STEVIE WONDER - INNERVISIONS (1973)
The Quincy Public Library had a neighborhood library on wheels called the Bookmobile. Not only did the Bookmobile come stocked with literary treasures but there was also a vinyl selection where you could check out the latest hits - literally. I would stuff multiple disks into one cover sleeve and check them out on my library card as one. I ended up with several LPs in their tighty whities because I had to sacrifice their original record cover sleeves. This is how I remember Innervisions - an album with no cover.
People don't think about Vietnam as being part of the 70s. Woodstock and dissent was a 60s problem.
As a ten-year-old in Boston. I was raised by television. After coming home from school, my sisters and I would catch an episode of All In The Family, before Walter Cronkite would give the daily update on the Vietnam death count. Tensions were building around the talk of the desegregating the Boston School System. I didn't understand any of it. I had a crush on Diana Ross.
Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson were something special. They were practically the same age as me. There was also this blind kid named Stevie Wonder. They would escort him to his piano right there on TV. This was the day of AM Gold. He would sing these beautiful songs like, My Cherie Amour.
Successful pop hits laced with dodgy subjects have dotted the Billboard skyline since the advent of the phonograph needle. Songs about inner city life first appeared on my radar with Elvis Presley's In The Ghetto and Isaac Hayes' The Theme From Shaft but things took a darker more mysterious tone when Curtis Mayfield started singing to me that some junkie named Freddie was dead. Prime time television added a sterilized look into Jimmy Walker's Good Times world of temporary lay offs and easy credit rip offs.
It wasn't long before we had a stereo system in our house to replace the record player. This one had AM-FM-Shortwave with a built in 8-Track player. The turntable sat upon it as a seperate unit. The best part was ovesized earmuff headphones. It wasn't long before it ended up in my bedroom. On Sunday morning the Boston AM stations would switch over to simulcasts of Catholic Mass. This is how I discovered the devil's music - FM radio. This was the dichotomy of Innervisions
Innervisions hit the airwaves in the fall of 1973 but the singles kept coming strong well into 1974. The Living For The City AM edit that blasted out of my transistor radio while I raked the leaves in my back yard that fall transported me to those four walls in Mississippi. It was the unedited FM cut I heard while lying on my bed one early Sunday, headphones intact, that rattled my cage. There were sirens and a cops and robbers dialogue right out of a movie and then it happened. Stevie Wonder - the clean-cut blind kid that I lumped together with Donny and Michael - said it. It was the word that I heard in the schoolyard on a daily basis in my all white neighborhood. He said, nigger. A seismic shift took place. Music is not just about A-B-C's and one bad apples. It's about something bigger than all of us. It could be anything. It was more real than anything Cronkite could ever say to me. It was my daily news and my teacher all wrapped into one. I was shocked into a new dimension.
The hits kept rolling out. Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing and Higher Ground became AM staples while the album's deeper cuts like Golden Lady became common on the devil's FM dial.
The coverless LP shared rotation with K-Tel's I Believe In Music.
- Boston Boy