Tag Archives: tower of power

only so much oil in the ground.

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2022.)

Oil drums.

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 !)

Linda Lewis

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

Tower of Power

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 !!

The Future Was Bright

Russ Stewart: London, April 2021

Future perspectives from the 70s ;  

The early 70s vision ;  jet packs and unlimited leisure.  

By late 70s the future view was dystopian. 
Old people ( i.e.  us) processed into handy little green, nutritious pellets, to satisfy the cravings of peckish millennials.

I was mesmerised by the 1968 film “2001 A Space Odyssey”. 
Jupiter beckoned as the spaceship ‘s passive, jogging pilots feasted on liquefied bubble and squeak  whilst an ungrateful, sentient computer plotted their ejection into the void.

The film reflected a common futuristic theme of the time ;  exponential extrapolation of transportation capabilities.  

In 1918 the Red Baron was smiting his enemies from his biplane.

By 1969 US astronauts were flouncing about on the moon (or on a back lot at a Burbank studio?).

It was not until the 90s that writers’ imaginations cottoned onto the trend of diminishing marginal improvements in transportation being eclipsed by the massive improvements in information technology. 

The Matrix and Minority Report  come to mind.

Consider : there is far more computing power in your phone than in the command module of Apollo 11.

Prophets and not for Prophets :

Alvin Toffler wrote “Future Shock”. 

Waves of desperate sub-Saharan Africans stormed Europe. 

The film “The Andromeda Strain” featured pandemic woes.

70s groovers Tower of Power performed “There is Only so Much Oil in the Ground”…..They advised : “you can’t cut loose without that juice” over Francis Rocco Prestia’s  16th note bass-line.   

How wrong. 
There is more oil than we can safely burn.  However the bass-line endures.

2020s : dystopian view prevails. 

The late Stephen Hawking saw advances in quantum computing delivering a threat of artificial intelligence, superior to human capabilities.

Machines  with consciousness.
Supermarket trolley extrapolation…. 

The preposterous Canadian premier, Justin Trudeau, gained plaudits for his lay explanation of Quantum Computing. 
“A bit has two states, 0 and 1. A quantum bit has multiple states. Hence more computational power”.   

His explanation of car mechanics?  “you put petrol at the back and turn a key at the front and it goes faster than a bicycle”.  
Maybe Hawking will be proved right.

Maybe everyone was and will be right?  All futures exist?   

Somewhere  a cat is musing a thought experiment “Schrodinger’s Man”.

Quantum theory has given us the many worlds and multiple universe concepts as mathematically feasible explanations for the collapse of the wave function when sub- atomic particles are subject to measurement.   

This could mean that, in parallel realities, you are the president of USA and commute to the Oval Office  by jet pack, whilst in another, you are a little green pellet in a lunchbox.