(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2022.)
There was an advert in my local newsagent:
Farmer wants to sell a dozen 55 gallon drums of diesel
Willing to exchange for 4 bedroom house with pool.
A joke for these times perhaps but Oakland, San Francisco funksters Tower of Power were aware of the problems of extracting fossil fuels way back in the mid 70s.
I came across ToP from a cheap sampler album I bought back in about 1975. I was attracted to The Warner Bros. Music Show LP mainly for the price and the fact it contained music by The Doobie Bros. and Little Feat but along with Graham Central Station were a couple of gems from ToP.
The boys in the band weren’t going to squeeze into your standard Transit van without a fair bit of discomfort as there were 11 of them. Most importantly a 5 piece horn section who would go on to contribute to many an artist’s sound. Think The Bitch Is Back by Elton John or Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis & The News.
Among the horn section are the band’s main songwriters Stephen ‘The Doc’ Kupka and Emilio Castillo. Not only able to provide first degree funk, they can also turn their hands to soulful ballads. They collaborated with British songstress (and my schoolboy crush) Linda Lewis on Not A Little Girl Anymore. (Pause while I wipe the drool off the keyboard !)
A very young Lenny Pickett, later Saturday Night Live band director solos on this track from the album Urban Renewal.
The rhythm section were no slouches either driven by the pulsating 8 note riffs of the late Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia. Many a bassist has succumbed to repetitive stress injury attempting only 2 verses and a chorus in Rocco’s style. Add the no nonsense snare, hi-hat, bass drum combo of David Garibaldi and you’ve got a rhythm tighter than a duck’s arse at 10 fathoms. With the tasteful chops of guitar, Hammond B3 and conga you’re in hipster heaven.(What Is Hip is another one of their classics and we’re not talking joint replacements !)
Only So Much Oil In The Ground must be played at maximum volume, preferably with headphones as you are bombarded by the sheer sonic force of the horns and organ intro. Once you’ve but your false teeth back in and adjusted your toupee, singer Lenny Williams soulfully explains the world’s dilemma
There is only so much oil in the ground
Sooner or later there won’t be much around
Tell that to your kids while you driving ’round downtown
That there’s only so much oil in the ground
We can’t cut loose without that juice
Can’t cut loose without that juice
If we keep on like we doing
Things for sure will not be cool
It’s a fact we just ain’t got sufficient fuel
It’s only when your feet stop tapping and your body fat comes to rest that you realise how important this message is – AND THIS WAS FROM BACK IN 1975 !!