Some songs are locked in their era, while others update themselves and reach another generation. On August 11, 1979, the Atlanta Rhythm Section were hitting the American chart with a number that had been very good to some of the group 11 years earlier, and even that was an adaptation of an instrumental original. The word for all of that is “Spooky.”
The song was co-written by Mike Shapiro, who as pop-jazz alto saxophonist Mike Sharpe, recorded the tune for the Liberty label and reached No.57 with it in the US in 1967. Later that year, Jackson, Florida soft rock outfit Classics IV heard its potential.
Their guitarist James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie added lyrics, and the song climbed to No.3 on the Hot 100 in early 1968. That vocal interpretation inspired covers by many of the easy listening and soul acts of the day, notably Andy Williams, Dusty Springfield, Percy Sledge and Martha & the Vandellas.
Fast forward a decade, by which time Cobb, Buie and fellow Classics IV graduate Dean Daughtry were longtime members of the highly successful Atlanta Rhythm Section. The initial appeal of the Doraville, Georgia group, said Rolling Stone in 1978, “came from its break with the often predictable Southern-rock genre: the band combined the usual guitar-solo orientation with an attractive pop sensibility.”
Plundering the past
Already with several years of hit singles and albums under their belt — including top ten hits with 1977’s “So Into You” and ’78’s “Imaginary Lover” — the ARS decided to revisit their past. They recorded a new version of the atmospheric “Spooky” for their Underdog album, which was already certified gold in America by the time it was released as a single. The group had just had another top 20 hit with the first single from the LP, the pretty “Do it Or Die.”
ARS’ new “Spooky” entered the US chart at No.90. It spent two months making slow but steady progress up the Hot 100 and came to rest for two weeks at No.17 in October. It was the group’s final top 20 American hit.
“Spooky” is on The Best of Atlanta Rhythm Section, which can be bought here.
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