In 1972, the same year that Motown moved out West to Los Angeles, a new stable of pop-soul acts built around a production line of salaried songwriters and producers was emerging back East. Almost all of the big name acts on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff‘s Philadelphia International Records label emerged from Philadelphia itself (the main exception being proud Texans Archie Bell and the Drells), and it’s quite a roll call: The O’Jays, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes (and from out of their number, singer Teddy Pendergrass), The Three Degrees and later McFadden & Whitehead (who penned the label’s first big hit, The O’Jays’ “Backstabbers”, back in 1972, and whose own 1979 signature hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” was written in celebration of finally being allowed to made a record of their own). And that’s not including the other acts that were part of the scene but signed to other labels: The Trammps, The Stylistics, even The Jacksons (whose UK chart-topper “Show You The Way To Go” was another McFadden & Whitehead composition).
I’m not claiming that everything that emerged from the scene was of a consistently high quality, or even that it all appeals to me personally. Mainly, what I like is the stuff that’s either an obvious precursor to disco, or crossing over with it, such as today’s track from Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. “The Love I Lost” (written and produced by Gamble and Huff themselves) was released in 1973, which means that, like many of Philadelphia International’s proto-disco classics, it pre-dates the era of the 12″ single. It was originally split across two sides of a 7″ and became a substantial hit despite the structure of the familiar “part one” A-side being, let’s face it, totally messed up. You can’t just run this song from the start, fade it after three and a half minutes, and expect it to work – you end up with an intro that’s far too long and an ending that’s too short. But that’s what they did.
To get the song in all its glory, you needed to buy the album, Black and Blue (clever wording, cheers) and there you got the full 6:22, uninterrupted.
But just imagine what could have been done with a proper 12″ extended mix! Actually, you don’t have to imagine anymore, because the last decade or so has seen many of the early Philly classics belatedly receive the remix treatment – not with the intention of “updating” them to fit in with the latest trends, but rather in an honest attempt to answer the question “what if ?”. Most of these 70s-style remixes have been done by either Tom Moulton, the innovator who popularised the 12″ remix in the first place; or Dimitri From Paris, a man with a true passion and respect for the disco genre. As it happens, both of them have tackled “The Love I Lost”, each stretching it well past 10 minutes, but it’s Dimitri’s version that has the edge for me. It’s almost too much of a good thing…