Skip to comments.[VANITY] Papa Was a Rolling Stone - Question
Posted on 10/25/2014 10:30:26 PM PDT by re_nortex
Here's a full length (12:04) version of Papa Was A Rolling Stone by the Temptations in high quality evidently played off vinyl. This longer version has a very long instrumental introduction and a long bridge at the midpoint.
The musicianship impresses me. A very haunting melody with a string section and brass, rare in music nowadays. Since I know little about the recording industry, I have to ask the intelligentsia (a big word for FReepers), what techniques were used in the early 1970s to create such a sound. I presume it was recorded in the rather modest facilities of Motown in Detroit, shown below. As for the string section, did that predate synthesized violins? If so, were these musicians part of the Motown staff or did they contract with the Detroit Symphony?
Sorry for the naive questions but I know I can find good answers from good people here about this song that, some 40 years later, I still find intriguing.
I figure you’d know the backstory, LV since you’re very savvy about nearly everything, especially music.
They used tracks and recorded instruments and vocals separately and then engineered them together.
Thanks. I found some pictures of the smallish studio and what would now be considered recording gear at Motown.
What strikes me is how such a big sound came from those cramped quarters. As you said, with enough overdubbing of the tracks, a lot of audio magic can happen.
The version of this tune you're referencing was a cover. There is a mildly interesting article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_Was_a_Rollin'_Stone
BTW: Intelligentsia is not a big word for FReepers.
Not so sure about it being my friend. I've read here on FR that, like Google, leftists are behind Wikipedia, so like the lamestream media, I put it squarely in the enemy camp. Nevertheless, thanks for the link.
I remember the extended version of that song well. I used to have it on vinyl many moons ago. One of the best late night listening jams ever.
A lot of the magic you hear in there is plain old top notch editing and mixing by the Motown engineers and producers. The reverb effects weren’t hard to achieve in the right sized room. It could even be simulated with tape delays and such.
Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong were the chief producers of Motown artists in that day. They were beginning to stretch out and experiment with the standard top forty format of the day. Lots of experimental things were going on in the studios, and creativity was suddenly turned up to 11 (as we used to say).
It was meant in humor. I'm sincerely sorry if you thought it was meant derisively. It was my fault for not using an appropriate emoticon symbol. Please accept my apology.
I think he meant intelligentsia was a big word alternative for FReeper, not that it was too big a word for Freepers
That was before Motown moved out of Detroit, right? In any event, after the relocation to the West Coast, the distinctive sound they had was largely lost.
One from around that same era with great instrumentation was It Takes Two - Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston, with a fine instrumental bridge.
Yes, that's what I intended. In a post a few years ago, I wrote something to the effect of "...let me ask the cognoscenti (a synonym for FReepers) here about..."
Could be, but by 1970, the recording arts had advanced by orders of magnitude over just a few years earlier. No doubt, the Motown recordings of that time were being done in state of the art studios with the latest multi-track equipment and sound processing gear.
That was a time of exponential improvement in the technology.
It's always good to converse with you Windflier, whether it be a lighter subject such as this one or the more serious issues. Thanks for filling me in and I'm glad the song brought back some memories.
A common issue here on FR with many viewpoints. I find Wiki to be quite helpful on technical matters and a lot of history and culture. It is especially good when you are justing looking up basic facts, e.g., names/dates/places. Sadly, 1 has to live long enough to store enough life experience in the gray matter to develop a sense when a Wiki entry is badly biased.
Leftists may own and run Wiki, but the myriad of info that can be found there is invaluable if you need to know something about practically anything. Just be warned that since the users like me and you and anyone else with any agenda are free to edit articles on Wiki the political stuff there is not to be trusted.
But who’s going to lie on Wiki about a song or a musical artist? After all, it’s just trying to be an online encyclopedia.
Furthering your point on that, here's the 1954 recording of Elvis Presley's That's Alright (Mama), recorded at the modest Sun Records studio in Memphis. It's a classic, a groundbreaking song but compared to "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" of 20 years later, the technology available to Sam Phillips was far less advanced.
That said, with today's technology, I think the type of musicianship heard on the Elvis song and later with The Temptations too often is secondary to technical virtuosity. There's something basic and just plain "good" about the spartan sound of Presley and the straightforward playing of the band (The Tennessee Two?) not altered by autotune and the rest of the modern marvels.
A couple of interesting facts about that song. First, the Temptations version was the second one. It was originally done by The Undisputed Truth in 1971, but didn’t do well, so the Temps redid it a year later.
Also Dennis Edwards of the Temptations at first refused to do it because of the line It was the third of September/That day Ill always remember/cause that was the day/that my daddy died. He said that was the date his dad actually did die, and thought the writers did it on purpose. He finally did the song. As it turned out he misremembered, his dad actually died on Oct. 3.
Why do you say that? Are painting a target on yourself?
The Temptations did not like the fact that Whitfield's instrumentation had been getting more emphasis than their vocals...
And it was the two lengthy instrumental portions of the song that most captivated my interest.
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