I can fly like a bird in the sky,
I can buy most anything that money can buy,
I can turn a river into a raging fire
I can live forever if I so desire,
All of this and more I can do
But I can't get next to you
I Can't Get Next To You, (written by Barrett Strong, performed by The Temptations)
At Christmas with my family, after mega-meal and the endless gift parade, (oh a tie, thank you!), I crashed on the couch in front of the TV, visions of gift cards dancing in my head, and happened upon The Temptations television mini-series. I caught the part where drugs were seeping into the group's repertoire, spouses were being cheated on, and egos were butting heads, as the Motown singing group rose to the heights of fame. This all in about 10 minutes. Ironic in that I was pulling out old Temptations records, in my endless quest for the letter 'T', the past two weekends. I have 4 Temptations records in my pile, the singles, AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG, Gordy G-7054, I WISH IT WOULD RAIN, Gordy G-7068, PAPPA WAS A ROLLIN' STONE, Gordy 7121F, and one album THE TEMPTATIONS GREATEST HITS II, Gordy GS954. A Wikipedia search on the group's history left my head spinning as the lengthy entry detailed constant line-up changes, and a steady juggle of the group's producers, writers and musical style, verifying my understanding The Temptations, like most pop groups of the era including The Beatles, were a commodity controlled by executives and creative geniuses, in this case represented by five fine vocalists. The price of fame hits this group hard as there is only one surviving original member, Otis Williams, who still sings with the current line-up. No matter, what fine records they were. Like new cars, they were controlled, polished and tweaked for consumption by the mass public. Soul standard AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG (1966) has such a great rock and roll rhythm and infectious beat it was later covered by The Rolling Stones. I WISH IT WOULD RAIN (1968) is one of my favorite soul records of all time with a beautiful run on the piano sounding much like Burt Bacharach's '60s work, and bruised by a technically unpolished clap of thunder. PAPPA WAS A ROLLIN' STONE (1972) is The Temptations masterpiece, an 11 or so minute socially conscious opus that had all America humming a ode to absent fathers. The GREATEST HITS II album covers the psychedelic era of The Temptations (Cloud Nine, Ball of Confusion, Psychedelic Shack), in an effort to tap into the rock market The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper cracked open, (and man, it worked-such fine tech craft on these records), along with hits apparently not big enough to make it on Greatest Hits Volume 1; (I Know) I'm Losing You, I Wish It Would Rain. These Temptations singles all go for about $6 in VERY GOOD condition, the GREATEST HITS II, goes for about $16 in VERY GOOD condition.