Throughout the sixties and seventies few could complete with the songwriting stable at Motown Records and although the label produced many outstanding acts few have reached the iconic status of The Temptations and The Four Tops. In November both bands head across to the UK for an 11 date tour which will see the likes of "My Girl", "Just My Imagination" and "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" performed as they were intended to rather than being featured on karaoke TV shows. Designer Magazine caught up with The Temps founder member Otis Williams to find out why he's still keeping the faith.
Q: The Temptations and The Four Tops packing out arena
tours. It's very different from the old days isn't it?
A: Well, not really. We've been doing these kind of things, touring together and working together, since the sixties so it's nothing really different. It's just two groups coming together to do their thing and singing the hits that the world has come to know and love. Some things you don't want to go away. Anytime you can work and do something you enjoy doing and love doing you wanna ride the hair of the horse.
When you speak of the great country of England you just
have to take it all together because the people are so receptive towards
us that you can't single out anyone place. We've been received in Manchester,
London, Liverpool and all the other city's in England. That's why we keep
coming back, because of the love of the people lovin us. The turn out for
the Temps and The Tops has always been great so we love coming to England
cos the English people are so dedicated, loyal and supportive.
Q: How do the audiences differ between when you come
out and do these gigs in the UK and the dates in the States?
A: The difference between the States and the UK is that if we shouldn't get a hit again they (the UK) love us for the memories and the songs that were hits. Here in the States everything has you got to be now, if you're not now it's almost as if you're passé. Luckily for us were still received greatly over here and in the States, but some artists it's like a fast food kind of thing. I guess the artists that come from here are so abundant so it is a difference. The English people will love you if you had a hit 10 or 15 years ago and you're still coming over singing those hits. If you never have any more hits other than the ones you've had they receive it like it's a hit all over again.
Q: Obviously being the only original member in the
group, could you introduce us to the present line-up that were going to
see on this tour?
A: The present line-up is Ron Tyson who's been with me for 20 years, Terry Weeks who's been with me for 6 or 7 years, Harry McGillberry who's been with me for 6 years and the recent one is G.C. Cameron who used to sing with the Spinners.
Q: David Ruffin, Eddie Kindricks and Dennis Edwards
all went on to pursue solo careers. Were you never tempted to do the same?
A: No, I'm a group man. I know where my strengths lie so my mind has always been to stay with the group. We were so enormously successful as a group and people just love The Temps that I said I would just stay focused on keeping The Temptations going for as long as God gave me the power to do so.
Q: If we look back over the years what were the main
differences in working with the different producers Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland
and Norman Whitfield?
A: Well, the thing about those 3 great producers is that they all were prepared. Now that's part of the Motown machinery that when we worked with Smokey, yer know Smokey came to us, he would leave room for us to add great input but basically he came with the lyrics, the melody and 75-90% of how he wanted it done and he would leave a percentage for us to do our interjection of being The Temps to it. We didn't work that much with Holland-Dozier-Holland, but Norman would come with some fantastic tracks. The tracks were stupendous and a very good concept for the song and he would leave us to add what harmonies, what flavourings, the colour of the song. Each producer was unique until themselves.
Q: The "Psychedelic Soul" album has just been released
in the UK and I guess each fan has their own favourite period. Is there
any time that stands out for you?
A: Favourite period for me. Naturally I'd have to say the 60s and the 70s cos Motown was flourishing. That was a very fun period being over there in England when the Beatles had set the world on fire and the music business and the record business had just opened up completely. And there you had Motown adding to all that world acceptance of great music.
These days I'm not impressed with the music. Motown is
not the same as it was cos Berry's no longer there. It's run in a very
corporate setting and I give a lot of credence and credit to Kedar Massenburg
for still believing in us and were still recording. The fun time was the
60s and 70s and when the late 80s and 90s came about with rap music...were
from a era of great songs that are still being played, 30, 40, 50 years
later and so i've always leaned heavily towards songs that have got great
melodies and lyric content and leave something to the imagination.
Q: There was talk of you guys doing a "Duets" album
with some contemporary collaborations. What's happening with that now?
Q: Is there anyone specific you've got in mind?
A: We'll start sometime in January and it will be probably be a couple of acts were looking to work with on the album. We wanted to do a whole album with guest artists, but we found out it was going to be quite expensive to do that. The artists that you have as guests you have to compensate for and some managers would be asking for anywhere between 50k and 100k so if you do that times 6 or 7 artists that until itself would become very expensive, not talking about everything else that would go into the making the album - the marketing, the promotion and the whole 9 yards.
I had Luther down until unfortunately he had his stroke.
He was one of the ones that I know I had because I wanted him on "Since
I Lost My Baby" because he's also recorded "Since I Lost My Baby". Luther
was definitely one, but we'll go back to the drawing board and see who
else we can get.
Q: How do you feel about cover versions or sampling
of Temptations songs?
A: It cuts like a double edged sword. Naturally those that wrote the song that they're sampling will get paid, but then if someone's going to sample your song you don't want them to b*stardised the music by putting crazy lyrics to it that are offensive.
Sometime I think sampling is another form of being lazy
because a lot of those guys that came up with those tracks that are being
sampled took a lot of creative will power to sit down and work it out.
Then somebody come along and want to use your music. And you have to watch
out because sometimes they wanna use it and you don't get paid.
Q: Is there anyone in the contemporary soul scene that
A: They're playing this record over here in LA called "Why Can't I Get A Man Like That?" by this artist called Ellouise Lawes. But i'm not too interested in the stuff that I'm hearing. I know this young man on Capitol called Xavier, he's on a tour now called Crazy, and this jockey said "Wow man at last some great music is coming back" and I was like this is what I've been saying along. He's one of the one's I'm impressed by by enlarge no-one comes to mind other than the greats like the Luthers and the Stevie's. These singers that are coming along today. They try and riff on every note and I can't stand that. When they record goes off you can't remember what to hum because they never established the melody of the song. I'm not really impressed with what I'm hearing on the radio today.
The Temptations and The Four Tops tour the UK throughout November
The tour starts in Manchester on the 14th and ends in London on the 28th
For full tour dates check out
Post your Temptations reviews / comments on the Message Board