Music by The Spinners

Produced by Thom Bell

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.

Biggest hit

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.  

Music Throwback Saturday: Then Came You

Then Came You became Warwick’s first ever single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became her highest-charting R&B record.

spinners-dionnePeriodically I have mentioned in this blog how irritated I was that certain black musicians were considered “not black enough” because of their genre. Charlie Pride singing country, or Jimi Hendrix doing rock and roll – and isn’t rock just blues and country mixed together? And I took some heat for listening to it.

Dionne Warwick got grief for being an MOR (middle of the road) artist, singing mostly Burt Bacharach/ Hal David tunes. So I was glad that she briefly got that particular monkey off her back when she teamed up with the legendary Spinners to sing Then Came You.

“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 Spinners main lead singer Bobby Smith and the Spinners, who were one of the most popular groups of the decade, the song became Warwick’s first-ever single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became her highest-charting R&B record reaching number two on that chart. It was also the first number-one pop hit for the Spinners. Spinners member Phillippe Wynne took over lead duties at the very end of the song.”

Dionne spelled her last name with an E at the end during this period but switched back.

Here are songs by the Spinners, who are NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, though nominated the last couple of years, not even up for consideration this season:

I’ll Be Around -#3 for two weeks pop, #1 for five weeks soul in 1972, here or here

Could It Be I’m Falling In Love – # 4 pop, #1 soul in 1973 here or here

One of a Kind (Love Affair) #11 pop, #1 for four weeks soul in 1973 here or here

Mighty Love, Part 1 – #20 pop, #1 for two weeks soul in 1974 here or here

Then Came You – #1 pop, #2 soul in 1974 here or here

They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play) – #5 pop, #1 soul in 1975 here or here

The Rubberband Man – #2 for three weeks pop, #1 soul in 1976 here or here; long, album version here or here

If I Had a Ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The band Yes was both a commercial AND critical success, so it made no sense to exclude them from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Last year, I specifically complained about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame failing to even nominate Yes, Chicago, Moody Blues, and Todd Rundgren. Then, this year, the former two are on the roster.
Last year, two of my picks, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, actually got in.

The nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016:

“To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first single or album at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. The 2016 nominees had to release their first recording no later than 1990.”

The Cars – worthy
Chic – what I wrote last year when I voted for them, still holds: “its sound still relevant, though if Nile Rodgers got in as a non-performer (songwriter/producer), I could accept that.”
*Chicago – those first two albums were great, and some of their later stuff was decent. They’ve gotten nicked for being too “commercial”, I suspect.
Cheap Trick – probably worthy
Deep Purple – when they got nominated a couple of years back, I admit not knowing them beyond their hits

Janet Jackson – possibly one of the most worthy. Yet, because she’s relatively young, I think she’ll get in eventually, if not this year.
The J.B.’s – James Brown’s backup group, and they should get in in THAT category, not here.
Chaka Khan – for both her music with Rufus and her solo stuff. And we share the same birth month.
Los Lobos – a friend said they are “such a watershed group” long before they “crossed over” to the Anglo market
Steve Miller – definitely worthy

Nine Inch Nails – sure, they’re influential and nominated last year.
N.W.A – also nominated last year, and with the Straight Out of Compton movie, this may well be the year they get in
The Smiths – likewise nominated last year, surely would vote for them down the road
*The Spinners – Motown did NOT know what to do with them, and they didn’t really click until they moved to Atlantic. I LOVE the Spinners. Nominated last year.

*Yes – The problem with the R&R HOF, as Chuck Miller noted, “is that so many deserving ‘rock’ artists were left behind in favor of inducting whoever [Rolling Stone magazine founder] Jann Wenner felt was more deserving.” Some of this had to do with the sense that “commercial is bad,” overcome somewhat by the induction of Hall & Oates last year.
But Yes was both a commercial AND critical success that, unless all of “progressive rock” was being punished, it made no sense to exclude them. Now that long-time bassist Chris Squire has died, it’s well past time for the group’s inclusion. I’d go as far as to suggest his passing affected their nomination, and I hope, their inclusion.

So, in part because of ageism, I’m going with Chicago, Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, The Spinners, and Yes. Especially YES. If I had a sixth vote, it’d probably be Steve Miller.

Which five artists would YOU vote for?
Harry Nilsson has been eligible almost as long as the Hall has been open, but he’s never even been nominated.


Rock Hall Noms QUESTIONS

Beastie Boys, GnR, Chili Peppers will win. Who else, I don’t know. Donovan? King? Jett?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released its nominations in the last month or two. Here’s the nominating process. “Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” So there’s some vague line about commercial success, but also “importance”.

Invariably, there are those who kvetch about who’s not on the ballot – if I were so inclined, I’d mention the Moody Blues and Yes.

Who will get in? Who SHOULD get in?

The Beastie Boys – will get in. I have none of their albums.
The Cure – not yet, but eventually. Have a couple of albums.
Donovan – I want to get in, badly; on my ballot. Have a half dozen of his albums.
Eric B. & Rakim – won’t. Have none.
Guns ‘N Roses – mortal lock, tho, like others, there are unnominated artists who started earlier I’d like to see first. Have 2 of their albums.
Heart – eventually, not this year. Have at least one.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – maybe; I think Joan’s history with the Runaways raises her cred. I don’t think I have any!
Freddie King – doubt he’ll make it, tho he should, as an early influence, but I admit I have no albums.
Laura Nyro – also nominated last year, doubt she’ll EVER get in as a performer; she OUGHT to get in as a songwriter. She’d be on my ballot. I have at least four of her albums.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I wish others had gotten in before them. I have one album.
Rufus with Chaka Khan – Chaka should; Rufus, not so much. I have one Rufus’ greatest hits, plus a couple of Chaka albums.
The Small Faces – maybe will get in. I have one or two albums.
The Spinners – I have an irrational affection; they’d be on my ballot, but they probably won’t get in. I have at least two of their albums.
Donna Summer – Nah, though I do have a mostly live double LP that was given to me in the early 1980s.
War – Nah, though I like their greatest hits album that I own.

To recap: I’d vote for Donovan, Jett, King, Nyro, Spinners.
Beastie Boys, GnR, Chili Peppers will win. Who else, I don’t know. Donovan? King? Jett?

Here are some favorites of the nominees I want to win.

Donovan – Barabajagal (Love is Hot)
Donovan – Season of the Witch
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n Roll
Laura Nyro – Eli’s Comin’
Spinners – Rubberband Man
Dionne Warwick & the Spinners – Then Came You

“A separate committee, composed primarily of producers, selects the inductees [for] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award for Recording Excellence [which] has replaced the Sidemen category.” Whatever. Still want Billy Preston.

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