Monday, July 16, 2012

The Spinners

The Spinners were unarguably the signature sound of Philadelphia soul in the early 70s when Gamble and Huff (and, in the case of The Spinners, Thom Bell) ruled the airwaves.

The Spinners were also a Motown group. For all its amazing success, its ability to change the sound of R & B, the keep to world dancing, and to propel so many groups to superstardom, Motown’s inability (or unwillingness) to do anything with The Spinners is one of those mysteries of life, especially given the success the group had on Atlantic. The irony is that just about the time that the Motown sound was dissipating, the guys in Philadelphia were cementing a style that was just as monolithic, and just as popular, as what Motown had done during the previous decade, and The Spinners, for whom the Motown machine did not work, were the biggest recipients of its largesse.

Their Tri-Phi and Motown sides come from Superstar Series vol. 9, and their Atlantic sides come from The Best Of Spinners.

The Spinners:

It’s A Shame – This was their Motown breakthrough, such as it was, reaching number 14 on Billboard, rendering it a somewhat limited breakthough. The song was pure Motown, a style that was quickly disappearing as artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder declared their artistic independence. The song itself is an expression of frustration with someone who just doesn’t pay enough attention, and while the lyrics are resigned, the delivery is anything but. One of the best dance tracks the group ever did. From the fall of 1970. 
We’ll Have It Made – A song of romantic optimism. The group couldn’t capitalize on the popularity of Shame - not surprisingly, as this record doesn’t have anywhere near the spunk. From the winter of 1971.
Truly Yours – A troubled relationship, her written salutation notwithstanding. This is from 1966, and it was on the R&B charts, bubbled under the pop charts.
Together We Could Make Such Sweet Music – An afterthought. In the wake of the group’s success on Atlantic, Motown released this, and it snuck its way into the top 90. That was really all it deserved. That was in the spring of 1973.
What More Can A Boy Ask For – How about cash...
I’ll Always Love You – This reminds a bit, but just a bit, of The Isley Brothers. It was The Spinners’ first real success after Motown bought out the Tri-Phi label that they were signed to, reaching the top 40 in the summer of 1965.
For All We Know – Not The Carpenters song. This is an old Tin Pan Alley song (written by J. Fred Coots and Sam Lewis, if that helps) that was recorded by more artists than you can shake a stick at, best know by Dinah Washington and Nat King Cole, but if you want to hear it done right, listen to Billie Holiday.
In My Diary – The title of this track could refer to the entire oeuvre of Jackson Browne, in his better days. Here it’s more of a title than a reality.
Message From A Black Man – And the message is: We are just as capable of singing race-conscious songs as The Temptations or James Brown or Sly & The Family Stone or Edwin Starr. They weren’t though.
That’s What Girls Are Made For – The song that kicked off their career, a hit in the fall of 1961. Nobody sings songs about what people are “made for” anymore (outside of hip hop) and that’s probably a good thing. 
I’ll Be Around – On the surface this is some dude being the most selfless guy ever to get the brush off. Under the surface he’s still in there, hoping she’ll change her mind, especially once she gets a taste of that awesome selflessness. This is the song that kicked off their second career, and it did so in fine style. From the fall of 1972. 
How Could I Let You Get Away – From the fall of 1972, this was actually the A side of I’ll Be Around, but the DJs flipped the record, and this side didn’t quite make the big time.
One Of A Kind (Love Affair) – Don’t listen too closely and it’s a song about a fairy tale romance; listen though, pay attention, and it’s real messed up. In a way it could be another angle on I’ll Be Around. From the summer of 1973. 
Mighty Love – More straightforward, at least I think so, but it didn’t do as well. From the winter of 1974.
Ghetto Child – Social Conscience was always lurking somewhere around. The O’Jays did Backstabbers; this was The Spinners’ contribution. From the fall of 1973.
Sadie – A song about his mother. Just as well, “Sadie” is definitely a Mom name. From the spring of 1975.
Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – Thank goodness, a bona fide love song. Dave Marsh says that this is Phillipe Wynne; Wikipedia says Bobby Smith. I have no idea really, but whoever it is, Marsh is right that the background singers are not The Spinners, being female. From the winter of 1973. 
They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play) – The title is reminiscent of Joe South, but South presented musical sociology; The Spinners are singing about dysfunctional romance. From the fall of 1975.
The Rubberband Man – The group sings about dancing (actually about a Michael Jackson – type performer), while sitting on the disco fence. From the winter of ’76 / ’77.
Then Came You – The group’s only number 1 hit, and they had to enlist Dionne Warwick to get it (her only #1 also). From the fall of 1974. Good dance tune.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page