The perfect driving experience, the fusion of man, machine and music is what Cars and Guitars is all about. So buckle up, put it in reverse and go back a thousand years to 1973, when hard rock and Detroit brawn roamed the earth. This time we take a look at the 1973 Cadillac Eldorado and combine it with the blue-eyed soul of a band called Stories and their number one hit “Brother Louie.”
Both the car and the song embody the American melting pot experience, with a helping hand from Hot Chocolate, a pioneering R&B group from the UK. It could be argued that Cadillac and Stories’ version of “Brother Louie” can only come from the cultural mosaic that is America.
“Brother Louie”, tells a story of a love affair between a white man and a black woman, and the man’s subsequent disavowal by his parents. The song was written and performed by British musicians Errol Brown and Tony Wilson of the group Hot Chocolate, and reached No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart in 1973.
New York-based Stories covered the song about six months after Hot Chocolate’s version was released. The Stories version of “Brother Louie” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, selling over one million copies to earn a gold disc. Initially, the song was not included on the band’s 1973 LP “About Us” and had to be added to a later pressing.
Both versions of the songs have similar arrangements, but Stories lead singer Ian Lloyd’s incredible vocals took the song to new heights. Also, the Stories version adds a healthy dose of edgy rock to the funky wah-wah guitars and Philly Sound strings. For this author, this goulash of musical elements makes the sum better than the eclectic ingredients.
Watch this video of Don Kirshner’s rock concert in 1973. A reservation to appear on rock concert was every well-known band that had to perform live. What a thrill it is to hear singer Ian Loyd lay down the incredible lead vocals, no need for vocoders or backing tracks. Is there any pop singer these days talented (or brave enough) to perform this gymnastic voice without any backing vocalists or electronic processing?
It spent two weeks at number one and remained on the Billboard chart for 18 weeks, with an RIAA gold record being awarded on August 22, 1973. Although Stories had been followed up with some minor hits, today they are considered a one-hit wonder.
Hot Chocolate’s version should be included here. While it must have been bittersweet to be overshadowed by the Stories version of “Brother Louie,” they had many chart hits like “Every 1s a Winner” and “You Sexy Thing.” The Hot Chocolate version would never have been released today with its two NSFW spoken passages, but that doesn’t detract from the achievement and social statement it made. We also like the original laid-back, funky take on the song. Shot with the audience at the feet of the band, the video offers a glimpse of rock culture in the early 1970s.
Cadillac was founded in 1902 by Henry Leland, who named the company after the founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. In 1908, Cadillac presented the idea of interchangeable parts to the automotive industry, revolutionizing the future of car manufacturing. Cadillac skyrocketed to fame and status and really boomed after World War II with more innovations like OHV V8s and outrageous styling that captivated the hearts of car fans around the world.
By the 1970s, Cadillac was in the waning days of its preeminence in the American luxury market, but it was still the reigning sales champion. The onslaught of competition from German and Japanese automakers was still a decade away, and Cadillac was producing big, flashy sleds that printed wheelbarrows of money for General Motors.
The American melting pot also surrounded Cadillac. Detroit was founded by a Frenchman, and Cadillac Motor Division had a kaleidoscope of influences, ranging from blue-blooded Detroit designers Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell to the multicolored workers who built the cars.
For 1973, Cadillac Eldorado was essentially the top of the range, aside from the division limousine. With a 500 cid V8 and a curb weight of nearly 5,000 pounds, the Eldo was far from graceful, but a capable cruiser with 235 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque. All this was channeled to a chain-driven Turbohydramtic transaxle that twisted the front wheels. It continued with the FWD blueprint introduced on the 1966 Toronado and the Eldorado which debuted in 1967.
The Eldorado received a facelift in 1973. The car had to meet federally mandated bumper standards, so the grille was revised to accommodate a larger bumper and the “floating deck” trunk design of the 1971-72 models was also toned down and strengthened . Sales of the Eldorado coupe and convertible rose to 51,451, the highest total for the model in the 1970s and more than one-sixth of all Cadillac sales in 1973.
In 1979 the Eldorado was downsized and while the new model was smaller and more agile, it just wasn’t the same. Similarly, the 1970s rock scene would soon change forever with punk rock, the new wave and MTV on the horizon.
Singer Ian Lloyd made one more album with Stories and then started a solo career. He has released records such as Ian Lloyd and Stories and also toured under that name. Find this interview with Lloyd and he talks about how they decided to record Brother Louie and how it didn’t make it to the first pressing of the second album. Skip to 10:32 and listen as Lloyd talks about the heady days of the band’s success.
Lloyd worked with numerous major artists over the years as a backup singer. You can hear Lloyd on Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Juke Box Hero,” and “Double Vision.” Lloyd also sang on songs by Yes, Peter Frampton, Survivor and Ian McDonald.
Both “Brother Louie” and Cadillac are products of a scandalously bygone era. Both took disparate elements and transformed them into solid gold grand slam hits in their respective arenas. Imagine taking a ride in Dad’s Eldorado in the summer of 1973. Drop the top, remove the Ray Price tape from the old man and press play on Stories “Brother Louie”. As Ian Lloyd’s scratchy wah-wah guitar and raspy voice begin to weave the story of forbidden love, crank it up, step on the gas and let the smooth torque of 500 honest-to-God cubic inches do the trick. asphalt tape in front of you inhale from you.