The Grass Roots
- 3 Top 10 hits
- 3 Top 20
- 8 Top 40
- 7 Top 100 hits
- “Midnight Confessions“ peaked at #5 in 1968
Casey Kasem created the American Top 40 radio countdown show in 1970, which he hosted until 1988 when he retired for the first time.
In the wake of the radio icon stepping down, opportunity opened up for competing countdown shows:
Including Out of Order, a countdown show hosted by KROQ DJ Jed the Fish.
As the title states, the top alternative rock songs of the week were introduced at random.
This has nothing to do with The Grass Roots – but everything to do with me…
…including an artist in my initial top 10 that Stereogum Writer Tom Breihan mentioned TEN times, barely behind:
- Biz Markie,
- Me First and the Gimme-Gimmes,
- and cocaine.*
(*Which I found in 30 different articles… though I may have missed some.)
Yet somehow, I missed every one of those 10. My apologies.
So, as a result: Dan Fogelberg jumped up one notch to #9, and The Grass Roots (which I just researched after realizing this) are in at #10.
On with the (out of order) countdown:
The Office was a pillar of pop Americana through its 201-episode run.
Even a decade after its cancellation, its popularity continues to skyrocket, and with it, word of a possible reboot (after the end of the recent writers’ strike, it was confirmed to be in the works). No word on who will return to Dunder Mifflin, but each character has their supporters.
Including one Creed Bratton, who received five nominations as a fictionalized version of himself.
Creed is probably used to this role, since he was a fictionalized front for The Wrecking Crew in the ‘60s.
The mid-to-late-’60s was the peak time for The Wrecking Crew:
The ace collection of L.A. studio musicians. Many artists we’ve come to know and love weren’t actually on the albums under their names.
Many of them wound up hitting #1 anyway — Tom mentions the Wrecking Crew in at least 25 different entries in The Number Ones…
But he never covered The Grass Roots.
(BTW, Creed is the guitarist in this video:)
Wrecking Crew musician P.F. Sloan, songwriter Steve Barri and record producer Lou Adler were the masterminds behind the Grass Roots.
Adler has been included in The Number Ones a number of times: for:
- “Monday, Monday” (8),
- “Poor Side of Town” (4),
- and “Eve of Destruction” (6).
“Eve of Destruction” was also written by Sloan/Barri. They hoped to follow up that success with “Where Were You When I Needed You.” Recorded by the Wrecking Crew – but under the name Grassroots (one word, at the time,) it became a local success. Adler encouraged the duo to find a band to act the part.
They found one: The Bedouins.
They were the winners of a teenage Battle of the Bands contest in San Mateo, California.
The band moved to Los Angeles; their parents signed the contracts with Dunhill Records (they were underage.)
The songs were quickly re-recorded and released with the Bedouin band members on the cover. However, only two Bedouins appear on the record: drummer Joel Larson and singer Willie Fulton.
For a while, the arrangement worked well. The Grass Roots supported other artists on the Dunhill label, and they played a ton of shows. But much like The Monkees, the band chafed while acting as a front for the Wrecking Crew.
After a single album and three singles, the Bedouins quit, and Dunhill Records needed to find another group to play the band.
Enter: The 13th Floor
A band created by Warren Entner and Creed Bratton, who met in Israel.
They’d showed some promise in an audition tape for Dunhill, especially after bassist and lead vocalist Rob Grill joined the band, a role he kept until his death in 2011.
Grill’s voice matched best with Sloan’s vision, and the group stepped in as The Grass Roots to “record” Let’s Live for Today. Careful to avoid alienating the new Grass Roots, The 13th Floor were allowed to contribute four songs to the album, the title track of which became a Top 10 smash (it’s a 6:)
The next album, Feelings, flopped. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t the Wrecking Crew. The band members played all the instruments, wrote half the songs, but none of the singles charted.
Sloan left Dunhill Records, and Barri called for reinforcements; in particular, a former rockabilly star from Cleveland. While in Cleveland, Lou T. Josie went by ‘Jimmy King’ and was a local celebrity. But in 1961 he moved to Los Angeles and reverted to his birth name.
His songwriting credits included a few minor hits (such as “Hey Harmonica Man” for Stevie Wonder.) But the folk-rock song Josie gave to The Ever-Green Blues Band became a smash:
The Ever-Green Blues Band were a seven-piece band big on the East L.A. music scene. Josie caught their act, offered to mentor them and helped produce their debut. “Midnight Confessions” became a hit in LA, and according to urban myth, after Sloan/Barri heard it they bought the rights to it for a hundred bucks and a bag of weed.
“Midnight Confessions” was re-recorded in the spring of 1968 and released in June.
It’s a bit slower than the original, and a bit tighter because the Grass Roots didn’t record it – it’s the Wrecking Crew. The song is a great example of the mid-1960s Californian sound, a blend of all sorts of influences that work. The song opens with Carol Kaye’s bass, then trumpets and trombones come crashing in; the first time horns were used on a Grass Roots tune.
Rob Grill sounds excited and frustrated at the possibility of love, even if he doesn’t stand a chance – after all, the object of his affection is married.
It’s tearing him apart. And while Hal Blaine’s driving percussion, the sharp Hammond organ and horns could give a sense of despair, I don’t hear it.
I barely remembered the song before I began writing this, but each time I listen to it I marvel at something different within the song. “Midnight Confessions” feels like an All-Star Game: it’s not the best game to watch, but a place where every musician gets to showcase their talents.
The Grass Roots’ team quickly cashed in on this latest success. Over the next four years, they released five albums and 15 singles, all of which charted. They moved towards a more soulful approach which caused Creed to leave the band, replaced by keyboardist Dennis Provisor, and hit the top 10 one more time with “Sooner or Later,” their take on Philadelphia Soul (it’s an 8).
The Grass Roots never charted again after 1972’s Move Along.
But the band continued on in various iterations. No need for a reboot, The Office style: over 50 musicians have called the Grass Roots their band since Adler, Sloan and Barri put together a few songs, and the band continues to perform today.
Not including Creed.
TRIVIA: Hard rock bands have found reaching the top of the Billboard charts difficult, unless they bring out a power ballad. Despite twenty-five albums, Nazareth is essentially a United States one-hit wonder, reaching #8 with their power ballad, 1974’s “Love Hurts.” Under which stadium rockers’ power ballad did Tom mention them? (Tom didn’t rate them; “Love Hurts” is a 5.)
Supertramp was mentioned thrice (sorry about that) in Tom’s column — once under Gilbert O’Sullivan, another under Usher and Alicia Keys’ “My Boo” for providing the sample to Fabolous’ “Breathe,” and finally “Romantic” by Karyn White, since she was a backup singer for the band! (Supertramp’s highest-charting single is the 1979 release “The Logical Song”, which peaked at #6. It’s a 6.)
BONUS BEATS: Quentin Tarantino is known for incorporating older songs into his movies, and “Midnight Confessions” is no different — here’s a sequence from Jackie Brown where Bridget Fonda and Robert De Niro listen to it with varied levels of enthusiasm:
(“Street Life” was Randy Crawford & The Crusaders’ biggest hit at #36)
BONUS BONUS BEATS: There have been a lot of remakes of “Midnight Confessions,” and most stay faithful to the original(s), so let’s go with Phyllis Dillon’s reggae version recorded right before she retired from making music in 1971.
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