Thom Bell passed away just before Christmas. When I was a kid his songs, productions, and arrangements, were forever playing on the radio. His were sweet songs, focussed almost solely on romance and love. On the street where I lived, the music he made, with The Spinners and The Stylistics especially, formed the soundtrack to our parents` house parties, and later scored my own first slow dances. Stuff like Diana and Marvin singing, You Are Everything has me right back there. Fumbling with a date, up against a fridge, in a kitchen in Croydon.
Working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the founders of Philadelphia International Records, and often collaborating with singer / songwriter Linda Creed, Thom had a hand in so many hits that not only define a pop part of the early `70s, but have since become standards, and covered countless times…. Betcha By Golly Wow, I`ll Be Around, La La La Means I Love You, People Make The World Go Round, Stone In Love With You, You Make Me Feel Brand New…
His arrangements, however, were / are the definitive versions, even for pieces penned by others… Here I Go Again, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) , and, of course, Back Stabbers.
As I got older, and teenage rebellion blew my mind, I discarded Thom’s work as “chart stuff”, and way too saccharine. Some of these masterpieces I thought I`d totally forgotten, but listening again, they`re deeply engrained memories, that have, in their own way, mutated and modified my DNA. They promised a love so perfect, so pure, so complete, instead of fleeting, fickle and cheap, that it always seemed out of reach. Certainly in the South London that I grew up in. Ghetto Child felt like a theme tune. My posher mates, from Norbury, would sing it to me in chorus, taking the piss.
Thom Bell, thank you for the music. Rest In Peace.
Archie Bell & The Drells / Here I Go Again
Honey & The Bees / Love Addict
The Stylistics / Children Of The Night
The Delfonics / Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time?
Johnny Mathis / Life Is A Song Worth Singing
Alton Ellis / La La La Means I Love You
Otis Gayle / I’ll Be Around
Kellee Patterson / Stop, Look & Listen To Your Heart
Dee Dee Bridgewater / People Make The World Go Round