Forty years ago, on the 9th November 1973, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, the third single from The Spinners’ third album Spinners, reached number one in the US R&B Charts and number four in  the US Billboard 200. It sold over one million copies and was certified gold. Since then, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, a Philly Soul classic, which was written by Melvin and Mervin Steals under the pseudonym Mystro and Lyric has been played over four million times on American radio. That’s no surprise.  It’s A true timeless classic. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love which sounds as good as the day it was released, is celebrating its fortieth birthday in style. Before I tell you about that, I’ll tell you about the song.

The Spinners had been around since the fifties, and by the time they signed to Atlantic Records in 1972, success had eluded Detroit-based band. Their debut album was 1967s The Original Spinners, which failed to chart. 2nd Time Around, their 1969 sophomore album, released on Motown reached just number 199 in the US Billboard 200 and forty-six in the US R&B Charts. Three years later, The Spinners luck changed, when they signed to Atlantic Records where their career was transformed by Thom Bell.

Thom Bell was already successful producer and songwriter. He’d already enjoyed commercial success with The Delfonics and The Stylistics before hooking up with The Spinners. Along with Gamble and Huff, founders of Philadelphia International Records, Thom Bell is now perceived as one of the architects of Philly Soul. For the first half of the seventies, he enjoyed the hottest period of his career. Everything he touched turned silver, gold or platinum. This made him the perfect producer to revive The Spinners’ ailing career.

Once The Spinners signed for their new label Atlantic, and started working with Thom Bell, five consecutive gold albums followed, with the group having three consecutive US R&B number one albums. This was a remarkable turnaround in fortune for Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith, Philippe Wynne, Henry Fambrough and Pervis Jackson, who were The Spinners. This run of commercial success and critical acclaim began with their third album Spinners.

Having signed to Atlantic in 1972, and hooking up with Thom Bell, work began on The Spinners’ first album for Atlantic. It featured ten tracks, from some of Philly’s best songwriters. One of these was a track mysteriously credited to Mystro and Lyric, an alias of Melvin and Mervin Steals. This track, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, and the other nine tracks were recorded at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios in Philly.

For the recording of Spinners, producer Thom Bell brought onboard some of Philly’s best musicians. Known collectively as M.F.S.B, they’re remembered as Philadelphia International Records’ house band, including bassist Ron Baker, guitarist Norman Harris and drummer Earl Young of the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. They were joined by guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr, flautist Jack Faith and violinist Don Renaldo. Larry Washington on congas and bongos completed this cast of musical titans. Adding backing vocals were the legendary Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton. All these Philly Soul legends played their part in the success of Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, which was written by two twin brothers Melvin and Mervin Steals.

Twins Melvin and Mervin Steals were born in Aliquippa, a city in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. From an early age, music was in Melvin and Merlin Steals’ blood. They attended the local high school, and when they graduated, headed to Cheyney State College. Situated on the outskirts of the City of Brotherly Love, Cheyney was also home to another Philly Soul legend, their musical education continued.

A fellow student at Cheyney was Eddie Holman, who was already an aspiring singer. Eddie was one of many future stars of Philly Soul who attended the college. These meetings would prove beneficial to their careers after college. 

In 1967 Melvin and Mervin were members of The Four Perfections. The other two members were Barry Lessene and Raymond “Chip” Porter. Their debut single was I’m Not Strong Enough, penned by Melvin and Mervin with Joe Thomas. Recorded at Cameo Parkway’s studios, Joe Tarsia, future owner of Sigma Sound Studios, was engineer at the recording session. I’m Not Strong Enough is a relationship song, which tells the story of Melvin’s problematic relationship. He sings the lead vocal on I’m Not Strong Enough, his vocal a cathartic outpouring of emotion, confusion and sadness. Surely, such emotion had to be a success?

On the release of I’m Not Strong Enough, commercial success eluded it. Despite that, it’s become a popular song on the UK’s Northern Soul circuit. Having enjoyed a fleeting taste of life as a recording artist, the Steals’ brothers decided they’d make a living as songwriters.

After the release of I’m Not Strong Enough, Melvin and Mervin Steals tried to forge a career as songwriters. This wasn’t easy, especially in Philly. The only breakthrough the Steals’ brothers enjoyed was having their song Go For What You Know chosen to be the B-Side of Archie Bell and The Drells’ There’s Gonna Be A Showdown. Arranged by Thom Bell, Go For What You Know was produced by Gamble and Huff. On the release of There’s Gonna Be A Showdown, it gave Archie Bell and The Drells the biggest hit of their career. As for the Steals brothers, they’d enjoy commercial success that would surpass There’s Gonna Be A Showdown and then some. Before that, they’d to serve their musical apprenticeship.

Over the next few years, Melvin and Mervin put together a portfolio of songs. They persisted and continued to hone their sound. When their songs turned down, they strived to improve their sound. Each time, they came back stronger and even more determined. Soon, they had a strong portfolio of songs. Two of these would go on to be million sellers. Despite the undoubted quality of their songs, Gamble and Huff failed to spot the potential. The other member of the “Mighty Three,” Thom Bell did.

For The Spinners Atlantic Records debut, Spinners, Thom Bell spotted the potential in Could It Be I’m Falling In Love. It was one of ten tracks recorded at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studio. With M.F.S.B. and The Sweethearts Of Sigma accompanying The Spinners, they hit a problem. Originally, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love was meant to be a much more uptempo track, to make it work, Thom slowed the song down. This proved a masterstroke.

Spinners marked a change in fortune for The Spinners and the Steals’ brother. On its released in April 1973, Spinners reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts in 1973. Certified gold, Spinners was was The Spinners most successful album. Things got even better. I’ll Be Around, the sophomore single from Spinners, reached number three in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. It too sold over a million copies and was certified gold. Then when Could It Be I’m Falling In Love was released as a single, it reached number four in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This meant another gold disc for The Spinners and a Grammy nomination. For Melvin and Mervin Steals this was the biggest hit of their career. After this, their careers took off.

A year later, Honey Bee, from Gloria Gaynor’s 1974 album Never Can Say Goodbye gave Melvin and Mervin Steals the second million-selling single of their career. After that, the Steals brothers as Maestro and Lyric cowrote Trusting Heart for The Trammps, Arthur Prysock’s All I Need Is You Tonight, Ecstasy, Passion and Pain’s Dance The Night Away, plus Major Harris’ Two Wrongs and After Loving You. They also penned tracks for First Choice, Eddie Kendricks, Stacy Lattislaw, Gloria Gaynor and The Impressions. However, the best known track that Melvin and Mervin Steals cowrote is Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.

Forty years after its release, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, a true timeless Philly Soul classic celebrates its fortieth birthday on 9th November 2013. To celebrate this milestone, Melvin and Mervin Steals have organized the first Steals Brothers Classics 2013 Awards Gala. This fund raising gala is in aid of Urban Impact and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Helping raise money for what are two worthy causes are special guests Eddie Holman, Johnny and The Halos and fittingly, Earl Young. 

After all, Earl was one of the members of M.F.S.B. who played on Could It Be I’m Falling In Love. At least Earl Young and the rest of M.F.S.B. will receive the credit they’re due. That hasn’t always happened, despite a recent and supposed “unifier.” In the past, M.F.S.B. and The Sweethearts Of Sigma have been treated as hired help. Not tonight.

Melvin and Mervin Steals will honor everyone who played their part in what was their finest musical moment. This means M.F.S.B, The Sweethearts Of Sigma, Thom Bell and of course, The Spinners. Each and every one of them played their part in Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, The Spinners’ timeless Philly Soul classic, which today, celebrates its fortieth birthday.


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