TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Number One on Billboard’s Top Selling R&B Singles chart on Saturday, April 30, 1966.
SONGWRITER: William “Smokey” Robinson.
PRODUCER: William “Smokey” Robinson.
BACKSTORY: For a Gordy Records release which failed to match the crossover chart achievements of the Temptations’ four preceding singles, “Get Ready” has since developed an impressive story of its own. Hey, how many songs get recorded by a queen of jazz (Ella Fitzgerald), a hard-rockin’ combo from Detroit (Rare Earth), a girl group from Ireland (the Nolans) and the daughter of the chairman of the board (Nancy Sinatra)?
What’s more, the writer of the song not only produced the Temptations’ original, but also later remade it with his own group, the Miracles, then ventured off the freeway to sing a disco version himself. So when the Temptations’ musical makes its Broadway debut in the not-too-distant future, all we’re saying is that “Get Ready” better be there.
The Temptations recorded “Get Ready” in Detroit during December 1965, just about one year on from making “My Girl.” Engineer Harold Taylor said the first version of the uptempo tune “featured a very complicated drumbeat, which was different from the signature Motown rhythm. At the Friday [Quality Control] meeting, it was suggested that [Smokey] record a more standard drumbeat, which he did.” Quoted in liner notes for The Complete Motown Singles Volume 6, Taylor added, “It was the first time I remember overdubbing drums.”
In his autobiography, Otis Williams recalled learning that the Quality Control vote had gone in favour of “Get Ready” as the Temptations’ next release while they were on the road, booked to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. “With the taping less than an hour away,” Otis wrote, “Paul [Williams] rounded us up in a hotel room, and in thirty-two minutes, we devised, learned, rehearsed, and mastered the routine.” They were ready.
REMAKES: As noted above, “Get Ready” has attracted many artists over the years, just as so many Smokey songs have done. Its re-imagining by Rare Earth in 1969 – to take just one example – is notable for several reasons: theirs was a bigger hit (Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100) than the original; it was the first significant chart success for Motown’s new rock label, named after the Detroit rockers; and Rare Earth had actually recorded a pre-Motown version on their debut LP, Dreams/Answers. “As the Sunliners, we had been playing ‘Get Ready’ for the last three years on the club circuit,” drummer Pete Rivera revealed in his account of the band’s life and times, Born To Wander. “We had always gotten a really strong crowd response from it.” He added, “In the clubs, they danced harder and drank more beer when we jammed to it.” The alcohol consumption fuelled by other versions is unknown, but let’s raise a glass, anyway, to Tom Jones, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, King Curtis, Wishbone Ash, the Proclaimers and Dusty Springfield, to name but a few. They all helped Smokey’s bank balance, and sustained the song’s popularity over the decades.
FOOTNOTE: Television played its part in the legend that is “Get Ready.” CBS signed up the song and the Temptations for use in promoting the network’s fall season of TV shows in 1990. Millions of viewers saw and heard the result, which included a new music video featuring the group. Seven years earlier, millions of NBC-TV viewers had been wowed by the Temptations performing the song on the Motown 25 TV spectacular. It was, of course, part of the “battle of the bands” segment with the Four Tops – an inspired combination which has added to both groups’ boxoffice appeal ever since. In Britain this fall, the Temps and the Tops will again fill concert venues across the nation. Get ready, y’all.