Keeping up with that synth – Lakeside’s ‘Your Wish Is My Command’
We shall return strong to our Synthtember September. As you may recall, last week The Public Records decided to make this month a one dedicated to the synthesizer. Each week in September 2019, we will focus on an album where the synth is prominently featured. There are no genre rules and we hope to cover a wide distribution of the instrument. So grab a q-tip and something to drink and let’s get ready to walk (up and down the keys)…
We started off pretty heavy with Patrick Cowley and the beginnings of American electronic dance music. This week we’re going to step in the glamour funk world and bring you a group that boogies as it synths. Get ready to enjoy the lush decadence of Lakeside’s ‘Your Wish Is My Command’ (Solar Records, 1981).
Most people remember Lakeside from their commercially successful years in the late 1970s and early 1980s with their intricately illustrated gatefold album covers and matching themed costumes; however, the group had been together for almost a decade before their big breakout self titled album in 1977.
We have to go all the way back to 1969 to Dayton, Ohio. It was then and there that two young groups, The Nomads and The Montereys met. Both groups were active in the Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana tri-state touring circuit and they decided to team up. This goup consisted of Stephen Shockley, Mark Wood, Tiemeyer McCain, Tony White, and Brian Marbury. However, Tony White and Brian Marbury soon departed for New York to pursue music and so The Nomads, which Mark Wood and Stephen Shockley were still part of, decided to add a few more members. Now it was The Nomads and The Young Underground who were touring together, but by 1971 the double heading of shows was becoming impractical.
The result was merger of The Nomads and The Young Underground and the admission of Thomas Shelby and Mark Wood’s sister, Shirley Wood. The new group named themselves Ohio Lakeside Express. Their break came in the same year when they met Eddie Thomas, who co-ran the Curtom record label with Curtis Mayfield himself. Soon Eddie had left Curtom and formed his own label, Lakeside, named after the Chicago district and approached Ohio Lakeside Express about recording. They decided to drop Ohio and Express officially from their name and continue just as Lakeside.
It was at this time that Shirley decided she no longer wanted to be in the business professionally, and Ricky Abernathy. The group was playing bigger and bigger venues and more members were needed and Ricky Abernathy was quickly replaced by Otis Stokes and another percussionist, Fred Lewis, was added to round out the sound. As the group continued with the larger venues, they were seen by promoter Dick Griffey who worked with some big names – most notably Stevie Wonder. Griffey was impressed with what he saw and offered them informal management and with him they met Frank Wilson who was employed with the Motown label.
Lakeside recorded for Motown, but the band wasn’t high priority and nothing happened. It 1976, Griffey took a job with ABC-Dunhill, and brought the group with him. They continued touring and by 1977 were ready to record. A self titled album was released with a single and they appeared on Soul Train to rave reviews. They added a new drummer, who was famed for playing barefoot, Fred Alexander Jr. and were now being actively courted by Motown. In the end it was Solar Records and loyalty that won the day. Dick Griffey had started his own label, Solar, and the band remembered his kindness in their earlier days and he had offered them the chance to write and produce their own music – this sealed the deal.
It was this creative freedom that fueled their success. After years of playing together, they had developed a sound that they were comfortable with and which maximized their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses as a group. They also had a penchant for dressing up in garb out of historical literary themes and having intricate portraits of them as these characters on their album covers. This eccentric imagery combined with their ability to write massive hits made them a powerhouse and from 1978 to 1984 they released an album a year with coinciding singles which made the charts with each release.