THE DETROIT SPINNERS-HAPPINESS IS BEING WITH THE SPINNERS.
THE DETROIT SPINNERS-HAPPINESS IS BEING WITH THE SPINNERS.
Ever since The Detroit Spinners had signed to Atlantic Records, their fortunes had been transformed. Their 1967 debut album, The Original Spinners, released on Motown, had failed to chart. Three years later, now signed to V.I.P. Records, their 1970 sophomore album 2nd Two Around, saw their fortunes improve slightly. 2nd Time Around reached just number 199 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-six in the US R&B Charts. Another three years passed, and The Detroit Spinners had signed to Atlantic Records and they’d meet a man who’d transform their career…Thom Bell.
With Thom Bell arranging and producing The Detroit Spinners, they were about to enter the most successful period of their career. What followed, would see The Detroit Spinners become one of the legends of Philly Soul. Starting with 1973s Spinners, their next four albums would be certified gold. Spinners reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. 1974 proved to be The Detroit Spinners’ most successful year. Mighty Love reached number sixteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts, then New and Improved proved their most successful album. It reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Following three consecutive number ones in the US R&B Charts, 1975s Pick of the Litter reached number eight in the US Billboard 200 and number two in the US R&B Charts. Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, released in 1976, proved to be the end of an era for The Detroit Spinner, proving to be their final album to be certified gold. Before I tell you about the music on Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, I’ll tell you about the making of the album.
Given The Detroit Spinners were now one of Philly Soul’s most successful groups, some of the most talented songwriters provided songs for Happiness Is Being With The Spinners. Linda Creed and Thom Bell who’d written so many tracks for The Detroit Spinners, cowrote two tracks, You’re All I Need In Life and The Rubberband Man. Bruce Hawkes, Charles Simmons and J.B. Jefferson cowrote three tracks, If You Can’t Be In Love, Toni My Love and Four Hands In the Fire. Phil Terry, T.G. Conway and Theodore Life penned Now That We’re Together, Michael Burton wrote The Clown and Sherman Marshall and Tony Bell cowrote Wake Up Susan. The eight tracks that became The Detroit Spinners seventh album, Happiness Is Being With The Spinners was recorded at not just at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, but also at Kaye Smith Studios in Seattle.
The five Detroit Spinners, Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith and lead Phillip Wynn were joined by some of Philadelphia’s best musicians and backing vocalists. This included a rhythm section of drummer Andrew Smith, bassist Bob Babbit and guitarists Tony Bell and Bobby “Electronic” Eli. They were joined by keyboardist Thom Bell, percussionist Larry Washington and M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records’ house-band. Adding backing vocals were legendary backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Thom Bell arranged and produced Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, which would be released in 1976.
On the release of Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, it reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number five in the US R&B Charts, giving The Detroit Spinners their fifth consecutive gold disc. Two singles were released from Happiness Is Being With The Spinners. Wake Up Susan reached number fifty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. The Rubberband Man gave The Detroit Spinners their most successful single, reaching number two in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US Billboard R&B Charts. Over in the dance charts, The Rubberband Man reached number one in the US Disco Charts and number fourteen in the US Dance Music/Club Play Singles Charts. Such a successful single and album like Happiness Is Being With The Spinners, proved a fitting way for The Detroit Spinners to end an era, as you’ll realise, after I tell you about the album.
Happiness Is Being With the Spinners opens Now That We’re Together on a positive, hopeful note. The rhythm section, wistful horns and chiming guitars combine slowly, leaving space, before the lushest of strings enter. When the vocal enters, it’s deep and heartfelt, quickly changing hands, giving way to Bobby Smith’s tender vocal. Swathes of strings cascade, horns rasp and the rhythm section add bursts of drama. Washes of keyboards become one with the strings, while the vocal grows in power, passion and hope. Meanwhile, the other Spinners add sweeping, cooing harmonies, helped no end by the Sweethearts of Sigma. They play their part in getting Happiness Is Being With the Spinners to a beautiful, hopeful start.
Not only was You’re All I Need In Life written by Linda Creed and Thom Bell, but the arrangement is classic Thom Bell. Rasping horns, chucka-chucka guitars, stabs of keyboards and a powerful, dramatic rhythm section join layers of sweeping strings. They set the scene for the half-spoken vocal. It draws you in, compels you to listen, wondering what’s about to happen next. Bobby’s impassioned vocal, part tenderness and part emotion sits below lush strings, braying horns. For its part, the rhythm section that veers from providing a steady heartbeat, to adding bursts of drama, reflecting the emotive vocal. Harmonies tight and soulful from the Spinners and Sweethearts of Sigma provide the finishing touch to a song that has Thom Bell and The Detroit Spinners’ name all over it. Not only that, but it’s heartfelt, soulful and tenderness personified.
If You Can’t Be In Love is the first of three songs penned by Bruce Hawkes, Charles Simmons and J.B. Jefferson. A chiming guitar, melancholy horns, quivering strings and slow, thoughtful rhythm section set the scene for Bobby’s impassioned vocal. Harmonies sweep in, strings swirl dramatically and Bobby lays bare his soul. The other Spinner play their part, adding tight, heartfelt and sometimes, punchy harmonies as strings shiver and the bass anchors the arrangement. Later, a saxophone solo adds to the sadness and emotion of this heartachingly beautiful, melancholy ballad.
