When the Temptations stepped in to lend backing vocals to Rick James' 1981 smash hit "Super Freak," he paid it forward by producing their leadoff single "Standing on the Top."
Written by and featuring James, "Standing on the Top" marked the Motown greats' first reunion in over a decade. It had been years since Temptations members David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick had even performed on stage with the group, despite having contributed to classic Temptations hits, including 1964's "I'll Be In Trouble" and "My Girl."
After years of tension and legal quarrels, the former lead singers reunited with Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Dennis Edwards, Glenn Leonard and Richard Street in 1982 to create a strong seven-man version of the Temptations.
Released as the lead single from the group's Reunion album in April 1982, "Standing on the Top" became one of the Temptations' highest chart appearances in years, climbing to No. 6 on Billboard's R&B charts and entering to Top 100 on the US and UK Pop Charts.
Behind the scenes, the Temptations' internal hodgepodge resurfaced even as - which annoyed James even as he recorded the song with the renowned vocal group. As he explained to Musician in 1983, "I worked with the Temps once and I gave them all vocal lines. I went out and sang the vocal parts of 'Standing On The Top' and they took the stuff home (a cassette with Rick singing the vocals) and a couple of them came back the next day and didn't know anything."
He continued, "They hadn't even listened to the tune. And I was very upset. I had to give them a long speech about how this was their careers and I'm already rich and I don't need this aggravation. I get very hurt when people don't give me a hundred percent. They've sold over eighty million records and in their minds they're really big stars; they thought they could just come in the next day and knock it out, but it didn't go that way. I demand what I want, not what they want. They ended up giving me what I wanted."
Once the Temptations hit the road, the group's inner turmoil continued to boil over. Ruffin, plagued by an addiction to crack, missed a lot of shows, while Kendrick struggled to hit high notes during shows, due to years of smoking. Williams called it quits by the end of the year and the delicate reunion and Reunion tour came to a close. With the absence of Ruffin and Kendricks, Williams would continue touring and recording with the pre-recording line up.