#1051: Sunrise to Sunset by Five Man Electrical Band
Peak Month: September 1969
8 weeks on CKLG chart
Peak Position #12
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~did not chart
YouTube.com: “Sunrise To Sunset”
The Five Man Electrical Band was a Canadian mainstream rock band from Ottawa. They had an international hit in 1970 called “Signs”. Their other hits did well in Canada, including “Absolutely Right” and “I’m A Stranger Here”. In 1970 the band released an album called Good-byes and Butterflies. The cover of the album prominently displayed a marijuana plant. The ensuing controversy led to the album being withdrawn and given a different cover with a butterfly composed of neon lights. “Signs” was initially the b-side of “Hello Melinda, Goodbye”. But by accident, the sides were reversed, making “Signs” the A-side, which radio listeners started began calling DJ’s for requests to hear it again.
Les Emmerson was born in 1944. In 1963 he formed the Staccatos. The Ottawa group included lead singer and local disc jockey Dean Hagopian. After some local hits they got the attention of Capitol Records. One of their 1965 singles imitated the surfing sound with “Moved To California”. In 1966 their Top 40 hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart, “Let’s Run Away,” won the group the two Juno awards that year for Best Produced Single and Vocal Instrumental Group Of The Year. Then they released “Half Past Midnight”. The song peaked on the Canadian RPM singles chart at #8 in May 1967. It won them a JUNO award for Best Produced Single and got them gigs in the trendy music scene in the downtown Toronto neighborhood of Yorkville. Coca-Cola lined them up for some jingles and they shared one of two sides of an album in 1968 with The Guess Who called A Wild Pair.
After failing to chart in the USA the group changed their sound and their name to the The Five Man Electrical Band in 1969. They released a single called “It Never Rains On Maple Lane” which had regional success in Olympia, Washington, (#12), Kirkland Lake, Ontario, (#11) and Top 30 in San Francisco and Toronto. A second single, “Lovin’ Look” made it into the Top 100 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with the band sounding similar to the Grass Roots. But it was their third single release that began to show signs of an emerging sound the Five Man Electrical Band became known for. The refrain, “the sun is up and I’m still down” in the last minute of “Sunrise to Sunset” got the band more attention. With that more mainstream rock sound their third single peaked at #13 in Ottawa, #12 in Victoria and #12 on CKLG in Vancouver.
From sunrise to sunset, that’s how long that she’s been gone.
I’ve seen too many sunsets to know I’m gonna spend a lot of time on my own.
Sunrise to sunset we really love.
But now I know why, didn’t mean to shove.
I’ve tried too hard to turn you into something new could never be.
And now I’m feeling sorry for having tried to change the perfect girl I didn’t see.
Somebody help me, remove this pride.
I’m so unhappy, I’m gonna cry.
The sun is up and I’m still down (x6)
“Sunrise to Sunset” concerns the heartbreak felt by someone who’s been left behind. They’ve realized too late that they were being controlling and trying to fix the “girl” they loved who was already “perfect” just the way they were. Anyone listening to this song, who had been in a relationship with someone who was constantly trying to perfect them, would have sympathized with the “girl” who left they guy to watch the sunrises and sunsets on his own.
Several more singles followed In 1971 the band got a Top Ten hit in Canada and the USA called “Signs” which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Vancouver. This was followed by “Absolutely Right” which peaked at #4 in Vancouver and reached the Top 20 in the USA. Several more singles were released including their 1973 single “I’m A Stranger Here“, an anthem to environmental awareness. When the single was recorded, the band was made up of Les Emmerson (vocals, guitar), Rick Bell (vocals, drums), Ted Gerow (keyboards), Mike Bell (vocals, drums) and Brian Rading (bass guitar). At the end of the albums production, Mike Bell and Brian Rading left the band, actually making the remaining members a Three Man Electrical Band.
The band had one more notable hit called “Werewolf” in 1974. Emmerson based himself in California from the mid-70s until 1981. During this time he launched Perfect Records with the engineer for Bachman-Turner-Overdrive and Pure Prairie League, Mark Smith. When he moved back to Ottawa in 1981 he became associated with The Cooper Brothers, an Ottawa band with a southern rock sound. Emmerson also established a recording studio in the nation’s capitol.
1986 was the year the Five Man Electrical Band got together to perform a benefit concert. However, the benefit concert led to yearly tours of Eastern Canada into the 2010’s. In 2000, at the age of 56, Les Emmerson suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, a stent procedure was successful. In 2008, The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Les Emmerson, primarily for his composition of “Signs,” a song he was first inspired to write while driving down Route 66.
In 2015 Emmerson gave a concert as a fundraiser for the Ottawa Aphasia Center and Manotick United Church’s community outreach activities. Terry McGovern, organizer of the concert said of Les Emmerson: “He’s backed up Chuck Berry and he’s played around the pool at Linda Ronstadt’s house. The guy lived in Los Angeles for 10 years and he and his band were top musicians, so he’s seen everything twice. He has a genuine story to tell and a love of storytelling and is very great at telling stories.”
On June 8, 2016, the Five Man Electrical Band lost bass player, Brian Rading, who died weeks short of his 70th birthday.
March 1, 2017
Emmerson Settles Suit, Billboard, November 11, 1972
The Staccatos, “Moved To California,”1965
The Staccatos, “Let’s Run Away,” 1966
The Staccatos, “Half Past Midnight,” 1967
Les Emmerson inductee: “Signs,” Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2008.
Five Man Electrical Band: Rock Band Formed in Ottawa as The Staccatos, The Canadian Encyclopedia.ca, December 16, 2013.
Proudly Canadian: The Five Man Electrical Band, Cashbox Canada, July 31, 2014.
Megan DeLaire, Les Emmerson Returns to Manotick, The Hamilton Spectator, November 5, 2015.
Kelly Egan, Egan: Five Man Electrical Loses Original Bass Player, Local Rock Pillar, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, ON, June 16, 2016.
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