When I wrote my post about Thom Bell, I left off some songs I liked that he did not write but did produce. As it turned out, they were all by the Spinners, or the Detroit Spinners or Motown Spinners, as they were known in the UK. There was a British folk group called The Spinners in the late 1950s.
The group started back in 1954 as The Domingoes became The Spinners in 1961. It released a couple of Top 100 songs that year, including their first recording, That’s What Girls Are Made For (#27 pop, #5 RB), on Tri-Phi Records.
Motown bought up the Tri-Phi roster in 1963. Per Wikipedia, “With limited commercial success, Motown assigned the Spinners as road managers, chaperones, and chauffeurs for other groups, and even as shipping clerks.”
They were moved to Motown imprint V.I.P. In 1970, they finally had a hit with It’s A Shame (#14 pop, #4 RB), produced by Stevie Wonder and written by Wonder and Syreeta Wright. But Motown wasn’t a great fit for the group.
A new ocean
Aretha Franklin recommended they sign with her label, Atlantic, and they did in 1972.
Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (#4 pop in 1973, #1 RB, #14 adult contemporary, gold record) was co-written by Melvin and Mervin Steals, two songwriter brothers working for Atlantic sometimes credited as “Mystro and Lyric.” The house band MFSB provided the backing. Bobby Smith sings lead through most of the song while Philippé Wynne handles vocal duties on the outro.
One Of A Kind (Love Affair) (#11 pop, #1 for four weeks RB, #19 AC in 1973, gold record) was written by Joseph B. Jefferson. Wynne was the lead singer.
Mighty Love (#20 pop, #1 for two weeks RB in 1973) was written by Joseph B. Jefferson, Bruce Hawes, and Charles Simmons.
Then Came You (#2 RB, #3 AC in 1974, gold record) was credited to Dionne Warwicke and the Spinners (from 1971 to 1975, Warwick added a final ‘e’ to her last name). Sherman Marshall and Phillip T. Pugh wrote the track.
“Released during a time that Warwick’s chart fortunes were at an ebb after moving to Warner Bros. Records in 1972, the Philadelphia soul single was a rare mid-1970s success for the singer. Sung as a duet with the Spinners’ main lead singer Bobby Smith, the song became Warwick’s first-ever single to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. It became her highest-charting R&B record of the 1970s, and it was also the first number-one pop hit for the Spinners. It was nominated for a Grammy.”
When I was growing up, I was annoyed with folks who denigrate musicians who aren’t making the “right” music. Charlie Pride’s country music, Jimi Hendrix’s rock, and Dionne Warwick sing Bacharach -David was not considered appropriate by some people, which I thought was stupid. Still, I was happy that Dionne got her soul cred with this track.
Games People Play, also known as “They Just Can’t Stop It The” (Games People Play) (#5 pop, #1 RB, #2 AC in 1975, gold record) written by Jefferson, Hawes, and Simmons. It featured lead vocals by Bobby Smith. The house band MFSB provided the backing. It “featured guest vocalist Evette L. Benton (though producer Bell disputed this in a UK-based interview, claiming Evette’s line was actually group member Henry Fambrough – his voice sped up), and led to the nickname “Mister 12:45″ for bass singer Jackson, after his signature vocal line on the song.”
I love the fact that there was a bass vocal solo; I can barely reach the lowest notes.