The Temptations- Meet the Temptations (1964)
Updated: May 9
The Temptations- Meet The Temptations
Released April 13, 1964
Recorded- Spring 1961- January 1964
In 1964, the general public got to "Meet the Beatles" and "Meet the Temptations" even though they had both been around for a while. Are you tempted to understand the complete history of the Temptations? You should put your energy elsewhere because, at this point, there have been 27 members making up a group of five singers. Regardless of these changes, let's attempt to meet the Temptations.
The Temptations are a vocal group from Detroit. The group was formed by combining two popular regional vocal groups, The Primes and the Distants. The Primes included original Temptations, Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks and the Distants included original Temptations members Otis Williams (the only surviving member), Eldridge "Al" Bryant, and Melvin Franklin. Before becoming the Temptations, the group was working under the name the Elgins. The group auditioned for Berry Gordy's Motown in 1961. Instead of being offered a deal with the Motown label, Gordy initially signed the singers to Miracle, a subsidiary label. They also renamed the group the Temptations because they already had a group they named the Eldgins. It's confusing, I know.
The Temptations released two singles in 1961 on the Miracle label "Oh Mother of Mine" and "Check Yourself." Gordy then ended the Miracle label and reassigned the group first to Gordy Records and then Motown Records, where they recorded their first R&B hit, "(You're My) Dream Come True." The group began touring with the Motown Revue show and continued to release singles that did not chart.
In 1963, the Temptations began working with singer, producer, and writer Smokey Robinson in an effort to produce hits, and the group released "I Want a Love I Can See." The song also failed to chart. Temptation, Al Bryant began to grow frustrated with the group's lack of success, and things got violent when Bryant hit Paul Williams with a beer bottle at a gig. He had a second incident when he had a violent outburst on stage during a Christmas show. Bryant was fired from the group and returned to his life as a milkman and local singer. His heavy drinking led to his death in 1975 at age 36.
Replacing Bryant was a local fan and friend of the band, David Ruffin. The "classic five" lineup with David Ruffin, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, and Eddie Kendricks was solidified with his joining. The group continued to work with Smokey Robinson, and in January 1964, they scored their first significant hit, "The Way You Do The Things You Do." To showcase the group's earlier material, Motown decided to take several of the group's releases with Bryant, along with "The Way You Do The Things You Do, and release the group's first album, Meet The Temptations. Rarely will I be showcasing a compilation or greatest hits album during this series, but since this is the group's debut, I found it appropriate to add Meet The Temptations to the thirty, especially since it's a great representation of the group early on. By the end of 1964, the Temptations released their first number-one single, "My Girl."
Following The Release: 1965 and Beyond
Over the next few years, the Temptation became one of Motown's biggest hit makers with songs like "Get Ready," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," (I Know) I'm Losing You," "I Wish It Would Rain." etc. Around this time, David Ruffin, who sang lead on most of their hits, began to get carried away with himself. He refused to travel with the rest of the group and reportedly demanded a private mink-lined limousine to transport himself and Tammi Terrell (another Motown artist). After Motown renamed several groups to showcase a leader (For example, The Supreme became Diana Ross, & The Supremes and the Vandellas became Martha Reeves & the Vandellas), Ruffin became adamant the groups should be changed to David Ruffin & the Temptations. Fueled by cocaine and greed, Ruffin continued to be a menace, and after missing a performance, he was released from the group and replaced by former Contours vocalist Dennis Edwards in the summer of 1968. Ruffin did not take the news well; several times, he stormed the stage and grabbed the microphone during Temptations performances. His antics only further angered the members, and any thought of his potential return was squashed.
In 1969, Ruffin released a solo record that charted well. He remained relatively popular throughout the 1970s, but after his popularity began to wane, his drug activity and reported abusive nature towards Terrell grew increasingly problematic. He was imprisoned for not paying taxes in 1982, continued to have legal difficulties, and died in 1991 at age 50 after an overdose of crack cocaine. Meanwhile, the Temptations with Edwards continued to flourish and soon began to showcase a new, more modern, psychedelic soul sound.
By late 1969 things got challenging again for the Temptations. Paul Williams was struggling with the effects of sickle-cell disease and began drinking heavily and falling into depression. A sixth Temptation, Richard Street, was added as a stand-in replacement. Eddie Kendricks, who never felt comfortable with the Ruffin firing, also began fighting with the members over the band's new sound and direction. By 1970, things came to a head, and Kendricks walked off stage during a performance and was fired. Ricky Owens replaced him, and then Paul Williams's condition worsened, and he was forced to quit, and Richard Street became his permanent replacement. Williams took his life (gunshot) at age 34 in 1973.
