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Monday, November 29, 2004

spinners -> subtle distinctions?

Started editing and adding to this post, about a compiling a soundtrack for Fortress of Solitude. Starting going off on the possibility that Lethem was inspired by the Spinners when he imagined the Subtle Distinctions into existence, so I moved it here to a separate entry.

Obviously it's that as simple an equation as "Subtle Distinctions = Spinners"; Lethem clearly also drew on, for example, themes from Marvin Gaye's life when imagining certain aspects of Barrett Rude Jr.

But after browsing through my copy of The Blackwell Guide to Soul Recordings, (see also here, for a review of that book and many others), it would be hard to believe that Lethem didn't absorb the Spinners' particular story. These lines about Spinners lead Philippe Wynn caught my eye: "No one lucky enough to have seen Wynne perform with the Spinners will ever forget him," and in the next graph: "In 1977, in the wake of Rubberband Man, Wynne left the group for an erratic solo career (which included some memorable recordings with George Clinton's P-Funk Mob) prior to his death at age 43 on July 13, 1984." An unforgettable lead, an erratic solo career, an early death ..and memorable recording with P-funk?? That last, esp, seems to be too much to be just a coincidence. (Of course, Lethem could have read no more than those few lines for his construction of the Barrett Rude Jr. and the Subtle Distinctions; Lethem's genius is no doubt up to that.)

(Blackwell conspicuously omits the cause of Wynne's death. AllMusic's Spinners bio has this: "Though none of Wynne's solo records were big hits, his tours with Parliament-Funkadelic were well-received, as were his solo concerts. In October 1984, he died of a heart attack during a concert in Oakland, CA.")

More parallels with the Subtle Distinctions: the Spinners were a Motown band; again from Blackwell, but this time from entry for Motown's The Best of the Spinners: "Clearly the talent was already there during their Motown years, but the group was mostly overshadowed by the label's established star roster, and it took the changeover to Atlantic and the crucial additions of Philippe Wynn as lead singer and Thom Bell as producer to boost them to superstar status in the 1970s.)"

Almost makes me want to track down a copy of The Chrome Collection; if the liner notes are as good as the ones Dylan Ebdus wrote for the Subtle Distinctions' box set, I would get it. But I'm guessing The Very Best of the Spinners or, if not that, then A One of a Kind Love Affair will suffice.

But wait. From customer review of The Chrome Collection: "One of the highlights is the 60-page booklet, with some truly excellent writing featuring some interesting anecdotes even I, a Spinners fanatic, hadn't heard before. The notes about how Thom Bell produced the group are priceless." Might have to get this after all:

spinners chrome collection
Originally uploaded by suman_ganguli.

Postscript: Some other results from Googling the Spinners and the Chrome Collection:

AllMusic's page, which starts: "The Spinners were the greatest soul group of the early '70s, creating a body of work that defined the lush, seductive sound of Philly soul."

A feature, that came out around the time the Chrome Collection did (turns out "Rhino Records is a division of AOL Time Warner, as is CNN"):

Motown's mistake, soul music's legends
'Chrome Collection' highlights Spinners' music

By Todd Leopold
Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Post-postscript: Was oddly unaware until just a moment ago that we do have one Spinners track in our collection: "It's a Shame" is on Disc 4 of Hitsville USA, which it just so happens I ripped into iTunes the week before last. A nice track. Pre-Wynn though; again from Blackwell's writeup of Motown's Best of the Spinners: "Their biggest success came in 1970 with the Top 15 hit "It's a Shame" (written and produced by Stevie Wonder), with new member G.C. Cameron taking the lead vocal."

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