May 26 – A Monster Of A Hit

It was a monster hit for the whitest musician in Texas 50 years ago. Edgar Winter (or more accurately, the Edgar Winter Group) hit #1 on Billboard this day in 1973 with the rockin’ single “Frankenstein.” It managed to displace Stevie Wonder out of the top spot for a week before Paul McCartney took over with “My Love.”

Frankenstein” was a most unusual chart-topper for two reasons. First, and most obviously, it was an instrumental. As such it was the first to hit the top of the charts in the decade… it would be about another year before there was an instrumental #1 hit, that being Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra and their “Love’s Theme.” Secondly, while it sounds like a heavy-driving hard rock song, listen closely and you notice it’s primarily played on synthesizer. That made it the first #1 single in the U.S. to use that instrument so extensively. It also topped the charts in Canada and was a top 10 to the south, in Mexico. It lives on not only on Classic Rock radio but in movies and TV shows including The Simpsons, My Name is Earl and Tropic Thunder.

Edgar himself played the synth and keyboards on the track; he is a multi-talented instrumentalist (as was his brother Johnny) who can handle guitars, sax, and of course, sing a tune as well if needed, as we heard on the follow-up single “Free Ride.” That single was written by bandmate Dan Hartman who’d later go onto solo success with “I Can Dream About You.”

Frankenstein” is a long piece, the album version being much lengthier than the single, and came out of a number of recording sessions produced by Rick Derringer. They took the best bits and spliced them together (Winter notes “when we were editing it in the studio… you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together”) , which gave them the idea for the title.

Both Edgar and Johnny Winter are albinos, resulting in their trademark snow white hair and the dark glasses they usually wear. Edgar is still active, putting out albums regularly although none have been top 10 successes like They Only Come Out At Night from which this is drawn, and is often called upon for session work by the likes of Meat Loaf and David Lee Roth and has been in four editions of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.


12 thoughts on “May 26 – A Monster Of A Hit

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    i always liked this one. I remember seeing him play that synth…it was exciting at the time because it was new. I love the tone of it…a forboding tone…now this synth I liked…so see I did like some! I can still listen to this one,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it is a pretty cool tune … somehow the name fits the mood too. I wonder when there last was an instrumental #1 hit …’Chariots of Fire’ perhaps?? there were a few in the ’70s, either total or near-totally instrumental (things like ‘The Hustle’ or ‘Pick up the Pieces’ seem like instrumentals even if someone did shout the title out occasionally)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        They were at one time really big…instrumental hits…I also remember the Theme from Swat hit number 1….and one I didn’t like as much… the Miami Vice theme in the 80s.
        This one is so forceful…I love it. Another good one around this time…Jessica by the Allman Brothers but it wasn’t #1.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. it’s a style that’s just fallen out of fashion I guess. Seems like my brother was quite into Edgar Winter back then. It still amazes me that Dan Hartman , ‘I Can Dream About You’ guy was behind songs like theirs.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Yep, splice it all together and let it roll. Great way to get a title. In the 60s there was always one big instrumental per year, I can think of ‘Peter Gunn’ ‘Love Is Blue’ ‘Classical Gas.’ I’d say, maybe later on some might want to add in some Richard Clayderman and Andre Rieu but there are limits as to what is sparkling entertainment and what is froth and dross.

    Liked by 1 person

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