One of the main reasons why I decided to do a project where I listen and write about #1 hits is because I firmly believe that every song has a story behind it, no matter how small, and I want to learn about as many as I can. Usually, stories in music revolve around artistic decisions in the production choices of the song, or, more frequently, stories and themes from the author’s life that are chosen for the song. But, when a song hits #1, the amount of focus that goes onto that song gets amped up to the nth degree, producing both interesting factual stories, and interesting “alternative” stories that may end up becoming urban legend.
Case in point, “Love Rollercoaster,” a funky track by the Ohio Players that hit #1 for one week on January 31st, 1976, has an urban legend attached to it that very few people nowadays are probably aware of. Around halfway through the repetitive “Rollercoaster…of Love,” there’s a faint high pitched wail in the background, which legend claims is the sound of a woman being murdered. Backers of the myth claim that the sound is clearly murderous in its nature, and that the sound may have been previously recorded and then looped into the song by accident. Another far fetched explanation includes the fact that the sound could have emanated from the album photo shoot occurring next door. According to this version of events, a model participating in the shoot burnt herself on hot honey (the album was called Honey), and, according to different variations, may or may not have been stabbed to death to quiet her down/avoid a lawsuit as a result of her burns – again, this all apparently happened while the recording of the jovial “Love Rollercoaster” was happening nearby.
Could it be true? Could the Ohio Players – who helped bring funk to the masses in the early 70s – have included the sound of a woman being murdered in the background of their second #1 hit? No, of course not. The official explanation from the band is that keyboardist Billy Beck let out the scream during recording and it was left in the final version of the song. Apparently, some DJ was the one who originally spread this urban legend (which coincidentally, is also how the infamous Beatles/Paul is Dead rumors got their start), and the Players didn’t originally refute the story because letting the story live would probably lead to more sales and publicity (and it did).