Norman Whitfield and the Pscyhedelization of Bob Davis
I doubt seriously if “Pscyhedelization” is even a word, if it is, I have surely misspelled it!!!
However I know what it means, and in my world, “Pscyhedelization” is the first step towards becoming a full fledged Funkateer. I have Norman Whitfield to thank for that, because he is the producer & visionary who created a great Funk album, in 1969 called “CLOUD NINE.”
The album “Cloud Nine” by the Temptations was the very first album (LP) that I was ever compelled to plunk down my own hard earned money to purchase. As an 12 year old, this was a major descion for me, I had already become hooked on buying 45’s (the legal mp3 files of their day) and generally brought one or two each week. I thought they were a good investment, they cost 60 cents in my neighborhood at the time, so I thought that paying 30 cents/song was a pretty good deal and that price point fit into my budget. My allowance was $5.00/week if I mowed the lawn, raked leaves or shoveled snow that week and it was zero if I did none of the above (my oh my how things have changed……lol).
Therefore making the move to purchase an LP at a price of $2.99 (at the local 5 & 10 cents store) was a risky purchasing descion, for a person who had a weekly income of $5.00/week (during the “good” weeks) and it was one that changed my life forever.
In addition to the economic issues associated with making the purchase, there were two other factors that weighed heavily into my descion:
1. I didn’t “own” a turntable: I was allowed to use my parents turntable to play my 45’s, as long as I didn’t disturb anyone who was trying to watch TV at that time. This policy was ok for listening to a 3 minute song (or 6 minutes worth, if I wanted to listen to both sides). But how was I going to get enough “face time” with my parents stereo system in order to actually listen to the entire album?
2. Cultural Issues: Every time the song “Cloud Nine” came on the car radio, my mother would tell my father, “change the station, you know that song is about drugs, the kids don’t need to hear that.” And of course my father would change the station. Because of this, I knew for certain bring the LP into the house and actually playing it was going to cause problems.
Although I did not “own” a turntable, I did “own” an early version of a “boom box.” It was a mono, am-fm cassette player/recorder. This device was permanently parked on the floor in the space between the wall and the bed. The unit was perfectly positioned so that I could plug in the earphone that came with the unit and then place the earphone under my pillow. I could then jack the volume all of the way up and listen to the radio all night long without disturbing my brother Mike, who was sleeping in his bed, just a few feet away. That mono, am-fm cassette player/recorder was my “stereo system” for the next 4 years, till I “inherited” my parents “old system” and was allowed to move it into the bedroom (which created another set of problems, that I won’t get into right now…..LOL).
Therefore I already “owned” a copy of the “Cloud Nine” single, because I had already taped it off of the radio (the illegal mp3 files of their day), so I could already listen to the song “Cloud Nine”, whenever I wanted to, and I certainly did. When Mike would hear me playing it in the bedroom he would warn me, “you better turn that down, you know Mommie doesn’t like that song.” In my house the act of listening to “Cloud Nine” was an act of teenage defiance, that I could easily get in trouble for. But I didn’t care, the song was badd and I dug it, however I was careful to only listen to the song via the earplug and never using the “powerful’ 3.5 inch speaker that came with my mono, am-fm cassette player/recorder.
