Song Of The Day 9/10/2016: Automatic Man – “My Pearl”

The Hidden '70s, Part 3 – Hope you haven’t had your fill of spoon-fed nostalgia, space oddities, ‘cause we got one more week of The Hidden ‘70s for you and it’s the tastiest of all. And it’s not your usual week — this week has ten days! The first seven are in usual SOTD format, and the final three contain mixtapes: the usual chronological overview, another full of “outtakes,” and… The Taking of Roger. We’re just going to keep The Taking of Roger in mystery because it’s another narrative tour-de-force that depends on surprise plot points, and also because it isn’t finished yet. But it will be.

So, anyway. Our third and final installment of The Hidden ‘70s covers the years 1977 through 1979, when people were flirting with disco, contending with punk, taking highways to hell and having most of the songs in their repertoire written by Barry Gibb. We begin with an off-kilter rock/soul composite from Automatic Man called “My Pearl” (#97, 1977). Automatic Man was led by Michael Shrieve, who lives up here in Seattle. He actually played a show at The Royal Room in my neighborhood last night with his jazz band Spellbinder. I couldn’t go because I was at an ice cream social. To compensate, bring them some unexpected hits by going to their Facebook page.

Shrieve was in Santana. He’s the one playing drums on their acclaimed performance of “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock. He was twenty years old at the time. He formed Automatic Man in San Francisco in 1976 with pianist Todd Cochran, who went by the name Bayeté. Cochran released two albums of his own on the Prestige jazz label in 1972-73, and is the main vocalist on “My Pearl.” It’s an interesting single that didn’t sound like anything else on the pop charts at the time: an R&B melody with some nervy piano rock behind it. Automatic Man made a self-titled album in 1976 and a second album called Visitors in 1977. Shrieve split before Visitors was recorded. So that one was probably a little more manual. Look, it’s late, okay?

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