Greatest Band on Earth

Categorized „Musicology“: Even if this is supposed to be a blog on personal ethnological notes, I very soon added „… and more“ to the title. Maybe I should rather read some Malinowskis, Sahlins‘, Herskovits‘, or Cliffords, but what the heck. Once again I came across YouTube this morning and found some neat videos of my all-time favourite band, so no wonder that I had to write a new entry. Actually it has long been overdue to present to the world what I call the „Greatest Band on Earth“ … Tower of Power.

Bandleader Emilio Castillo founded his first band called The Motowns at the end of the 60s. It is more or like one of these stories when a few youngsters begin to form a band in some suburban garage. In this case in San Francisco, the East Bay Area, known for quite a few international successful artists. Very soon the legendary Stephen Kupka joined the band, better known as the ‚Doc‘ or the ‚Funky Doctor‘ by now. Since then Castillo and Kupka have been the leading elements of what soon should be „Tower of Power„.

In 1970, Bill Graham, a famous concert promoter, signed the band to his label San Francisco Records recording ToP’s first album entitled „East Bay Grease“. „With this album and several popular appearances at the Fillmore and other venues the band was quickly signed to Warner Brothers“ (Bay Area Bands). Within just a few years ToP released another six albums: „Bump City“ (1972), „Tower Of Power“ (1973), „Urban Renewal“ (1974), „Back to Oakland“ (1974), „In The Slot“ (1975), and „Live And In Living Color“ (1976). „Don’t Change Horses (In A Middle Of A Stream)“, my all-time favourite song, even made it to the Top 30 charts in 1974.


Tower of Power: „What is Hip?“ – Live at the Soultrain, 1973.

In 1976, „when the band switched their label to Columbia things started to get worse (although Columbia paid quite a high price to get Tower). They produced three records for Columbia but only the first one reminded of the old Tower of Power. Drug problems, subsequent line-up changes and attempts to keep up with the disco sound produced two weak follow up albums“ (s.a.). Might be true in a way, still the funky tunes hit the groove perfectly. Songs like „Can’t Stand To See The Slaughter“ („Ain’t Nothin‘ Stoppin Us Now“, 1976) or „It Takes Two“ („Back on the Streets“, 1979) are exceptional.

The band’s future though was at an edge. It didn’t look like they would last for very much longer, but, however they managed it, they survived. „Tower of Power’s record output wasn’t that big but the horn section (Emilio Castillo, Lenny Pickett, Stephen Kupka, Greg Adams, and Mic Gilette) was much in demand for session work and this kept the band together“ (s.a.). In the 80s the ToP horns played and recorded for various artists e.g. Huey Lewis, La Toya Jackson, Carlos Santana, Elton John, Eurhythmics, Phil Collins, Toto, and many others. In between they released a new album called „Power“ in 1987, but the real comeback happened in the early 90s. Signing with Sony Music they recorded „Monster On A Leash“ (1991), „T.o.P.“ (1993), „Souled Out“ (1995), „Rhythm & Business“ (1997), and a Live-Album called „Soul Vaccination“ in 1999. Playing a world-tour almost every year (I saw them five times so far in Germany), „they managed to built up a world wide following during the 90s and although they don’t produce any hit singles they are much in demand“ (s.a.).

Personally, I am very thankful for a youth music camp at the age of 14, when a fellow musician introduced me to ToP’s music. Since then, although wondering throughout all kinds of music styles beginning with Snap, stepping up to Prince, leaning over to Aerosmith, ACDC, and Guns’n’Roses, crossing to rather mild stuff like Tracy Chapman and back to Beck, H-Blockx, and die Fantastischen Vier, I have been devoted to the good old soul and funk, of all kinds but especially the one by Tower of Power, also influencing my own style in Belle Affaire and Funk Conexion (might post some pics soon!).


Tower of Power: „So I got to groove“ – Ohne Filter, 2003.

Tower of Power has gone through a lot of changes within all these years. They had various lead singers, old band and founding members like Francis „Rocco“ Prestia and David Garibaldi returned after a break for some years. In 2003 ToP released the new album „Oakland Zone“, followed by various Best-Of Compilations and two DVDs. This month they visit Germany once more, unfortunately Munich is not in their Tour Calendar, but I am sure Tower of Power will be back next year.


Tower of Power: „Give me you love“ – N.Y.C., 2003.

By the way, if you are interested, visit David Garibaldi’s Travel Blog for „The Latest From The Road“ or go to ToP’s official Website.

Give it up for the „Greatest Band on Earth“ !!!


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Posted on Donnerstag, Juli 6th, 2006 at 16:42, filed under Musicology, Personalogy. Subscribe to this feed, leave a response, or trackback from your own site. You are also welcome to Print This Post Print This Post .

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