Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Fifth Dimension--Wedding Bell Blues (1969)

     By 1969, the Fifth Dimension was riding high. Having had 8 straight top 40 hits, they had also made a major songwriting star our of Laura Nyro. In making the album, "The Age of Aquarius", they returned to Nyro once more on a song that could have written about their two lead singers....
     The roots of what became The Fifth Dimension started back in 1963, when singers Lamonte McLemore and Marlyn McCoo hooked up with friends Harry Elston and Floyd Butler to form the Hi-Fi's. They sang at local clubs and even opened for Ray Charles on tour in 1964. However, tensions within the group caused a break-up a year later, with Elston and Butler leaving to form the group, the Friends of Distinction who was to have a big hit with "Grazin in the Grass" in 1969.
    McLemore brought in Florence LaRue and an old friend from St. Louis, Ron Townson, who suggested his cousin, Billy Davis Jr. to round out the group sound. Beginning as The Versatiles in 1966, they soon changed their name to The Fifth Dimension and auditioned for Marc Gordon who  was heading up Motown in LA. Although the demo tape was turned down for the Soul label, Gordon was impressed enough to become their manager, and brought them to the attention of Johnny Rivers who was starting up a new label, Soul City Records.
     The groups first hit was a cover of The Mamas and Papas' song, "Go Where You Want to Go" in late 1966 and not too long after, they hit number 1 with the Jimmy Webb song, "Up, Up and Away". This began a string of ten top forty hits which extended to the end of the decade. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary from this was the young songwriter Laura Nyro. Three of those ten hits belonged to her, "Stoned Soul Picnic", "Sweet Blindness", and "Wedding Bell Blues"
    During the making of "The Age of Aquarius" (recorded and released in 69), it was joked that the Nyro song, "Wedding Bell Blues" would fit for Marlyn and Billy. The two were engaged to be married, but it had not taken place yet. Nyro wrote the song from the perspective of a lover who was impatient for her man (Bill) to hurry up and ask her to marry. McCoo and Davis did tie the knot later in 69 and stayed with the group until leaving for a career as a duo in 1975.
     The song became their second number one hit and because of the circumstances became tied to Marlyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., who after 43 years are still married and still singing together....



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