The perfect driving experience, the melding of man, machine, and music is what Cars and Guitars is all about. So, buckle up, drop it into reverse, and floor it back a thousand years to 1973 when hard rock and Detroit muscle roamed the earth. This time we take a look at the 1973 Cadillac Eldorado and pair it with the blue-eyed soul of a band called Stories and their number one hit “Brother Louie.”
Both the car and the song epitomize the American melting pot experience, with a helping hand from Hot Chocolate, a groundbreaking R&B group from the UK. One could argue that Cadillac and Stories’ version of “Brother Louie” could only come from the cultural mosaic that is America.
“Brother Louie,” tells a tale about a love affair between a white man and a black woman, and the subsequent disowning of the man by his parents. The song was written and performed by British musicians Errol Brown and Tony Wilson of the group Hot Chocolate, and hit 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 and sold a million-plus copies to earn a gold disk. At first, the song wasn’t 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 singer Ian Lloyd’s incredible vocals took the song to new heights. The Stories version also 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 its eclectic ingredients.
Check out this video clip from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1973. A caveat of appearing on Rock Concert was any featured band had to perform live. What a thrill it is to hear singer Ian Loyd lay down the incredible lead vocal, no vocoders or backing tracks needed. Is there any pop vocalist today that is talented (or brave enough) to perform this gymnastic vocal without any background singers or electronic processing?
It spent two weeks at number one and remained on the Billboard chart for 18 weeks, with an R.I.A.A. gold disc awarded on August 22, 1973. Although Stories had followed up with some minor hits, they are considered a one-hit-wonder today.
Hot Chocolate’s version has to be included here. Although it must have been bittersweet to have been eclipsed by Stories’ version of “Brother Louie,” they went on to have many chart-topping hits like “Every 1s a Winner” and “You Sexy Thing.” Hot Chocolate’s version would never have been released today with its two NSFW spoken passages, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment and social statement it made. We love the original laid-back, funky take on the song as well. The video is shot with the audience at the band’s feet and offers a glimpse of rock culture at the dawn of the seventies.
Cadillac was established 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 production. Cadillac skyrocketed to fame and status and really blossomed after WWII with more innovations like OHV V8s and outrageous styling that captivated the hearts of car fans around the world.
By the seventies, Cadillac was in the twilight of its preeminence in the US luxury market but still was the reigning sales champ. The onslaught of competition from German and Japanese automakers was still a decade away and Cadillac was producing big, garish sleds that printed wheelbarrows full of money for General Motors.
The American melting pot surrounded Cadillac as well. Detroit was founded by a Frenchman, and Cadillac Motor Division had a kaleidoscope of influences ranging from blue blood Detroit designers Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell to the multi-hued workers that built the cars.
For 1973, Cadillac Eldorado was essentially the top-of-the-line aside from the division’s limousine. With a 500cid V8 and a curb weight approaching 5,000lbs, the Eldo was not dainty by any stretch of the imagination but was a capable cruiser with 235hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. All of this was channeled to a chain-driven Turbohydramtic transaxle twisting the front wheels. It continued with the FWD blueprint introduced on the Toronado of 1966 and the Eldorado that 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 bigger bumper and the “floating deck” trunk design of the 1971-72 models was toned down and fortified as well. Sales of the Eldorado coupe and convertible soared to 51,451 the highest total for the model during the 1970s and over a sixth of all Cadillac sales for 1973.
By 1979, the Eldorado was downsized and even though the new model was smaller and more nimble, it just wasn’t the same. Commensurately, the rock scene of the seventies would soon change forever with punk rock, the new wave, and MTV looming on the horizon.
Singer Ian Lloyd made one more album with Stories and then embarked on a solo career. He has released records as Ian Lloyd and Stories and has toured using that name as well. Dig this interview with Lloyd and he talks about how they decided to record Brother Louie and how it didn’t make the initial pressing of the second album. Go to 10:32 and listen in as Lloyd recounts the heady days of the band’s success.
Lloyd worked with numerous major recording artists as a backup singer over the years. 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 tracks by Yes, Peter Frampton, Survivor, and Ian McDonald.
Both “Brother Louie” and Cadillac are products of an outrageous bygone era. Both took disparate elements and transformed them into solid gold, grand slam hits in their respective arenas. Imagine back in the summer of 1973, taking Dad’s Eldorado out for a spin. Drop the top, eject the old man’s Ray Price tape, and hit play on Stories “Brother Louie.” As the scratchy wah-wah guitar and raspy vocal of Ian Lloyd begin to weave the tale of forbidden love, turn it up, step on the gas and let the smooth torque of 500 honest-to-God cubic inches inhale the ribbon of asphalt ahead of you.