Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pacific Gas & Electric's 3 charting hits

The Los Angeles multiracial soul rock outfit Pacific Gas & Electric made their mark with the 1970 top 20 Jesus hit "Are You Ready?" The song begins by acknowledging the Vietnam War and ecological concerns ("There's rumors of war/Men dying and women crying/If you breathe air you'll die") before stirring up a fuzz guitar/gospel choir frenzy. The group had two lesser-known charting hits: "Father Come on Home," a 45-only release that also uses a gospel choir to ear-catching effect, and "Thank God for You, Baby," which evokes the Almighty in title only (and charted at #50 on the Billboard soul chart). This third one is billed to "PG&E" as a result of protestations from a certain utility company.

Featuring lead vocalist (and Arthur Lee-lookalike) Charlie Allen along with former James Gang guitarist Glenn Schwartz, Pacific Gas & Electric likely had Schwartz to thank for its God rock tendency. He had been converted to Christianity by street preacher Arthur Blessitt, the "Minister of Sunset Strip" who is now best known for carrying a cross through every nation of the world. As for the wince-inducing album cover for the group's Are You Ready?, I'm curious if there's anything more to the story than Columbia Records simply wanting to shake up perceptions.  

1. Pacific Gas & Electric - "Are You Ready?" (Billboard #14, entered 5/30/70). Written by Charles Allen and John Hill. Produced by John Hill. 45: "Are You Ready?"/"Staggolee" (Columbia 1970). LP: Are You Ready?

Side B is a bluesy version of the old Staggolee/ Stagolee/ Stack-A-Lee/ Stagger Lee folk song, sticking close to a traditional, pre-Lloyd Price set of lyrics.

2. Pacific Gas & Electric - "Father, Come on Home" (Billboard #93, entered 10/10/70). Written by Bill Soden. Produced by John Hill. 45: "Father, Come on Home"/"Elvira" (Columbia 1970). LP: (No album appearance).

The A-side's songwriter had recorded some singles in the late sixties, also with John Hill as producer. The label for the smokin' B-side "Elvira" lists it as having appeared in the 1970 Otto Preminger film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, starring Liza Minelli, even though it doesn't. A promo single released by Columbia does include the correct Pacific Gas & Electric song that appears in the film ("The Rake and Work Your Show"), while the A-side contains "Old Man Devil," a composition by Pete Seeger, who emerges weirdly out of the woods at the end of the film and performs his composition as the closing credits roll.

3. PG&E - "Thank God for You, Baby" (Billboard #97, entered 3/18/72; soul #50). Written by Chris Allen and John Hill. Produced by John Hill. 45: "Thank God for You, Baby"/"See the Monkey Run" (Columbia 1972). LP: PG&E (Columbia 1972).

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