Love Is the Message

By: Neil Feineman

With all due respect to Josh Wink and King Britt, giants both, Philadelphia had its best moments in the 1970s. For it was in Philadelphia that the Tower Theater was home for some of the best sets of the best tour (David Bowie's Stage), Rocky, Philadelphia's most famous export, was a national hero and Patti Labelle was giving everyone "A New Attitude."

But even more importantly, it was the home of Philadelphia International, a record label owned by former rivals, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Although it had no chance of beating the other major black owned label, Motown, in sales, the bass line, instrumentation and sophisticated urban soul has earned them not just a well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, but ended up changing the course of popular music.

Motown, as befitting its Motor City origins, aimed their sound at the car stereo. Gamble and Huff, who were targeting a middle class black demographic, were more interested in the new home stereo systems than the car, and tailored their sound to fit the new living room gadgetry. Maybe that's why the hits, which sound as good today as ever, kept coming, one after another: "Boogaloo Down Broadway," "Expressway to Your Heart," "Back Stabbers," "Me and Mrs. Jones," "The Love I Lost,' "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)," "Love Is the Message." And the artists -- from Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Teddy Pendergrass and the O'jays -- were the personification of Philly soul.

But, at least to the dance community, their greatest contribution of all was their house band, MFSB, composed of Ronnie Baker (bass), Earl Young (drums), Bobby Martin (piano) and Norman Harris (guitar). According to House: The Rough Guide by Sean Bidder, the melodramatic organs, soaring strings and propulsive bass line "turned the groove of funk into a four-square rhythm" that was the gay NY clubs' favorite, encapsulating "the groove, sweeping emotion and seedy underbelly of nightlife. "Love Is the Message" in particular, says Bidder, has been stolen by every garage record of note. So, as Cyndi Lauper, who has nothing to do with Philadelphia, said, "let's hear it for the boys."

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Venue Details

The Fillmore at the TLA

Don't let the name or the Live Nation venue fool ya'. It may be the Fillmore, but "all shows are general admission standing room only." That's a good thing. For those spending the night, the website (Live Nation's) suggests crashing at the Comfort Inn Penn's Landing at 100 N. Columbus Blvd, 19107, 215-627-7900. Since this is the city of brotherly love, we suggest finding a local.

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Apr 09, 2008

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Show Details

The Fillmore at the TLA

334 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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Hours: 8:00:00 PM - 2:00:00 AM
Ages: All Ages