it to the top - for however long that may last – there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of bands that never even get close. Then there are those guys that come so close, the ones that everybody remembers that one song from way back when, but they can’t remember who it was even after they just heard it on the radio a few days back.
Today’s happy musical warrior is one of those guys.
Let’s go back to 1970 and the streets of Philadelphia. At the time Philadelphia was becoming known for the “Philly Soul” sounds of Jackie Wilson, The O’Jays and Teddy Pendergrass. This new “Philly Soul” would challenge Motown’s dominance over R&B music all through the 70′s and would also become the launching pad for “Blue Eyed Soul” legend Hall & Oats along the way.
With this strong R&B influence permeating Philadelphia’s music scene even the few rock acts that emerged at the time still had a different edge to them from what was happening in L.A. or New York. Todd Rungren and his band Utopia were one of the most influential bands to come up from Philly in the early 70′s. However, they weren’t the first one to have a hit.
That honor goes to The Jaggerz and their #2 hit, “The Rapper.”
While “The Rapper” is kind of fun, and kind of happy, it really isn’t a song that makes me, well, happy. And that’s what were going on about here at WMMCM isn’t it?
So, why “The Rapper?” Because the guy that wrote “The Rapper” is named Dominic Ierace.
Bet you all saw that coming didn’t you?
Yes, Dominic Ierace, the lead singer and songwriter of “The Rapper” would later come to prominence as the guitar player for 70′s disco band Wild Cherry and their number one hit, “Play That Funky Music White Boy.”
While I enjoy Wild Cherry’s irreverent “Play That Funky Music,” and it really is fun, it would still be a bit out of place here at WMMCM.
What, after all, did Dominic do to pique my interest if I’m kind of bored by “The Rapper” and “Play That Funky Music” is too funky for this L.A. rocker?
Well, first, he changed his name…
(He should have perhaps changed his hair style as well…)
I’ve got to say that Donnie Iris’ “Ah! Leah!” is one of the best bits of power pop you’re ever going to hear. This song rocks!
Somehow it only made it to #19 on the charts, which is a shame as “Ah! Leah!” is one of those rare songs that really does everything it’s trying to do. A teen aged boy’s wildest dreams put to music, it’s dripping with sex.
“Yeah, it’s been a long, long time.
Such a site, you’re lookin’ better than a body has a right to.
Don’t you know we’re playin’ with the fire?
But we can stop this burnin’ desire, Leah!”
From the first notes of the throbbing bass and drums “Ah! Leah!” is putting it all on the line, as is our singer.
“I see your lips and I wonder who’s been kissin’ them.
I never knew how badly I was missin’ them.
We both know we’re never going to make it,
but when we touch, we never have to fake it, Leah!”
This is a pretty common story in rock music but I don’t think it’s ever been done with such a level of intensity without ever really saying anything naughty. Iris’s vocal is delightfully tormented as he and the girl of his dreams are trying to come to – the logical conclusion.
“Baby, it’s no good. We’re just askin’ for trouble.
I can touch you, but I don’t know how to love you.
It ain’t no use! We’re headed for disaster.
Our minds said, “No!” But our hearts were talkin’ faster, Leah!”
By the time we arrive at the final chorus, “Ah! Leah!” is filled with monstrous guitar power chords, a full blown keyboard horn extravaganza and a high, jangly guitar lead that simply oozes with anticipation at the – logical conclusion.
Now this, “Ah! Leah!” is a song that makes me happy!
“Ah! Leah! Here we go again!
Ah! Leah! Is it ever gonna end?
Ah! Leah! Here we go again!
Ah! Leah! We ain’t learned our lesson yet!”