Throughout the 1970s until 1994, Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin managed to keep some form of the Temptations together by hiring, firing, replacing, and rehiring Temptations. Throughout much of his time with the Temptations, Franklin struggled with rheumatoid arthritis, which required continued use of cortisone. The shots weakened his immune system, and he began developing diabetes and other health issues. He was also shot in his hand and leg while trying to stop a thief from stealing his car. By 1994 he could no longer persevere with the group, and he died at age 52 in 1995, leaving Otis Williams the only surviving member.
Amazingly Otis Williams has been able to keep rolling out Temptations even after Franklin's passing. In 1989 the Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Edwards, Franklin, Kendricks, Ruffin, Otis Williams, and Paul Williams). In 1998, NBC aired the miniseries The Temptations, which tries to make sense of the band's crazy history.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "The Way You Do The Things You Do." was released as a single in January 1964. The song was written by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers (from the Miracles.) The track represented the group's first major hit reaching #11 on the Billboard Charts. It was also the first single (and only on the album) to include David Ruffin, who replaced Eldridge Bryant only a few weeks before the recording. Singing lead on the song is Eddie Kendricks, and supporting the band is the fantastic Motown rhythm section, the Funk Brothers. The lyrics included a bunch of cheezy pickup lines, but after the song's success, the boys would only need a pickup line: "Have you ever heard of the Temptations? I'm one of them." "The Way You Do Things You Do" is just a fantastic pop tune that perfectly represents solid songwriting and the heavily layered Motown sound. An absolute treat to hear every time. (*+)
Track 2- "I Want a Love I Can See." was a 1963 single for the group. It was the first time the group collaborated with hitmaker Smokey Robinson, and it was meant to be the band's breakout hit. It didn't work, and the song failed to chart. Paul Williams is featured as the lead, a role he enjoyed early on. Lyrically it's a reflection of what true love should be. The song features a funky bassline provided by the master, James Jamerson. "I Want a Love I Can See" had all elements to be a bigger hit. (*+).
Track 3- "Dreams Come True," issued in 1962, was written by Motown label owner Berry Gordy. It was the Temptation's first nationally charted single, reaching number 22 on the R&B charts. Gordy may have given up on the group without the tune's marginal success. For the track, Gordy, likely frustrated by their earlier lack of success, decided to give Kendricks a chance to sing lead, a role earlier taken on by Paul Williams. Check out Melvin Franklin's rich baritone voice in the chorus. It's a solid recording, and its marginal success helped land the group on Gordy's popular Motown Revue. (*+)
Track 4- "Paradise" is another 1962 single written by Gordy that showcases the vocal skills of the group and the intervallic range between a falsetto sung by Kendricks and the deep rich notes of Franklin. The single was a commercial disappointment, but there is nothing not to like about the song. (*+)
Track 5- "May I Have This Dance," was the B side to the failed single "Farewell My Love." It sounds like a bit of a throwaway. It's the first disappointment on the record for me.
Track 6- "Isn't She Pretty" was recorded in 1961 and was written by Temptations, Eddie Kendrick, and Otis Williams with the help of Berry Gordy. The song was intended to be a single for Gordy's Miracle label, but when the label folded, it was shelved until it appeared as a B side for the 1962 single "Dream Come True." The recording showcases the group singing as an ensemble before each vocalist can offer a lead. The lyrics are amateurish.
Track 1- "Just Let Me Know" was a 1963 Gordy composed release and the B side to "The Way You Do The Things You Do." Even though Paul Williams's voice is solid as a lead vocalist, it would be one of his final attempts at the lead role, mainly since Kendrick was so successful in that role on the A "the Way You Do The Thing You Do."
Track 2- "Your Wonderfull Love," has a soulful Sam Cooke-style feel, and Paul Williams again proves that he was a solid lead vocalist; sadly, the songs he sang did not connect with a larger audience. A pretty soulful tune (+).
Track 3- "The Further You Look, The Less You See," showcases the group's do-wop roots. There is no reason why this was not a hit or a single. The song is another example of why the Temptations might be the finest vocal group in history (+).
Track 4- "Check Yourself" is credited to Bryant, Franklin, Otis Williams, and Gordy. Recorded in 1961, this was the second single from the group. It was a regional hit and their first song to chart nationally. Things were beginning to look up for the group with this single, but it would still take a few more years before they broke. (*).
Track 5- "Slow Down Heart," speaks of seeing a beautiful girl for the first time. There is not a great deal of information about the tune. It was not a hit but a solid album cut. Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin sing lead on this one.
Track 6- "Farewell My Heart" was the last single released by the "Original 5" Temptations lineup (1963). Gordy wrote the song, his final attempt to write a piece for the group. It was another release that continued their hitless streak, which was concerning for the Motown label at the time, which had yet to see a return from the Temptations. They later made the label millions.
Conclusion: While The Temptations had been hanging around for a while, America truly got to "meet" them with this record. As expected from a Motown release, the production was soulful, slick, and polished. The Temptations are arguably the best pop male vocal group ever, and this album serves as a perfect introduction to their earlier work—Chart position #95 on Billboard Charts.