AND SO, it's all over. The Temptations, first ambassadors of Soul and Motown have been and gone again. The question now is whether it was all worth it.
From our angle, Joe Public, it's a unanimous 'Yes.' Through the medium of TV, we have had the opportunity to see the Temps for ourselves. The more fortunate of us were able to see a complete show at London's Talk of the Town nightclub. incidentally, there are those who thought that this was not the ideal setting for the quintet. On paper, maybe it doesn't sound right but certainly in practice it was fine.
From the group's view, it must also have been a satisfactory outcome but it cannot truly be judged until their record of "I Can't Get Next To You" has either finally made it to the top or faded away. At the time or writing, it stands just inside the national Top 50 though it has rocketed to No. 2 spot in B&S R&B 30. This does suggest, however, that the record is selling and I believe that when the judgment is finally made and the advantages and disadvantages are weighed, then it will have proved a most worthwhile two weeks for the fivesome.
Certainly, they did need another market outside of the States in which they were to be accepted as a household name for, although each of the singles reaches the top dozen or so in the U.S., they have not really much track record outside of their homeland. After this tour, they will probably be able to put the U.K. down as their second major market.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Temps as they were rehearsing for their two-week season on the first Monday of their visit, the day after their arrival. Eddie Kendricks had not arrived at this point since he had had the various innoculations too late to depart on the Sunday. He was due the next day and did arrive on Tuesday morning, in fact.
During a break in the routining I talked with Dennis Edwards, the man who had the unenviable task of making audiences forget David Ruffin's role as a Temptation. The first point I was interested in investigating was whether the distinct change in style since Dennis replaced David would have taken place if David had stayed "Most definitely Yes," Dennis stressed. "The trend would certainly have swing away from the usual love song because the group had to evolve. The plans were well into being before I joined the show. It was possibly easier to make the necessary changes with a new lead voice since I had to learn the new ways without having experienced the old style personally. If David had gone on stage and sung 'Cloud 9.' Say, the people might have wanted 'Ain't Too Proud To Beg" or 'All I Need' because they associated him with those songs and vice-versa but with me. I was a new face.
"Previous to my present 'occupation.' I had been a Contour" — no, Dennis is not lead voice on 'Just A Little Misunderstanding' or 'First I look At The Purse.' That is Billy Dennis — 'but the group decided to split. I had actually been signed to Motown as a solo singer and was transferred to the Contours. I had recorded solo but the company never released anything. Anyway, when David Ruffin chose to go solo, a vacancy arose with the Temptations. I knew the fellows in the group very well already and was lucky enough to get a trial period of 6 months despite hot competition from many other artists — many of whom were already quite well established as solo artists."
Unfortunately, Dennis would not disclose the names of those established artists who applied for the post but I am sure it would have made interesting reading. Needless to say, we did appreciate the position Dennis would have been in if he had given us the names and, in fact, it's possibly better for all concerned that it remains an undisclosed list.
'That was all back in June of 1968 and, in fact, the very first magazine that interviewed me as a Temptation was none other than 'Blues & Soul' I suppose that makes that quite an exclusive.' (Refer B&S 12)
Question: What would you have done if you hadn't become a Temptation? "Well, maybe I would have tried as a solo singer or perhaps I could have made a living as an organist. But I'm here; now. The group's direction is settled for now and our last single, 'I can't Get Next To You," has been the best selling to date. This proves that our people want to hear us this way although naturally we won't abandon our style. We'll always be doing 'My Girl' until we're grey haired. I'd think. Our next single is 'Psychedelic Stack' and it's shaping up to be another hit for us' I informed Dennis that it had appeared from nowhere to 44 in the Billboard Hot 100 — , 'I suppose it's in the same vein as 'Can't Get Next To you' but it's easily different enough musically.
"Our next album will be called 'Psychedelic Stack," too, and it will include our version of 'Friendship Train' plus a new and interesting Norman Whitfield thing that is curiously called 'War, What Is It Good For? Nothing? Norman is undoubtedly a genius. He is our producer and he must take a lot of credit for our success; since 'Cloud 9' anyway.
"He comes up with such unusual ideas. Least-ways, they seem unusual when he first throws them at us but I've got used to the idea that he's about four steps in front of me. I used to think to myself, 'well, what's all this about; he must be joking,' but we all trusted in him completely and he's been proven right everytime so I've stopped asking questions now!"
At this point Dennis went back on stage to join the other 3 Temptations in rehearsal and I went back to the office to play the 'Cloud 9' album in anticipation of my own visit to see the Temps later in the week.