Friday, July 01, 2005

The Orlons - Rules of Love

The Orlons
Philadelphia – at least in my opinion – produced more great soul/R&B 45’s in the 1960’s than just about any city outside of Detroit. Boasting a host of prolific local record labels and tons of local talent, there end result was inevitably a surplus of high quality music. One such talented group was the Orlons. Formed in the 50’s the group underwent a few membership changes before auditioning for Cameo/Parkway records in 1961 (apparently at the suggestion of schoolmate Len Barry, of the Dovells and later solo success). The group’s early 45s were unsuccessful – their first taste of success was as backing vocalists on Dee Dee Sharp’s hit ‘Mashed Potato Time’ in 1962. Later that year they made the charts with ‘Wah Watusi’, followed soon by ‘Don’t Hang Up’, ‘South Street’ and ‘Crossfire’, all top 20 hits. The group – featuring lead vocals by Rosetta Hightower - managed to create a vibe that had all the successful aspects of the popular girl group sound and gave it an energetic, soulful twist (the fact that they had a male vocalist in their ranks gave them a slightly different vocal sound). ‘The Rules of Love’ was a top 50 hit in the summer of 1964 (one would imagine it charting higher if not for the huge influx of British Invasion material at the time). “Written” by Cameo/Parkway bigwigs Kal Mann and Dave Appell – I place the word written in quotes since the tune is basically a shameless lift of Ray Charles ‘What’d I Say’, in both style and substance – ‘Rules of Love’ includes fake crowd noise, ringing electric piano, and a fantastic vocal by Hightower, with a rougher sound unlike much of their other work. It’s not hard to imagine this record hitting it big on the dance floors in Philly and down the shore at Wildwood. The Orlons recorded 5 more 45s for Cameo – but nothing better than this - before some more personnel changes and a move to Calla records in 1965. It was for Calla that they would record what I (and almost everyone on the Northern Soul scene) consider their best record, the storming ‘Spinning Top’. Rosetta Hightower moved to the UK in the late 60’s and appeared as a backing vocalist on Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ in 1969 and later on the ‘London Muddy Waters Sessions’.


Anonymous menor said...


What a great theme, with lots of energy, i've just discovered your blog and i think i'll be back often.

7/02/2005 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger EB said...

I have my uncle's copy of The Orlons' "Knock Knock" in my collection, which was one of the most played songs on our turntable while I was growing up. (You can imagine how a silly novelty record like that would appeal to the 9-year-old imagination.) I'd forgotten about it until this jarred my memory.

7/05/2005 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Ruby Jones said...

I play "Don't Hang Up" for the little kids in my family and they just eat it up - they'll love this!

7/08/2005 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I first heard "Crossfire" by the Orlons...I think it was 1963 just before JFK's assasination. I was in the fourth grade at a local Catholic school and my sister picked me up in her car from work taking me home..I heard that raspy voiced Steve Caldwell singing the line "...started doin' the....Crossfire..." and I started laughing hysterically because it reminded me of the apple tree scene in "The Wizard of Oz" and our church pastor who also had a rough raspy baritone voice as Caldwell did. It was a fun record and still love to listen to it from time to time.
I wrote a poem about it at

7/27/2005 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Clintone said...

Not Me, Crossfire, and South Street were all songs that were 45 hand me downs from my mother when I was a kid. I still love these songs a ton. I even eventually tracked down the "South Street" LP. The Orlons songs often sound like they were recorded right in the middle of a big party, they're that much fun. GOOD TIME!!!

9/03/2005 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm looking for the lyrics to Knock Knock for a lip sync contest for my daughter. In order for the song to be used, the lyrics must be submitted. Any idea where I can find the lyrics??

12/06/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

wa watusi??? have you heard this???? magic.

10/16/2007 02:50:00 PM  

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