Temptations – Ball of Confusion ——— Songs that reference The Beatles

Fear in the air, tension everywhere, Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record’s a gas

This song has an edge to it that Motown songs lack at times. This was one of the many psychedelic soul records that Norman Whitfield wrote and produced for the Temptations between the late ’60 and early ’70s. The song tries to make sense of the chaos and disorder pervading the times and still relevant today. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote the song.

Motown wasn’t known to make a lot of protest records but this one contained lyrics about Nixon’s influence, Vietnam, and drug addiction.

This song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 in 1970. The Temptations had 53 songs in the top 100, 15 top ten hits and 4 number 1’s. This song was on their Greatest Hits II album.

From Songfacts

Bob Babbitt of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers recalled to Mojo magazine February 2009 the recording of this track: “Norman Whitfield gave the call to me the night before (the session). So I got to the studio the next day, there was a whole load of guys in there – Uriel Jones, Pistol Allen, Jack Ashford, Eddie Bongo, Earl Van Dyke on clavinet, Johnny Griffith on organ, Joe Messina, Dennis Coffey.

There was no song, just some musical ideas, some chord patterns, and part of a bassline he played us. Norman knew what he wanted though, that it was going to be funky. He’d been listening to a lot of Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, that’s the sound he wanted to make the Motown sound.

Putting it together was simple, we just did that one song in the three-hour session and we had enough time left over to eat some BLT sandwiches. We didn’t know it was going to be political, because the lyrics weren’t written when the rhythm track was recorded.

I heard the song four days later. It was a Saturday morning, I was running errands and it came on the automobile radio. They got the songs out quick in those days, especially in Detroit.”

Dennis Coffey used a Vox Tone Bender pedal and an Echoplex effect unit on his guitar to get psychedelic delay. Coffey also used the Echoplex on “In The Rain” by The Dramatics, where it is more pronounced.

This was one of the number of classic R&B and gospel songs performed by Whoopi Goldberg and her choir in the 1993 movie, Sister Act 2 Back in the Habit.

A number of artists have covered this tune, including The Neville Brothers, Tina Turner, Duran Duran and Anthrax. Tina Turner’s version was included on the 1982 LP Music of Quality And Distinction Volume One, a tribute album by the B.E.F, a production team formed by former Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh who later became Heaven 17 (with lead singer Glenn Gregory). The album involved other artists covering classic songs, mainly done in their electro-pop style with synthesizers and LinnDrums. Martyn Ware recalled to us the moment where Tina and her manager Rodger Davis first walked into the studio. “She said, ‘Martyn, nice to meet you. Where is the band?’ And I pointed at the Fairlight and I said, ‘It’s there.’ Of course, this was the early days of that stuff. They were blown away, really.”

Tina Turner’s recording of the track opened the album and was also issued as a single reaching the Top 5 in Norway. It proved to be an important song in Turner’s career as it led to Capitol Records signing her and her next single, a Martyn Ware produced cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” became a surprise hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ball Of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)

One, two, one, two, three, four, ow

People moving out, people moving in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me and I’ll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation

Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey

The sale of pills are at an all time high
Young folks walking round with their heads in the sky
The cities ablaze in the summer time

And oh, the beat goes on

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything

And the band played on

So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows

Oh, great googa-looga, can’t you hear me talking to you
Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey

Fear in the air, tension everywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record’s a gas

And the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation

And the band played on

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills
Hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world are shouting, end the war

And the band played on

Great googa-looga, can’t you hear me talking to you
Sayin’ ball of confusion
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey

Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Sayin’, ball of confusion
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Ball of confusion

The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone

This song is just about the coolest song ever. It peaked at #1 (of course) in the Billboard 100, #14 in the UK, and #12 in Canada in 1972. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. This was the last big hit recorded in Motown’s famous Studio A, located in a two-story house in Detroit. Most of Motown’s studio work had moved to Los Angeles by then, but The Temptations still recorded in Detroit.

From Songfacts.

This was written by the Motown songwriters Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, and produced by Whitfield. It was first recorded by The Undisputed Truth, but Whitfield also had The Temptations record it, with much greater success.

The story goes that lead singer Dennis Edwards hated the song and was incensed when he heard this line since his father died on that date and he thought Norman Whitfield put that in to goad him. This tale made for good drama but was considerably overblown. Edwards’ father actually died on October third, and he was anything but a rolling stone. The elder Edwards was a minister who gave his son a good upbringing. Whitfield chose the date simply because it fits well in the song; he had no idea when Edwards’ father had died.

Both sides of the single were Grammy awards. The A-side won for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus, and the B-side took the award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone
It was the third of September
That day I’ll always remember,
Yes, I will
‘Cause that was the day that my daddy died
I never got a chance to see him
Never heard nothin’ but bad things about him
Mama, I’m depending on you
To tell me the truth
Mama just hung her head and said, “Son,..

[Chorus:]
Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.
Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

Hey, mama!
Is it true what they say that papa never worked a day in his life?
And, mama, some bad talk goin’ round town sayin’ that papa had three outside children and another wife,
And that ain’t right
Heard them talking papa doing some store front preachin’
Talked about saving souls and all the time leechin’
Dealing in debt and stealing in the name of the Lord
Mama just hung her head and said,

[Chorus]
“Papa was a rolling stone, my son.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.
Papa was a rolling stone.
Wherever he laid his hat was his home.
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

Hey, mama,
I heard papa called himself a “Jack Of All Trades”
Tell me is that what sent papa to an early grave?
Folks say papa would beg, borrow, steal
To pay his bills
Hey, mama,
Folks say papa never was much on thinking
Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking
Mama, I’m depending on you
To tell me the truth
Mama looked up with a tear in her eye and said, “Son,..

[Chorus]
Papa was a rolling stone (well, well…)
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone
Papa was a rolling stone
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

[Chorus]
I said, “Papa was a rolling stone (yes, he was, my son)
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone
My daddy was (papa was a rolling stone), yes, he was
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died, all he left us was alone.”