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.  

TSOP: Thom Bell, 1943-2022

The Sound Of Philadelphia

Thom BellWhen Thom Bell died in late December 2022, I needed to link to some of his songs. After all, he, along with  “Mighty Three” partners Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, created “The Sound of Philadelphia,” which was “a dominant sound of the early and mid-’70s.”

As the page highlighting his induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame noted, he was “one of R and B music’s most prolific hitmakers…

“Born in 1943 in Jamaica, Bell studied classical music as a child… He learned to play multiple instruments and planned to become a classical conductor, but at age 22, he became a staff writer and touring conductor for The Twist singer Chubby Checker. He then earned his first production gig for a local group called the Delfonics in 1968…

“Bell’s early work set the stage for his style of production and arrangements. He created unique arrangements using seemingly odd instruments, such as sitars and bassoons, to create first-of-a-kind Soul sounds that others would try to emulate for years afterward. His productions tended to be lush and orchestral (influenced by his classical background) but with hot, pulsating beats and excellent vocal arrangements.”

(A) Brand New Me – Dusty Springfield, co-written by Kenneth Gamble and Jerry Butler (1969)

The Delfonics

All songs were co-written by William Hart, lead singer of the group.

La-La (Means I Love You) – #2 for four weeks RB,  #4 pop in 1968. Co-produced by Stan Watson.

Ready Or Not, Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love) – #14 RB, #35 pop, #41 in the UK in 1968. Co-produced by Stan Watson. The song has been sampled and interpolated in numerous songs, including Ready or Not by The Fugees

Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) – #3 RB for three weeks, #10 pop, #81 in Australia in 1970. #22 in the UK in 1971. Gold record. It won the Grammy for Best R and B Vocal Performance by a duo or group 

The Stylistics

Linda Creed co-wrote all songs.

Stop, Look, Listen (to Your Heart) -#6 RB, #39 pop in 1971

You Are Everything – #10 RB, #9 pop in 1972, gold record

Betcha By Golly, Wow –  #2 for two weeks RB, #3 pop in 1972, gold record. It was initially titled “Keep Growing Strong” and recorded by Connie Stevens on the Bell label in 1970.

People Make The World Go Round-# 6 RB, #25 pop, #25 adult contemporary in 1972

You Make Me Feel Brand New – #5 RB, #2 for two weeks pop  in 1974

The Spinners

Known as “Detroit Spinners” in the UK

I’ll Be Around-#1 for five weeks RB, #3 pop in 1972. Co-written by Phil Hurtt. “It was initially released as the B-side of the group’s first single on Atlantic Records, How Can I Let You Get Away.  The group’s first gold record

Ghetto Child – #4 RB, #29 pop in 1973. Co-written by Linda Creed.

The Rubberband Man – #1 RB, #2 for three weeks pop in 1976. Gold record. Co-written by Linda Creed. The song was about Bell’s son “being teased by his classmates for being overweight. Intended to improve his son’s self-image, the song eventually evolved from being about ‘The Fat Man’ to ‘The Rubberband Man.'” I own the album with the seven-minute version.

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