Album: Psychedelic Shack
. . .
Released just three days before the 1960s well and finally ended, “Psychedelic Shack” shows Norman Whitfield and the Temptations making the subtext full text in their embrace of psychedelic soul, and once again used the past to help make the future.
In the case of “Psychedelic Shack,” there was a very specific use of the past: after the sound of somebody knocking on the door of the shack — which is clearly bigger on the inside than on the outside — and when the doors open, we hear the whooping it up that opened “I Can’t Get Next to You” right down to Dennis Edwards saying “Hold it, hold it listen,”
after which we hear a couple of hit-hat bars from crazed genius producer Norman Whitfield’s intro to his 1967 production of Gladys Knight and the Pips “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” before the Funk Brothers take over the song proper.
Why is this important? According to Mark Ribowsky’s fantastic Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations, that whooping it up and drum break marked the first known use of sampling in popular music. Which, maybe. Maybe not. It, of course, wouldn’t be the last.
People, let me tell you ’bout a place I know
To get in, it don’t take much dough
Where you can really do your thing, yeah, yeah, yeah
It’s got a neon sign outside that says “come in and take a look at your mind.”
You’ll be surprised what you might find, yeah. (Yeah.)
Strobe lights flashing from sun up to sundown
People gather there from all parts of town. (Oh yeah.)
Right around the corner
You know it’s just across the tracks
People, I’m talking about the Psychedelic Shack
While it is chock full of stinging guitar, funky rhythms and synth effects, “Psychedelic Shack” is kinda sorta missing a killer melody, though it is fun to chant “Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at” with the Temptations while the guitars buzz around your head like a cloud of bees, but it’s weird, fading during a verse, because the Funk Brother had found such a groove that they jammed past the six-minute mark, a version that wasn’t on the album and didn’t get released until 2003.
And honestly, its also fun to check out the whole Psychedelic Shack album, featuring a nothing but Norman Whitfield / Barrett Strong songs — including a jazzy ode to reefer called “Take A Stroll Through Your Mind” which the Tempts didn’t really wanna even do — many of which were done by other Whitfield/Strong acts: “Friendship Train” had been done by Gladys Knight & The Pips and “War” was covered by Edwin Starr, as you probably know. “War” wasn’t released as a Temptations singles, though they wanted to, which is bad for the Temptations but good for the song, as their multi-vocal approach isn’t nearly as powerful as Starr’s eternal screams.
Anyways, “Psychedelic Shack” the song was yet another massive smash, topping out at #7 pop & #2 R&B.
“Psychedelic Shack” Original Version
“Psychedelic Shack” Extended Version
“Psychedelic Shack” on the Ed Sullivan Show
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