The Spinners: It’s a Shame
The Spinners: I’ve Got To Find Myself a Brand New Baby
From 2nd Time Around (V.I.P., 1971)
(Originally written for Side Dishes)
I’ve been thinking of the Spinners a lot lately, especially since writing about the Philly Int’l boxset which includes a few of the group’s big hits with Thom Bell such as “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.” The group, originally formed in Detroit all the way back in the mid-1950s, charted an interesting course through the R&B world. Considering that their first #1 hit (“I’ll Be Around”) didn’t come until 18 years (and 3 personnel changes) later, you have to admire their perseverance – one that, unlike other groups who never succeeded despite years of struggle, paid off handsomely for the group by the mid-1970s when they rattled off a string of major chart-toppers, especially their duet with Dionne Warwick, “Then Came You.”
However, my first introduction to the Spinners came right before their “golden era.” They found their biggest success with Atlantic Records (home to Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and many other soul legends at the time) but previous to that, were part of the Motown family. True, they didn’t flourish as much during their stint with Motown (signed to the subsidiary V.I.P. label) but they did produce one magnificent hit which remains, by far, my favorite Spinners song of all time: “It’s a Shame.”
To be honest, I first heard “It’s a Shame” thanks to the Monie Love rap song by the same name which samples it. And once you hear the original, you can see why it was such an enticing thing to sample – that guitar melody is so indelible but beyond such a powerful hook, the complete composition is bursting with all kinds of musical magic, including the multi-part harmonies and sophisticated arrangement. I didn’t know this at the time – but looking back, shouldn’t have been surprised – that Stevie Wonder wrote the song, which perhaps explains part of what made it so damn good. (Note: Stevie’s contributions to other artists’ is just one of the many things that make him one of the greatest talents of the last 50 years).
“It’s a Shame” appeared on the Spinners’ very last album for V.I.P. before jumping ship to Atlantic: 2nd Time Around. It’s interesting to think what might have happened had they stayed with the Motown family (not that Atlantic gave them a massively different sound) since the direction the group was moving in on this album could have put them in line with other groups like the Four Tops or Temptations who were also evolving at a rapid pace in the early ’70s with Motown. One could imagine what a producer like Norman Whitfield might have done with the group or the sweet sound of The Corporation who helped make the Jackson 5 so successful.
Just to give listeners a sense of how Motown was shaping the group in that moment, I also included “I’ve Got To Find Myself a Brand New Baby” from the same album; it wasn’t one of their better known songs off the LP but I’ve always liked its snap and you can definitely hear the Motown influence resounding through this particular song.