The Spinners – I’ll Be Around

In 1970, when Motown was riding high, it let the Spinners go. And that was after the band was coming off its biggest hit for the label, the Stevie Wonder-penned and -produced “It’s a Shame.”

The Spinners soon signed with Atlantic Records and were paired with producer Thom Bell, one of the founders of the early and mid-’70s Philadelphia sound. The combination reeled off  hits  “I’ll Be Around,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “The Rubberband Man.”

This song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 and #6 in Canada in 1972.

From Songfacts

This song of devotion is heartbreaking on a deeper level. The lyrics, written by the aptly named Phil Hurtt, find our hero unable to move on from a relationship that has ended. There is an air of desperation as he offers himself up to his lost love unconditionally. He might be bowing out gracefully, but he can’t leave her behind.

It was The Spinners’ producer Thom Bell who came up with the music and the title for the song. In our interview with Phil Hurtt, he explained: “When Thommy said ‘I’ll be around,’ I started thinking about a scenario and a story. Thommy was telling me, ‘Whenever you call me, I’ll be there.’ That’s one of the things he did give me. And I’m thinking, okay, great. So the guy broke up and he wants her back, whenever you call me I’ll be there, whenever you need me, I’ll be there. So, okay, great. And then the next thing I know, this is our fork in the road. And that’s the way it happens.

I’m just so proud and happy and blessed that that song has crossed over into that company of being referred to as ‘classic.’ You hear a great melody and a great idea for a song, and then all you’ve got to do is write the story. I mean, wow, what an opportunity.”

Phil Hurtt assured us he was not going through any personal trauma when he wrote the lyric. “That’s what part of the job requires you to do,” he said. “I was an early reader, so I read a lot of stories from the age of 3. I’m always on the edge of a new story, so if I hear a rhythm, sometimes I can hear lyrics.”

The Spinners were signed to Motown Records in 1963, but were never one of the top acts at the label. In 1972, they moved to Atlantic Records, and recorded some successful sessions with producer Jimmy Roach.

Atlantic recorded some of their top R&B acts, including Archie Bell & The Drells and Dusty Springfield, at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. A top producer at Sigma was Thom Bell, so Atlantic sent him a list of their artists to see if there was one he would like to work with. The very last name on the list was The Spinners, which Bell had been listening to since the early ’60s. He took them on and wrote the music to “I’ll Be Around” for their first session at Sigma Sound. Bell needed lyrics for the song, but his usual writing partner, Linda Creed, was out of town. He tracked down a songwriter he had gone to high school with named Phil Hurtt, who agreed to compose the words, with instructions by Bell to fit them exactly to the melody. Hurtt delivered, and Bell recorded the song with the group for their first single. When Atlantic issued the single, “I’ll Be Around” was the B-side of another song they cut with Bell, “How Could I Let You Get Away.” When disc jockeys flipped it and played “I’ll Be Around,” Atlantic made it the A-side on future pressings, and The Spinners were off and running at their new label. The song was a #1 R&B hit, and led to many more hits, including “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” and “Then Came You.”

The musicians on this track were the Sigma Sound Studios house band, MFSB, who scored a #1 hit with the 
Soul Train theme song. Some of the musicians on this track were Norman Harris on guitar, Ronnie Baker on bass, and Earl Young on drums. According to producer Thom Bell, the musicians laughed at the arrangement because it was so simple. He says they had the track recorded in 40 minutes.

The lead vocals on this one were by Bobby Smith, who was an original member of the group. Philippé Wynne, who sang lead on some of The Spinners hits, was with the group at the time, but he did tenor backing vocals on this track.

Cover versions made the US Hot 100 in the each of the three decades after The Spinners first charted with the song:

In 1985, the Todd Rundgren-produced group What Is This? took the song to #62. 

In 1995, a rap version by Rappin’ 4-Tay with The Spinners hit #39.

In 2005, Hall & Oates’ cover went to #97.

The song has also been liberally sampled. Examples included “Any Emcee” by Nine, “You Made Your Choice” by Papoose, and “Tru Homies” by TRU.

I’ll Be Around

This, is our fork in the road
Love’s last episode
There’s nowhere to go, oh no

You made your choice, now it’s up to me
To bow out gracefully
Though you hold the key, but baby

Whenever you call me, I’ll be there
Whenever you want me, I’ll be there
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there
I’ll be around

I, knew just what to say
Now I found out today
That all the words had slipped away, but I know

There’s always a chance
A tiny spark remains, yeah
And sparks turn into flames
And love can burn once again, but I know you know

Whenever you call me, I’ll be there
Whenever you want me, I’ll be there
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there
I’ll be around yeah

Whenever you call me, I’ll be there
Whenever you want me, I’ll be there
Even if I have to call, I’ll be there
I’ll be around

Just call me at home, I’ll be there
I’ll never leave you alone, I’ll be there
Just call out your name you know I know you know
I’ll be around

Whenever you call me, I’ll be there
Whenever you want me, I’ll be there
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there
I’ll be around

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

8 thoughts on “The Spinners – I’ll Be Around”

  1. The Spinners were fantastic in the early 70’s- it would be hard to pick a favorite from their hits. I might go with Rubberband Man- for non-musical reasons- back in the late 70’s -early 80’s when the Pirates would bring Kent Tekulve in to pitch they would play Rubberband Man so it brings good memories. I’ll Be Around may be their best song though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t believe Motown let them go.
      The Rubberband Man is the one that I have more memories of….I bought the single at our local dime store in a discount rack.

      Loved to watch him pitch.

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: