Night Music: The Temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”

There are songs I remember hearing for the first time.

This one came when I was sitting in my mother’s car outside the Grand Union, while she picked up some groceries.

It was dark and my daddy had moved out. We lived in the suburbs, but I’d spent time in Harlem working on some church urban regeneration projects. I knew the city the way any 14 year old from Long Island might. Through the pages of Life magazine.

What I remember about hearing this song the first time was all the space in it. I didn’t really think then about mix, but this wasn’t a crafted Motown tune that used every available track in a maximal way. This was a Motown tune that did its best to open up every bit of sound for the better whole. Motown meets Beatles, you might say.

I think this is a great riff and a great mix of a fine rifftastic song, but not so much a great song. But really, who cares. I could listen to it all night.

4 thoughts on “Night Music: The Temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”

  1. Oh, I think it’s a great song, one of the best songs ever made, in my Top 25. I play it at every party. I don’t remember the first time I heard it but I have definite memories of singing and beating car seats to it. Unique sound with the beautiful echoed trumpet, funky-as-fuck guitar, and what can I say about the singing. Also includes “all he left us was alone.” (A loan?)

  2. Glad the alone/a loan thing was mentioned because I always thought that was brilliant too. Didn’t want to be too obvious.

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