Heart Breaks, Punks Prowl and McCoo-Davis Are the 5th Dimension Minus Three
Overeducated critics hail the Ramones’ punk rock as “minimal art”—which means three chords and wind-up-monkey musicianship stretched over 14 songs and 28 minutes, as on their debut LP. Not blood kin (they’ve each just assumed the same surname), the Ramones, all 24 or 25, have gigged out of their Queens, N.Y. turf as far as L.A. They also have a five-year record deal which makes them, of all the proliferating gritty underground “punk” bands, the most likely to surface and survive. Their hope is to join a major tour to showcase their raw, fierce music, which is a reactionary snub of more progressive, polished rock. “It should be the way rock was in the beginning,” says guitarist Tommy Ramone—”sexy, hard, violent, funny.”
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis helped launch the 5th Dimension with hits like Up, Up and Away. But after the classy 10-year-old group dropped out of earshot to the thudding disco and R&B boom, the duo defected. “I felt we had more to offer,” says Marilyn. Together that has meant two big hits, including their current gold record You Don’t Have to Be a Star, and a CBS series next summer. Musically they will “run the gamut,” says Marilyn, including gospel. Their sweetest collaboration has been marriage. “Singing to each other, loving each other,” beams Billy. “It shows onstage.”
Next to Jimmy Carter’s becoming a four-year chart-topper, it is slide blues guitarist Elvin Bishop who’s done the most to help Capricorn Records kingmaker Phil Walden kick the post-Allman Brothers blues. Walden’s recent gentle takeover of his career led to Bishop’s first gold record, Fooled Around and Fell in Love—finally at 34. A Tulsa-bred journeyman who gave up a National Merit scholarship to play with Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band, Bishop has a new Southern-funky LP and tour. “At other labels, they told me to get on someone else’s bandwagon,” says Bishop. “Phil tells me to play natural, and I guess now is the right time for my kind of music.”
Thwarted young rockers can ponder the lives of Seattle-raised sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson—and take Heart. That’s the name of their six-member hard rock group, which by 1975 had risen all the way to become Vancouver’s top bar band, featuring ripoffs of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits. But once they recorded their own first LP, Dreamboat Annie, on the ultraobscure Mushroom label, much of what’s happened since must seem like a hallucination. Three singles, including Magic Man, all became hits, the LP has already sold 1.6 million, and Heart’s been transplanted from steamy clubs into continental superstardom.
Along the way Heart has joined Fleetwood Mac as rock’s major equal-opportunity band. Lead singer and flutist Ann, 26, writes and harmonizes Heart’s material with 22-year-old Nancy, who plays the rhythm guitar dressed in long flowing gowns. “The spirit of rock is aggressive and people traditionally attach that to men, because of the male sexual role,” says Ann. “But one thing I know—people really get off on seeing a woman rock’n’roll.”
Two who watch the Wilsons with special affection are the band’s lead guitarist, Roger Fisher, and his brother, Mike, the sound engineer—they double as Nancy’s and Ann’s old men.
With two new hit country LPs and a big single, Love Lifted Me, Kenny Rogers, 38, should call his born-again career the Second Edition. His own pop group, First Edition, splintered a year ago due to “creative stagnation,” so Rogers now commutes literally and artistically between L.A. and Nashville. If his studio crossover isn’t country enough, he plans to marry Hee-Haw regular Marianne Gordon and to work up a professional duet with Queen Loretta Lynn’s sister, Crystal Gayle.