Kindness’ Album Title Hints at the Origin of Disco
Eddie Kendrick and Kindess

Photos: Getty Images and Motormouth Media

The British singer and songwriter Adam Bainbridge, who records under the name Kindness, has just released his first album, World, You Need a Change of Mind. He’s an unabashed ’80s revivalist — he told Hive his album was “… a heartfelt taste on everything I love.” Specifically, he’s playing with the sounds of dance music from the moment that disco was beginning to feel like a thing of the past and R&B was starting to shift to electronic instruments but hadn’t yet phased out electric guitars and basses. Here’s the video for the Kindness track “Cyan”:

And here’s the more high-concept clip for “Gee Up”:

The album’s title, though, is a tribute not to the music that Kindness pastiches, but to the roots of his roots. World, You Need a Change of Mind is pretty clearly named after a particular song — one that helped bring disco as we know it into being.

The story starts in the early ’60s, when Motown’s boss Berry Gordy signed a singing group made up of members of Detroit doo-wop acts the Primes and the Distants. The Temptations, as Motown named them, recorded a string of singles featuring baritone Paul Williams, which flopped; their first record to hit the charts at all was 1962′s “Dream Come True,” which featured a soaring falsetto performance by Eddie Kendricks.

The Temptations had serious lineup turbulence almost from the beginning — there have been over 20 different members over the years. David Ruffin joined the group in 1964, and became the lead vocalist on a lot of their mid-’60s hits, from “My Girl” onward, more or less eclipsing Kendricks.

Meanwhile, in 1965, the young singer, songwriter and producer Frank Wilson recorded a track called “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which was pressed and ready to come out as a Motown single. Before it could be released, though, Berry Gordy asked Wilson, “Do you really want to be an artist, or do you want to be a writer and producer?” When Wilson said he’d rather write and produce, Gordy had nearly the entire pressing destroyed. Apparently, only two copies survived. Years later, the rarity-obsessed “Northern soul” dance scene in England concluded that since it barely existed, it had to be brilliant; it was ultimately released for real in 1979.

The Temptations’ main creative director by the mid-’60s was Norman Whitfield, who wrote and produced a long string of hits for them–”Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion” and many more–and created the “psychedelic soul” sound, crafting long, trippy tracks and having the Temptations switch off lead roles line by line. Frank Wilson, having given up on performing, became Whitfield’s protégé; he produced and co-wrote the Temptations’ 1967 hit “All I Need.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_ZBsSFFCNU

By then, though, Ruffin was pushing to call the group “David Ruffin and the Temptations,” and his bandmates ultimately kicked him out in 1968 and replaced him with the Contours’ Dennis Edwards. That began a string of lineup changes and internal stress for the Temptations, and Eddie Kendricks left the group in late 1970; the lead producer for his first half-dozen solo albums was Frank Wilson. For their second collaboration, 1972′s People… Hold On, Kendricks and Wilson drafted in a funk band called the Young Senators, who’d had a regional hit in Washington, DC, with a song called “Jungle.”

The centerpiece of People… Hold On was the seven-and-a-half-minute workout “Girl, You Need a Change of Mind.” Anita Poree’s lyrics are a slightly confusing response to feminism (“Why march in picket lines, burn bras and carry signs? Now I’m for women’s rights, I just want equal nights”), but the song’s extended groove and odd three-bar phrases are magnificently catchy. Released as the album’s third single, “Girl, You Need a Change of Mind” crept up to #13 on the R&B chart.

And there it might have stayed — a minor Motown number, slashed to half its length on the single, and permanently eclipsed by the #1 pop and R&B hit Eddie Kendricks scored later in 1973 (again with Wilson producing), “Keep On Truckin’.”

Right around then, though, private, invitation-only discothéques were starting to become a big deal in New York City — most famously, David Mancuso‘s spot The Loft. “Girl, You Need a Change of Mind” became one of Mancuso’s signature records, partly because of one brilliant feature of the recording: the breakdown and build-up that happens at the 3:45 mark, and again at the six-minute mark. A canny DJ could use the breaks in “Girl” to extend it even further, or to segue into another song.

Mancuso’s quoted in Tim Lawrence’s disco history “Love Saves the Day”: “I had an on-off switch for the subwoofers and an on-off switch for the tweeters, and when a record like ‘Girl, You Need a Change of Mind’ reached its climax I would throw on the two switches to create a crescendo.” The sound of disco still had some evolutionary steps to climb after “Girl”– its classic string and drum sound wouldn’t develop until a bit later — but Kendricks’ minor radio hit set the template for the structure of disco.

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