Rubberband Man gave The Detroit Spinners their biggest hit single and was written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. Phillip Wynn takes over the lead vocal. A funky, driving rhythm section stabs of piano, with flourishes of boogie woogie piano joining percussion. Then as the band kick loose, you realize something special is unfolding. Soon, the rhythm section become a powerhouse. Phillip’s foxy, sassy vocal is answered by soaring harmonies. Bursts of boogie woogie piano join a funky, powerful rhythm section, frenzied strings and punchy harmonies. Together, they prove the perfect accompaniment to Phillip’s sass and the hook supplied by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. Having closed Side One of Happiness Is Being With the Spinners with a bang, you hungrily await Side Two.
Toni My Love is very different from anything that’s come before on Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. A moody, meandering bass, hissing hi-hats, shivering strings and bursts of dramatic horns take the arrangement in a jazzy direction. Bursts of jazzy guitar join Bobby’s pensive vocal. His vocal is tinged with sadness, as he sings: “Toni my love you don’t know what you’re doing, seems like you don’t get better.” These are heartbreaking lines, delivered with feeling. After that, cinematic strings, bursts of horns and basso vocal add to the moody, melancholy and jazz tinged sound. This wistful arrangement proves the perfect backdrop to some of the saddest, most moving lyrics on Happiness Is Being With the Spinners.
Four Hands In the Fire is third song written by Bruce Hawkes, Charles Simmons and J.B. Jefferson. The tempo drops way down, with just hissing hi-hats, crystalline guitars and a broody, spacious bass giving way to flourishes of strings. They set the scene for Bobby’s impassioned, gospel-tinged vocal. As the arrangement grows in power, drama and emotion heartfelt harmonies courtesy of The Spinners and Sweethearts of Sigma sweep in. Thom Bell uses layers of strings to reflect and amplify the beauty and meaning of the lyrics, which are among the best on Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. Similarly, this is one of Bobby’s most heartfelt vocals and one of Thom Bell’s best productions.
From the opening bars of Clown waves of emotive music unfold. Layers of strings, keyboards and a slow rhythm section join with growling horns and searing guitars. Flourishes of harp and dramatic rolls of drums set the scene for the impassioned pleas of Bobby. Emotion fills his vocal as keyboards and cascading strings accompany him. Bursts of drama courtesy of the rhythm section accompany his vocal and like the arrangement, grows in power, emotion and drama. Horns growl, strings swirl and the rhythm section add drama and power. Everyone plays their part in making this melancholy, heart-wrenching song truly memorable.
Closing Happiness Is Being With the Spinners is Wake Up Susan, the lead single. It allows the Detroit Spinners to close the album on an uptempo, hook-laden high. The rhythm section, blazing horns and swirling strings give way to punchy harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Soon, the baton passes to Billy, whose joyful vocal is delivered with a swing. As if spurred on, the band seem to lift their game. Bobby grabs the song, making it his own. Harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma and Spinners sweep in and out, playing their part in bringing Happiness Is Being With the Spinners to a joyous, uplifting and hook-laden high, with one of the album’s highlights.
In many ways, Happiness Is Being With the Spinners represented the end of an era for The Detroit Spinners. Happiness Is Being With the Spinners was the last of their albums to be certified gold. After that, although The Detroit Spinners’ albums sold well, their music was never as popular. It seemed groups like The Detroit Spinners were no longer as fashionable. Soon, their albums entered the charts in the lower reaches. Disco was now King, and sadly, Philly Soul wasn’t as popular. Worst was to come, when The Detroit Spinners lost one of its members and then two years later, lost their mentor Thom Bell.
Phillip Wynn left The Detroit Spinners in January 1977, with John Edwards replacing him. While John Edwards was a talented singer, Phillip Wynn’s timing proved perfect. He left The Detroit Spinners just as their fortunes started to change. Whether, Phillip saw times were changing, his decision to become a solo artist, was well timed. Between 1977 and 1979, the hit singles The Detroit Spinners had enjoyed started drying up. Whereas their singles were big sellers, they were now just giving the group minor hits. Thom Bell stayed loyal to The Detroit Spinners, producing 1977s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Spinners 8, but after 1979s From Here To Eternally, sensed The Detroit Spinners had had their day in the sun. Michael Zager tried to revive The Detroit Spinners’ fortunes on Dancin’ and Lovin.’ However, music was a very different place from The Detroit Spinners’ heyday.
With Thom Bell as their mentor, The Detroit Spinners were giants of Philly Soul between 1973 and 1976. From 173s Spinners, through 1974s Mighty Love and New Improved then 1975s Pick of The Litter, The Detroit Spinners could do no wrong. This incredible run of critically acclaimed and commercially successful music ended with Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. Not only did Happiness Is Being With the Spinners match the quality of their five previous albums, but proved a deeply soulful, satisfying, way end an era. Never has an album title proved more prophetic than Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. Indeed, Happiness Is Being With the Spinners, especially the music The Detroit Spinners released between 1973 and 1976. Standout Tracks: Now That We’re Together, You’re All I Need In Life, Toni My Love and Wake Up Susan.
THE DETROIT SPINNERS-HAPPINESS IS BEING WITH THE SPINNERS.