Tuesday, 6 January 2009

1980 Detroit Spinners: Working My Way Back To You

The Spinners (the 'Detroit' was only used in the UK to differentiate them from the Scouse folksters with the same name) had been around in one form or another since the mid 1950's and enjoyed a certain degree of success in the early seventies, though 'Working My Way Back To You' was their only UK number one.

Something of a departure from their earlier, sweeter Philly soul sound, 'Working' was aimed four square at the disco market and is in fact a medley of 'Working My Way Back To You' (a 1966 hit for The Four Seasons), and Michael Zager's 'Forgive Me Girl'. It's an interesting idea, but one that doesn't quite come off. And that's for two reasons.

Firstly, the lyric(s) of the tracks are meant to convey heartbreak and regret at the way the singer has treated now ex-girlfriend:
"When you were so in love with me,I played around like I was free. Thought I could have my cake and eat it too, but how I cried over losing you". In the hands of an Otis, a Marvin or a Percy (and a top drawer string arrangement) then this could be tearjerking material, but it loses its impact somewhat when sung by a neo disco band who swagger around like Huggy Bear's quins with shiteating grins that suggest that they haven't learned their lesson at all but are confident the 'girl' will come to their senses and take them back. No worries mate. This isn't a headshot in itself as nobody pays too much heed to lyrics when they're on the dancefloor in the early hours; as long as there's a swaggering rhythm to swing to then all is well. But here there isn't.

In The Spinner's hands, the track is presented as a funk lite workout that barely breaks sweat. The all important walking bassline sits this one out and the track is driven by a standard and rather clod-hopping 4/4 beat that makes the whole thing fall between the two stools of the Philadelphia soul of Harold Melvin or The Delfonics (which it's slightly too rowdy to live with), and pure hi-energy disco (which it's too limp to emulate). This may well have given it the wider audience and sales figures that put it to number one, but I can't imagine anybody would have dug this out for a listen once the novelty had worn off. It's not a disaster by any means, but it's a surprising number one considering the better genre tracks that weren't even mentioned in dispatches.

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