AT A PERIOD when groups come and go and musical moods change quickly, the lasting power and dependable good vibration sounds of the 5th Dimensions stand out.
What is the special something that keeps the ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ group together while others split and are soon forgotten?
Love is the answer — love of music, love for one another as friends, and probably most important of all, love for hard cash! If that sounds a bit cold, remember, in the process of making all that long-green, the 5th Dimension is bringing you one likeable, sing-a-long song after another. And that can’t be all bad!
Recently I talked with Marilyn McCoo here in Hollywood while she was recovering from an appendectomy. In Marilyn, you see both girl and woman all in the same shapely frame. As she talks of the group’s successes, her eyes light up like a child turned loose in a candy store. Yet when she talks, the mature woman with a real business sense comes across at the same time.
Describing the groups success secret is easy for Marilyn: “We are mature enough to realize that we have a good thing going and no problem is so overwhelming it can’t be worked out! Of course, we have differences of opinion. Being on the road for so long, everyone gets tired and wants to go home to their families. In fact, we’ve had a couple of incidents when one member or another threatening to quit. We just said “go ahead” but when they get a chance to settle down and think about it, they realized it was ridiculous.”
The 5th Dimension make no qualms about the type of material they choose to record. Marilyn explained to me: “We look for hit material. Our first big smash was ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’. Johnny Rivers found that on the Mamas and Papas album and he thought it was a hit piece of material. The record company wasn’t going to release it as a single, but we put our whole thing into it, released it and it was a hit.”
It was the same with ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’. Their producer, Bones Howe, found it on a Laura Nyro album, the group recorded it and it was their first million seller.
Other hits for the group have begun as merely album tracks, but have been released as singles because of the demands from disc jockeys across the country. That’s how ‘Workin’ On A Groovy Thing’ and their most recent ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ started out.
“It was so funny, when the group heard the record company was going to release ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ as a single, we all said: ‘we hope you know what you’re doing.’ And it turned out it’s been a very big seller for us.”
Another highlight that stands out in Marilyn’s mind is the group’s meeting with Jim Webb. “It was most memorable because we ended up with so much beautiful material that he had written. ‘Up, Up And Away’ had to be a highlight because of the Grammies we won for it.”
To Marilyn, the success of the 5th Dimension is a dream come true. “I think that every person that dreams about someday being in show business, also dreams about the success end of it. Of course, I never imagined how it would come or that it would really come by being part of a group. That was really the farthest thing from my plans.”
Her show business dreams began as a child. “I’ve always been a ham!” she admitted. She sang constantly when she was young and when 14 a friend of her father’s told her she had a good voice and encouraged her to start singing seriously. Aged 15 she made her television debut on Art Linkletter’s Talent Scouts. Four years later she won the “Miss Bronze Grand Talent Award” and “Miss Congeniality” title in the same contest. Marilyn married group member Billy Davis Jr. last July. How have they reacted, I asked her, to becoming a wealthy couple in such a very short time? She giggled as she told me: “We’re both tight! We are both cheap! I am funny about spending money and have been all my life. When my mother would give me an allowance, I would try and save it all year then I’d blow it for the Christmas presents and start all over again.
“I have always saved and sometimes spending kills me. As a matter of fact, sometimes the money we make I put aside how much I need to live on and save the rest.
“I’d say my only weakness is clothes and Billy too, but I have a friend in New York who takes me to wholesale houses to buy them! We did just buy a home and we are starting to decorate it. I look forward to a lot of mental anguish, though, because of the money we’ll be spending!”
If money seems to be a hang-up with Marilyn, it’s probably her only one. She is happy as any newly married girl can be and it sticks out all over her. Still she admits she doesn’t know her husband that well.
“Our biggest problem is that we have a sort of superficial relationship. We know one another very well in one respect, yet we don’t know one another in the daily drudgery of everyday living, because we don’t live like normal people.”
Would she ever give up singing and her career to be just a housewife? “No, I don’t think so. I love the business and I love being in with it. I don’t think I could ever settle down and become a housewife and take care of three kids. I do look forward to having a couple of months off and coming home with Billy, but I wouldn’t want to do it steadily.
“Of course, we would like to continue appearing in live performances, but we look forward to the time when we can go out three or four months of the year and do concerts and spend the rest of the time home recording and perhaps doing other projects that might not even be involved with performing.”
© Ann Moses, New Musical Express, 14 February 1970