'Love Rollercoaster' By Ohio Players: Did A Woman Die For This #1 Hit?
The Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" was an instant funk classic -- haunted by a morbid urban legend. The single was released on November 9, 1975, and driven by an epic hook reached the number one spot on the U.S. charts on January 31, 1976 -- but what listeners believe to be a scream of a possibly-murdered woman made the song notorious.
What began as a simple funk-pop anthem about the ups and downs of a relationship turned into the puzzle for true crime addicts (before the internet even existed), and in the ensuing decades the single has gone down in history as one of the most scandalous songs that's ever been recorded, but does it deserve that reputation? Did a woman really die for "Love Rollercoaster?" Let's get to the bottom of it.
"Love Rollercoaster" is a pretty straightforward song, at least when you remove it from the urban legends that surround it. The Ohio Players weren't some fly-by-night group; they'd been playing in different forms since the 1950s when they were the Ohio Untouchables. After breaking up and getting back together a couple of times, the band began hitting their stride as the Ohio Players with the albums Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy, all released between 1972 and 1973.
Your love is like a roller coaster
The band really arrived on the funk scene with the back-to-back release of Skin Tight and Fire in 1974; both albums went to number one on the Billboard charts. The next year the band recorded and released Honey, featuring the single "Love Rollercoaster" -- and a scandalous cover showing October 1974 Playmate of the Month, Ester Cordet in the nude, covering herself with honey. Upon its release the racy cover was the first thing that audiences noticed, but it wasn't long before strange theories sprung up around the band. The band members state that a radio DJ claimed that the sound of a scream came from a murder victim, and without much prompting the American public took the story and ran with it.
Ester Cordet and her scorching hot honey
It's not clear which urban legend surrounding the alleged death scream on "Love Rollercoaster" came first, but the wildest theory surrounds Playmate Ester Cordet and the honey that she's covering herself in. Variations of the theory surmise that the honey had to be heated to make it flow and spread easily and that she suffered horrible burns when she covered herself with it.
The story goes that the honey (or honey-colored molten plastic) fused itself to her skin and the sounds of her screams while it was being removed made its way onto the recording. Of course, that assumes that the band was recording the song and shooting the album's cover art at the exact same time.
Another version of the story featuring Cordet says that she showed up to the studio to demand compensation from the band for her horrific burns and the band's manager killed her in the studio and the band recorded the whole thing. None of that makes sense, but it's an interesting story. If Cordet, a Playboy Playmate, had been murdered or horribly scarred by a popular funk group it would be in the news.
Step right up and get your tickets
Moving away from Cordet (who as of this writing is alive and well), there are numerous theories as to where the scream on "Love Rollercoaster" comes from. Some of the less far fetched theories surmise that the band used real audio of someone falling to their deaths from a roller coaster, which is questionable but possible (should a recording like that actually exist).
Some fans believe that the band procured a 911 call and mixed a scream from the audio into their song. That kind of thing has definitely happened, but it's the kind of thing that you're more likely to hear in industrial music than classic '70s funk.
Another story about the sound captured on the song keeps the band out of any legal trouble. Supposedly while the band was recording a woman witnessed a rabbit being killed in an alley and she screamed bloody murder. That's absolutely possible until you think about the fact that top of the line studios are soundproofed to keep out unwanted noises.
Anything could have happened in the studio with the Ohio Players
If you were around when this song first came out then you probably know all about the additional theories surrounding this song:
- The band killed a cleaning lady
- A band member killed his girlfriend and the engineer recorded it
- Someone was killed outside the studio and the microphones picked it up
- One of the band members was possessed by a demon and the sound was captured on the audio
None of these theories are true -- they don't even really make sense. Why would a band record a song while they were murdering someone? Were they trying to see how far they could push their fans? Or did they just want to catch the attention of the authorities? The scream does sound out of the ordinary for the era, but that's all it is, an out of the ordinary, joy filled scream.
None of the urban legends surrounding this song are true, and what makes the whole thing so strange is the way in which people glommed onto them so easily. The scream comes from keyboardist Billy Beck. He lets out his visceral scream as the song ramps up, but it's not like that's out of the question for a band in the '70s.
As rumors about the song propelled "Love Rollercoaster" from funk hit to urban legend, the band never refuted the story. They didn't exactly play into it, they just never said that the urban legends were wrong. Jimmy "Diamond" Williams explains:
There is a part in the song where there's a breakdown. It's guitars and it's right before the second verse and Billy Beck does one of those inhaling-type screeches like Minnie Riperton did to reach her high note or Mariah Carey does to go octaves above. The DJ made this crack and it swept the country. People were asking us, 'Did you kill this girl in the studio?' The band took a vow of silence because you sell more records that way.
Tags: Crime In The 1970s | Love Rollercoaster | Number-one Singles | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts | Urban Legends
Like it? Share with your friends!