Thursday, December 2, 2010

In a Chord

"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" was a single and added to later albums. The album above, on the Gordy label, 1968, could be worth around $40 for the mono white label promo, in near mint condition. One of the more collectible Temptations albums. Course, it's that near mint caveat that's important here.
If you were like me you wore out your Temptations albums.

One this date, December 2, in 1972, the number one song on the Billboard charts was: “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” by The Temptations.

The album mix of this song runs to 11 minutes and 47 seconds, and the composition features only ONE chord throughout–B-flat minor. Throw in a whole bunch of instruments: an assortments of guitars with effects pedals, horns, drums, bass guitars, electric piano, maybe a Wurlitzer in there somewhere. Top it off with vocals and handclaps. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but instead it became a soul classic.

The song, written by Motown songwriters, was originally composed for a group called The Undisputed Truth. They recorded their version in 1971 and it was a moderate success.

But when the Temptations applied their particular vocal magic to the song in 1972 it shot to number one on the Billboard charts and won three Grammys.

Not too shabby for a song that’s a 12-minute downer, but definitely no Parent-of-the-Year award in the offing for Papa.


As a side note, the group The Undisputed Truth is collectible as well. Most of their albums run in the $20-30 range for near mint. They definitely get points for campy psychedelic soul. And in a twist, their single U. S. hit was "Smiling Faces Sometimes," which rose to #3 on the charts and had previously been recorded, with only moderate success by--yes, The Temptations.

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