Ohio produced some quality funk bands in the 1970s, most notably groups such as the Ohio Players, the Dazz Band, Lakeside, and innumerable others. One lesser known--but still talented--band, Switch, produced some late 1970s R&B classics including "I Call Your Name" (not the Beatles song) and "Love Over and Over Again." Their 1978 hit, "There'll Never Be," best exemplifies the Switch sound: horns, jazz-tinged chord changes, and tight harmonies. While the act broke up in 1984, their biggest hit continues to earn radio airplay and stands as a hidden '70s gem.
While an Ohio band, Switch's best years occurred on the Motown label. After forming in 1975 as First Class, the band "switched" names and formalized the lineup: Tommy DeBarge (vocals and bass); Phillip Ingram (lead vocals); Greg Williams (keyboards and vocals); Bobby DeBarge (lead vocals, drums, and keyboards); Eddie Fluellen (keyboards, trombone, and vocals); and Jody Sims (drums). Jermaine Jackson discovered Switch and urged his then father-in-law, Berry Gordy, to sign them to Motown. The ex-Jackson 5 singer, along with wife Hazel Gordy, executive produced the band's 1978 self-titled debut. Jackson contributed the track "I Wanna Be Closer," while Bobby DeBarge composed "There'll Never Be" along with two other tracks. Switch clearly started their career off right, as the album peaked at number six on the R&B charts and at 37 on the Billboard Top 200. "There'll Never Be" proved the winning single, as it too reached number six on the R&B charts and 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Building on this promising beginning, Switch released their 1979 followup (imaginatively titled Switch II) to almost identical commercial success. Once again Bobby DeBarge composed the album's biggest hit, the irresistible "I Call Your Name." However, trouble loomed for the band--poor management and personnel changes hampered Switch's creative and commercial achievements. The group's last hit, "Love Over and Over Again" from their last album with the DeBarge brothers, 1980's This Is My Dream, would mark the end of the original lineup. Later that year, Ingram departed the band, while Bobby and Tommy DeBarge soon left to join their enormously successful family act DeBarge. The band recruited new members and changed music labels to reignite their career, but their 1984 album Am I Still Your Boyfriend? failed to recapture their 1970s heyday. Shortly thereafter, Switch parted ways.
A mix of original members and new musicians reformed Switch, although a full reunion remains impossible. Sadly, lead singer and composer Bobby DeBarge passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1995.
"There'll Never Be" and its light-as-air melody recalls lazy summer days, Bobby's bright falsetto accented by well-placed horns. Its lyrics narrate the first blush of love, a conversation between two lovers as they spend their first night together. "Since we are lyin' here / For the first time, you and I / Show me what you'll do for me," he croons. "Please come over here and let me whisper in your ear / I'll say something good to you." The chorus demonstrates the band's close harmonies, adding a catchy scatting section. At once romantic, playful and soulful, "There'll Never Be" represents 1970s R&B at its best. The sophisticated arrangement indicated a songwriting talent on the rise--unfortunately Bobby could not conquer his drug addictions, and never fully realized his promise.
Switch may have been short-lived, but their feel-good brand of soul still pleases the senses. Their original albums may be difficult to find, but greatest hits collections such as Best of Switch and 20th Century Masters showcase why Switch should have experienced greater success.