On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Temptations – Ball of Confusion (1970)
We’re leaving Jamaica today, dear reader, and heading back to the US and to Detroit. We’re in the company of The Temptations today. They were very successful in the 1960s with hits such as My Girl but in the 1970s they were undergoing something of a change. David Ruffin, one of the lead singers, had been replaced by Dennis Edwards and the hits kept on coming. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (them again!), Ball of Confusion was passed to The Temptations and their take has made it onto our illustrious list.
Ball of Confusion sees the vocals shared out between the members of The Temptations. The song holds up a mirror to American society at this time. We have racial tensions, drug use, men on the moon, politicians raising taxes, unemployment rising, people seeking solace beyond the city, but it’s not all bad because the latest Beatles record is sounding great. The Temptations offer cacophony of societal problems and all these ideas are united by the refrain that is a “ball of confusion” and that this description applies to the whole world. The song doesn’t offer any solutions here, it merely evokes the full magnitude of the madness that is all around.
I’m familiar with The Temptations but only a handful of their songs. I had certainly never come across Ball of Confusion before. As with other songs we have had recently, this track has its pulse on American society at this time and it doesn’t paint a great picture. This is a very different song to the likes of My Girl back in the 1960s. It’s described as psychedelic soul and the spoken elements, rather than singing, give this more of a rap feel. I admire groups that try new styles and The Temptations certainly nailed it with Ball of Confusion.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)