Stylistics still hit the stage with flair
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Airrion Love, a founding member of The Stylistics, will never forget the day that the group’s producer Thom Bell, and Bell’s writing partner, Linda Creed, introduced the group to the song Bell was planning to put out as The Stylistics’ next single. The song was “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”
Presented by A Tom Moffatt Production
» Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
“I don’t know whether I’m just a sensitive guy or what, but certain songs that I would hear (as demos) would have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and I’d be feeling something. That was my definition of ‘Wow, man, that’s a really great song,’ just hearing it for the first time,” Love said earlier this month, calling Hawaii from his hometown, Philadelphia, after an evening rehearsal.
“They told me that I was going to be sharing the lead on a song, and Linda told me the title. Then she hummed some of the melody and then sung some of the words — I knew right off the bat. That was going to be a big hit.”
And it was.
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” became the Stylistics’ all-time biggest single. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974 and was one of five Stylistics singles to be certified “gold” for U.S. sales of more than 1 million copies.
The song is also one of the hits and shoulda-been hits that The Stylistics will sing for Honolulu fans Saturday night in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
LOVE SAYS fans can look forward to hearing “I’m Stone in Love with You,” “You Are Everything” and “Betcha by Golly, Wow” as well.
“I know myself, when I go to a show to see a particular artist that I care about, I don’t want to hear a lot of new stuff. I want to hear some of those songs that made them famous to me — and that’s the way we do our show. Even when we have new product out, like we do in Japan, we may do one or two (new songs), but we don’t just bombard the show with a lot of what we call unfamiliar songs.”
The band will also present some songs that were hits in other countries and, in Love’s view, could have been hits here, including “Thank You Baby” and “Star of a TV Show.”
The interview with Love had been pushed back a few hours because the group — founding members Love and Herb Murrell, and Harold Eban Brown and Jason Sharp — was reworking its set list for a series of shows in Japan.
“The show is geared up differently when we go over to Japan than it is in the States,” Love explained. “Certain songs were bigger in Japan than in the States, so we pull out some of those songs. ‘I Can’t Give You Anything’ was No. 1 in England and Japan, (and) we just did a new project of cover songs, ‘The Stylistics Cover,’ just for Japan, so we’re doing a couple of those.”
If the song Love mentioned, “I Can’t Give You Anything,” doesn’t ring any bells for you, you’re not alone. It comes from after the Bell-Creed era, peaked at No. 51 in the U.S. and was on the Hot 100 for only six weeks total in 1975.
Love and Murrell trace the group’s history back 45 years to when The Stylistics were created by members of two other Philadelphia groups: Love, Russell Thompkins Jr. and James Smith were members of the Monarchs; Murrell and James Dunn came from the Percussions.
Count yourself a true connoisseur of early ’70s soul music if you discovered The Stylistics from its first two chart singles. “You’re a Big Girl Now” peaked at No. 73 in 1971; “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart),” their first project with Bell and Creed, just barely broke into the Top 40 when it peaked at No. 39 later that year.
The Stylistics’ third single, “You Are Everything,” introduced the group to pop audiences nationwide. It was also the group’s first “gold” single and the start of a “golden” creative partnership with Bell and Creed.
Dunn and Smith retired in 1980. Thompson left in 2000 to form his own group.
Love and Murrell have maintained the group’s sound and the commitment to excellence made by the original quintet 45 years ago. Brown joined the group in 2000; Sharp, in 2011.
Love says he’s healthy and happy to perform.
“We still do our choreography,” he said. “I think the most up-tempo song that we do choreography-wise is ‘I Can’t Give You Anything,’ and when I finish the song I’m not out of breath or anything like that. At 64 that’s still a good place to be at.”