However “owning” the “Cloud Nine” single on tape wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to own the album, however it wasn’t because of the “Cloud Nine” single, it was because of an album track that wasn’t played on the radio called….RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD
Here is the track listing for the “Cloud Nine” album
1. Cloud Nine 3:31
2. I Heard It Through The Grapevine 3:04
3. RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD 9:36
4. Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing 2:30
5. Hey Girl 2:40
6. Why Did She Have To Leave Me (Why Did She Have To Go) 2:59
7. I Need Your Lovin’ 2:40
8. Don’t Let Him Take Your Love From Me 2:31
9. I Gotta Find A Way (To Get You Back) 3:00
10. Gonna Keep On Tryin’ Till I Win Your Love 2:32
You see someone in school had brought a “portable record player” (remember those?) to school one day and they had a copy of the “Cloud Nine” album. When they played the song “RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD”, I was immediately hooked. “RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD” was a dark, hypnotic & ultra funky song that promoted a teenaged activity that would be considered by most parents even worse than drugs:
RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD
WRITERS NORMAN WHITFIELD, BARRETT STRONG
(Dennis) You played hooky from school And you can’t go out to play, yeah Mama said for the rest of the week In your room you gotta stay, yeah Now you feel like The whole world’s pickin on you But deep down inside you know it ain’t true You’ve been punished cause your mother Wants to raise you the right way, yeah But you don’t care Cause you already made up your mind You wanna run away, yeah You’re on your way
(Run away child, running wild) Run away child, running wild
(Better come back home)Better come back home
(Where you belong) Where you belong
(Dennis) Roaming through the city Going nowhere fast You’re on your own at last
(Otis) Hey it’s getting late, where will you sleep
(Melvin) Gettin kind-a hungry You forgot to bring something to eat
(Eddie) Oh lost with no money, you start to cry
(Dennis) But remember you left home Wanting to be grown So dry your weepin eyes Siren screamin down, neon light is flickin (You want your
(Eddie) all day looking for you You’re frightened and confused (I want my mama)
(Dennis) But she’s much too far away She can’t hear a word you say
(Paul) You heard some frightening news on the radio About little boys running away from home And their parents don’t see them no more
(Eddie) You wanna hitch a ride and go home
(Dennis) But your mama told you never trust a stranger And you don’t know which way to go
(Paul) You’re lost in this great big city (Go back home where you
belong) Not one familiar face Ain’t it a pity (Go back home where you
(Deenis) Oh run away child, running wild You better go back home where you belong
(Paul) Mama, mama please come and see about me
(Deenis) But she’s much too far away She can’t hear a word you say I want my mama You’re frightened and confused Which way will you choose
The FIRST time that I heard “RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD”, I knew that I had to OWN IT. It was mesmerizing, it was long (9:36), it was FUNKY and I wanted it more than just about anything that I could think of at that moment. However there 6 problems, that I would have to overcome:
1. It wasn’t available as a 45
2. It wasn’t played on the radio, so I couldn’t tape it for free
3. Buying the LP would be a major financial investment for a 12 year old
4. How would I even play it, since I didn’t “own” a turntable
5. How could I possibly play a song in my house that was all about “little boys running away from home”
6. How could I possibly get away with bringing an album into my house with a cover that very strongly implies that the Temptations are consumed in an “LSD induced haze”
However I was a pretty smart kid, here is how I overcame all of these obstacles:
1. I saved my money & brought the album
2. I hid the album in the space between the wall and my dresser (even Mike didn’t know it was there)
3. One day when nobody was home, I put the album on my parents stereo system and used the microphone on my mono, am-fm cassette player/recorder to tape it
4. The LP itself went back behind the dresser, where it remained undiscovered for years. When I finally pulled it out, of course it was “warped”, however it was still playable
Purchasing the “Cloud Nine” album was not to be my last act of “teenaged rebellion”, however it was my first and it ultimately did not make me turn to drugs or runaway from home.
However it was the beginning of my lifelong obsession with albums and for that I can thank Mr. Norman Whitfield, because it is he (along with Barrett Strong) who created the compelling & obsessive sound of the song “RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD”, that forced a 12 year old kid to risk an AZZ WHUPPIN in order to “own” a piece of his art.
So as I reflect back on the life & career of Norman Whitfield as he passes from this earth, it makes me think back to the “Cloud Nine” album and the impact that it had on my life. Today I can look back on all of it and smile, because on this day, I am replaying the lyrics of “RUNAWAY CHILD, RUNNING WILD” back over in my mind, but more importantly thinking back to those times, with a small tear in the corner of my eye, how wonderful it all was and how lucky I feel to have experienced the kind of a childhood that I did.
So it gives me great pleasure on this day to let all of you know the role that Mr. Norman Whitfield played in my childhood and my development into whatever it is that I have become today…