One-hit wonders High Inergy and their hit “You Can’t Turn Me Off (In the Middle of Turning Me On)”


Introduction to High Inergy

High Inergy were a 1970s all-girl R&B/soul/disco quartet. They consisted of sisters Vernessa and Barbara Mitchell, as well as Linda Howard and Michelle Martin. Their single, “You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On)” went high on the pop and R&B singles charts that same year. But following the release of their second album Vernessa Mitchell quit to turn to gospel singing, reducing the group into a trio. Her sister Barbara took over the lead vocals for their next albums, all of which tanked on the chart. They disbanded in 1983 without much noise. Despite a few other singles that placed on the lower ranks of Hot 100 and R&B charts, they could still be considered as a one-hit wonder.

High Inergy’s early years

High Inergy were a female R&B/soul/disco/ girl group, consisting of four members: Vernessa Mitchell, Linda Howard, Michelle Martin, and Barbara Mitchell (Vernessa’s sister). They were formed and based in Pasadena, California in 1977. The Mitchell sisters were primarily singers, while Howard and Martin were known for their dancing. Their strongest influences were The Superemes and Martha and the Vandellas, whom High Inergy fashioned themselves from.

The girls were discovered by Gwen Gordy Fuqua (the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.) while the girls were performing during a Bicentennial show in Pasadena. They were eventually signed to Motown’s subsidiary label Gordy in 1977, releasing their debut album Turnin’ On which reached #6 on the soul album chart and #28 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

The group’s only hit “You Can’t Turn Me Off (in the Middle of Turning Me On)” and their later years

The album’s first single (as well as the group’s) “You Can’t Turn Me Off (in the Middle of Turning Me On)” was written by Marilyn McLeod and Pam Sawyer. It eventually became a Top 20 pop hit peaking at #12, and an R&B Top 10 hit at #2 that same year.

However, things became different when they released their second LPSteppin’ Out, which didn’t become successful. Following its release, Vernessa Mitchell left the group to pursue a gospel singing career, so her sister Barbara took Vernessa’s role in the group as its lead singer.

The band, now reduced to a trio, continued to release a string of following singles including “Love Is All You Need,” “We Are the Future,” “Lovin’ Fever,” “Shoulda Gone Dancin’,” “Make Me Yours,” “Goin’ Through the Motions,” “He’s a Pretender,” and “Back in My Arms.” However, all of these were only minor hits on all pop, dance and R&B charts. After failing to find another big hit, High Inergy quietly disbanded in 1984. Barbara Mitchell launched a solo career soon after the group broke up.

During their active years, the group worked with labelmates Switch and the legendary artist Smokey Robinson.

Former member Howard died in late 2012 of unknown causes.

High Inergy released a total of eight albums: Turnin’ On (1977), Steppin’ Out(1978), Shoulda Gone Dancin’ (1979), Frenzy (1979), Hold On (1980), High Inergy (1981), So Right (1982), and Groove Patrol (1983).

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