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Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" Isolated Vocals

There has been some great vocal groups in modern music, but none greater than the various versions of The Temptations. Today we listen to the isolated vocals of their number 1 hit and 3 time Grammy winner, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone."

The song has an interesting backstory. It wasn't originally written for the Temps (it was originally given to The Undisputed Truth), but ironically the first line "It was the first of September/a day that I'll always remember/ cause that was the day/ that my daddy died." sung by Dennis Chambers, hit too close to home since that was the day that his father actually did die. Writer and producer Norman Whitfield didn't know until they were actually recording the song, but he used it to his advantage to get the vocal performance he wanted, which ultimately lead to him being dismissed as the Temp's producer.

Also, the song was originally almost 12 minutes long (edited down to 6:54 for the single!) and one of the first "cinematic"style singles played by radio.

1) Wow, are these guys good or what? It's such a pleasure to hear 5 great voices sing so well together. The only rough note I heard on the whole thing is at about 3:00 on "And when he died."

2) I'm not sure how this was recorded, but my suspicion is that all the vocalists were recorded at once on a single mic. That's because the compression clamps down a lot from the single voice to the group.

3) There's also a distorted edge on the vocal as well. They probably couldn't hear it very well in those days, when playback systems and room acoustics were fairly primitive.

4) The reverb doesn't sound that great, surprisingly enough. It's fairly short with no pre-delay, but certainly works for the song.

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Don D said...

Wow. I remember hearing this song a zillion times from its deep rotation during the 1970s and I distinctly recall the same clinker note you point to at 3:00. Even inside the full mix it would jump out from the otherwise slick vocal track. We used to wait for it when the song played and howl as it went by. There were a bunch of other sour notes and obvious patches on the radio at the time and we would point them out like trainspotters. What a bunch of geeks we were. Should have been music producers.

Maybe you should sponsor a "spot the clinker" contest on The Big Picture.

Dusty said...

Wow! Thanks for posting that, Bobby

Anonymous said...

Thanks. One thing to correct. Dennis Chambers is a drummer and I believe you meant Dennis Edwards was the singer.

Bobby Owsinski said...

Thanks. You're right. Should be Dennis Edwards.

Anonymous said...

You can hear a punch-in or edit at 1:43

Dave King said...

I can hear an edit or punch-in at 1:43. Also, the lyric is the 3rd of September, bot the 1st.


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