Taste of Honey
Taste of Honey
"We really paid our dues" said Janice. When lead singer Gregory Walker quit in 1976 to join Santana, the remaining members decided it was time to settle on a permanent unit. A second female guitarist, Hazel Payne, was hired to complete the group. A chance meeting with Larry and Fonce Mizell, hit-making producers for the Jackson Five and L.T.D., led to an audition with Capitol Records vice president Larkin Arnold.
He liked what he heard and signed the group to a contract in 1978. The group's first single was an out-of-the box smash. "Boogie Oogie Oogie" was written by Johnson and Kibble in response to an incident at an Air Force club. "We were knocking ourselves out," said Janice, "but getting no reaction from the crowd.
In fact, they seemed to have contempt for two women who thought they could front a band." Out of her rage for this brand of military chauvinism, she went home and wrote the stinging song. The notorious bass solo intro came about when Johnson was warming up before the recording session, unaware that she was being recorded. "Boogie Oogie Oogie" entered the Hot 100 at number 82 on June 24, 1978 due to the enormous club reaction of a promotional-only 12" mix. When it went to number one 11 weeks later, where it stayed for three weeks, it became Capitol Records 40th number one single, the first label to achieve this mark.
Although A Taste Of Honey won a Grammy for Best New Artist, they found it hard to follow-up the platinum-selling hit. In 1979 the group was reduced to a duo-Janice Marie on bass guitar and Hazel on guitar and keyboards. "That gives us a uniqueness from the beginning," said Hazel. "Also, we like to set the trend, not follow it." Unfortunately "Do It Good," although it received considerable club-play and reached number 79 on the charts did not set any trends. In their pre-Capitol days, Johnson used to sing the lyrics to Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" when the group toured Japan and performed at the Yamaha Song Festival.
She contacted her Japanese sub-publisher, whom in turn contacted the original writers, Rokusuke EI and Hachidai Nakamura, to get permission to redo the song with English lyrics. Two translators were employed, and one of them came up with lyrics that were close to the maudlin theme of the original song, translated into English as "I Look up When I Walk." Johnson decided to add her own original lyrics to the song. At first she thought her lyrics were too simple, but producer George Duke encouraged her to write from her heart. A publishing rights dispute almost stopped the song from being released.
After it was recorded, Johnson found out that one of the original writers had signed his rights away years before. His publisher had Johnson give up all songwriting and publishing rights to her new version before Capitol was able to release it. The bassist relented, knowing that this song would be the one to take A Taste of Honey out of the disco category. But Capitol wasn't too keen on "Sukiyaki," promising to release it as a single but then releasing "Rescue Me" (number 16 R&B, summer 1980) and "I'm Talkin 'Bout You" (number 64 R&B, late 1980), both of which were available on promotional-only 12" singles.
Friends chastised Johnson and Payne for donning Japanese attire and doing a fan dance while performing the song. "We can go to Japan and do a concert and they don't understand a word we're saying, but they can feel our vibrations" Janice told Jet magazine in 1983. Forced by album track radio play, the label finally released "Sukiyaki" as a single, the 7" promotional-only fan shaped disc (one of my most prized possessions!), went to number one R&B, number three pop in spring 1981. The "Twice as Sweet" LP went to number 36 pop in spring 1981.
After "Sukiyaki" was a hit, the duo went to Japan and toured with Kyu Sakamoto. A Taste of Honey also covered Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "I'll Try Something New." Johnson released a solo Capitol LP, "One Taste Of Honey," which yielded a charting single, the softly "Sukiyaki"-ish "Love Me Tonite," number 67 R&B, summer 1984. In 1984 Capitol Records finally released a commercial 12" single of "Boogie Oogie Oogie". The upside was that it featured a "New Boogie Mix" (7:21) by John Luongo.
The downside was that they put the original single mix (3:42) instead of the original extended version (5:12) on the flipside. Once again the song became a worldwide hit and sparked new interest in the group. 1984 also saw the offical disbanding of the group after the renewed interest. The Burger King national fast food chain began using "Boogie Oogie Oogie" in a national TV ad campaign in summer 1999, introducing another generation to the late-'70s smash.
The track has also been sampled by hip-hop and rap artists MC Lyte, Mac 10, and others. As for the members of A Taste Of Honey, Percy Kibble died in 1999 of heart failure; Hazel Payne tours Japan with her own Top 40 band, and Janice Marie Johnson (Vercher) is still performing and recording. Her CD, "Hiatus Of The Heart," was released in 2000 on her own Tastebuds label. It includes a Spanish version of "Boogie Oogie Oogie." Yet she eschews "oldies" tours, explaining, "I don't want to relive my early success.
I expect to surpass it." Thank you Hazel and Janice for one of my all-time favorite songs! Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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