Wade Marcus: Spinning Wheel
From New Era (Cotillion, 1971)

Heads of the Family: Spinning Wheel
From Play and Sing (Ashire, 197?)

There are some songs which get covered over and over by soul and jazz artists and you get it:
“Get Out Of My Life, Woman”
“It’s Your Thing”
“Light My Fire”
et. al.

Then…there are songs which I just never could figure out what made them so damn attractive to be covered by what feels like every group to ever grace the earth.
“Wichita Lineman”
“Eleanor Rigby”
“Spinning Wheel”

Don’t get me wrong – there are some scintillating covers of this song but to me, it’s a case where the later versions of the song are far better than the original itself. I don’t mean to diss Blood, Sweat and Tears here, but their original version of “Spinning Wheel” didn’t exactly reach up, off the vinyl, and slap me across the face with its inherent dopeness. It’s a song that you’d expect Tom Jones to write and perform, you know?

Yet somehow, there are countless, kick ass versions of “Spinning Wheel” out there. I randomly selected two out of dozens I could have chosen and I’m sure our commenters will add their own favorites.

Wade Marcus’ version is easily one of my top three (maybe even #1): not only does it kick off lovely with that drum break but the electric piano and fuzzy guitars are golden too. And then they drop the flute in. Illtastic. The string section doesn’t quite work as well at first until the first bridge and then the arrangement really makes great use of the string sound. Funky and soulful – just the way we like it.

The Heads of the Family version is marred by some mediocre vocals but the song’s true charm jumps in around 1:49, when the second chorus is done and the band just lets loose with this ultra-phunky, phat (yeah suckas, we taking it back to the ph days) bassline that walks all over this song. Throw in a well-timed “ungh” by the singer and those fatback drums and this is just waiting for a good looping.