11 June 2010

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 118]

I Can't Get Next To You
b/w Running Away (Ain't Gonna Help You)
The Temptations
Written by Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong
Produced by Norman Whitfield
Tamla/Motown Records
Released 30 July 1969

In July of 1969, the Top 40 was suffering from bubblegum music malaise. The past two summers, Buddah Records had treated our transistor radios to musical titans The Ohio Express ("Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"), Crazy Elephant ("Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin'") and The 1910 Fruitgum Company ("Simon Says").

I kid you not.

And now, a fictional band based on a comic book and Saturday morning cartoon show had been foist upon the charts: The Archies, a bunch of studio musicians brought together by "impresario" Don Kirschner. "Sugar, Sugar" was a massive hit and looked to be immovable from the top spot.

And then the magic of Motown struck in the form of the mighty, mighty Temptations. The needle landed on this 45 and it was like the listener had been invited into an exclusive party. "I Can't Get Next To You" starts with applause - how about that for chutzpah? Then Dennis Edwards speaks: "Hold on, everybody, hold it, hold on . . . LISTEN!!!" A quick piano intro leads to the five Temps grabbing you by the collar with a simple, definitive "I."

A departure from the David Ruffin dominated singles of past years, "I Can't Get Next To You" highlights each distinctive voice of the group. Consecutive verses are soloed by Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Otis Williams. The Funk Brothers power this dynamic track, whose beat nods more to the then-current sound of Sly Stone than the sweeter Barry Gordy singles that made The Sound of Young America ubiquitous in white as well as black households.

And sweet justice on the airwaves: "I Can't Get Next To You" shot to #1 on both the Pop and R&B charts.

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