Timing (and the inborn knowledge when to make a change) is perhaps the most important singular thing when it comes to making a hit record because only a very select few artists can be relied upon to continually have a hit. Distinctive sound is something that again, only a handful of acts have — and it can work in your favour or against you…depending on the timing!
All of which leads us into the Spinners — whose "From Here To Eternally" new album is tucked away somewhere in the middle reaches of the charts. You see, together with their producer, Thom Bell, the Spinners are one of that magical band of groups who definitely have a distinctive sound. The problem they currently face, then, is one of timing. In short, it's time for a change — and that is exactly what's on the way.
They have just started work on their next album and it will be produced by disco maestro, Michael Zager. However, included in the album and due for immediate release as a single, is "1-1, 2-2 Boogie Woogie Avenue", a truly hard-hitting hunk of disco funk that I am convinced is going to re-establish the Detroit quintet back in the winner's circle. "We actually heard the tracks in Detroit, where a friend of ours — Will Hatcher — had cut them for somebody else," Pervis Jackson, the Spinners' ever-courteous spokesmand related. "I took the tape to Jerry Greenberg (Atlantic President) and he liked the idea and so we went back home (to Detroit) and re-cut it because we felt there was just that little something missing. We cut another song while we were there with Will — it's called "I Just Want To Dance With You" and that'll be on the album, too."
It actually marked the first time that the Spinners had recorded in their home city since the very early days with Atlantic. In fact, Thom Bell recorded "I'll Be Around", "How Could I Let You Get Away", "One Of A Kind" and "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" in Detroit — a fact that I was not aware of, I confess. The remainder of that introductory album on Atlantic for the Spinners was, however, cut in Philadelphia. "It was our very first Gold album," Pervis recalls. "Now, everybody wants Platinum albums and Gold is almost expected! the nearest we ever got to Platinum was with "Happiness Is Being With The Spinners" — the one with "Rubberband Man" on it."
Does the change to Micheal Zager as producer reflect a change in the main direction for Pervis, Bobby Smith, Henry Fambrough, Billy Handerson and John Edwards! "We are happy with the new album ourselves," Pervis stresses without delay. "There is a lot of work gone into it and Thom Bell is an excellent producer — always. And we are happy that "Are You Ready For Love" and "I Like The Music" have done well for us. But it's time for us to add some more variety into our albums. That's not to take anything away from the new labum — but there really isn't enough of today's music on it. Let's face it, the whole world is into dancing right now and there simply isn't enough dance music on our album to satisfy the public's demand. To meet that demand, we'll have to have two or three straight dance tracks on the next album. We certainly haven't dissolved our relationship with Thom and any change may well be just temporarily until the trends change again. Although we know we have to try something new, we also know we have to stay the Spinners so you'll never see us go overboard for disco."
Recently, too, the quintet have received a lot of publicity over the controversial Thom Bell/Elton John — sessions — on which the Spinners did background vocals and some leads — although the leads were conveniently missed out. "It was just one great experience," Pervis diplomatically says. "As a person and as an entertainer, Elton John is just impeccable. To work with him was a gas and although it didn't work out the way it was intended to be, it was still an honour just to work with him. The original plan was that it should be a joint venture — like the way we did with Dionne Warwick. The label should have read Elton John & The Spinners. We recorded double leads on every track but on "Are You ready For Love", Bobby and John's leads have been left off. And our background vocals have been dropped right into the background. But we are still happy with it — and, honestly speaking, his version of "Are You Ready for Love" is the better version. It's got a lot more happening on it. His will be the hit!"
Two and a half years ago, Phil Wynne left the group to go solo and was replaced by John Edwards, a young man from Atlanta who had started to make a name for himself as a solo artist on the city's local Aware label. That has proven to be the turning point in the Spinners story because since that time, they honestly haven't been able to consistently come up with the hits. "The funny thing is that only on "Rubberband Man" did Phil really sing lead alone," Pervis points out. "But he is such a dynamic force on stage and he has an amazing way with an audience. Phil wanted to branch out and try his luck as a solo artist and although we didn't want him to leave, you can't stand in a man's way. We parted amicably and we wished each other the very best. But nobody likes to change a winning combination and John had a hard job coming in to replace Phil. But he is equally talented and, if anything, John has a wider vocal range. But there is no point denying it — people miss the contribution that Phillipe put into the group and since so much of our material — especially the hits — were designed for Phil's participation, it's tough on John to add his own character on to the songs. But, in the future — and especially the next album — you'll see that we are going to concentrate far more on his ability. Look, we never wanted what we had to ever change but the show has to go on."
So, after some slow months, the timing is going to be right for the highly distinctive Spinners to make their long-awaited change. As I said, having heard a sneak preview of "1-1 2-2 Boogie Woogie Avenue", my money is on the Spinners hitting the peaks again.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.