Some Sunday Love: The Friends of Distinction, “Going in Circles,” 1969

The PBS outlet here was hawking the music videos from the old Ed Sullivan Show for us Boomer geezers (like I said, I’m Jones Generation, and so is my brother and sister, but our youngest brother is Gen X).  And the Friends of Distinction popped up with their hit from Hugh Masekela, “Grazing in the Grass.”

However, I knew that they had a more powerful soul ballad in this song upwind, so I’m offering it this morning for your edification and delight.  We’ve all been there and done exactly that with some people, and that is what I believe keeps it a favorite among many from this time, and those who are aficionados of this music.

The Sixties were drawing to a close, and 1969 was a particularly harrowing year: the inauguration of Richard Nixon, the shock of the Manson Family’s Tate-LaBianca murders, the anger of the Stonewall riots, the Chicago Eight trials,  the disclosures and charges stemming from the My Lai Massacre, the nightmare of Chappaquiddick, the publication of the Satanic Bible, and the horrors of Altamont.  It was almost as if the world was as grey and fuzzy as those black and white films of these events, even thought there was good news, blue peeping out from among the dark clouds.  People were still going on with their lives, trying to make sense of the world with their lovers, families and friends, in their schools and offices.   The Friends, who are often confused with another popular black group of the time, the Fifth Dimension (and had worked with some of them before they became famous), kept many of us focusing on that blue sky.

Former footballer Jim Brown was their first manager, and he helped to get them signed to their label, RCA.    It was Barbara Jean Love, though, who suggested that Harry Elston’s initial name for the group, Distinctive Friends, be changed to the Friends of Distinction.

The original Friends of Distinction were singer-songwriters Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, with Barbara Jean Love and Jessica Cleaves.  The group began to decline, I believe, after Love and Cleaves left the group in the early Seventies, but musical tastes were already changing.  By 1975, even with new personnel, they broke up completely, with Elston and Butler parting, it was said, acrimoniously.  The pair did not reconcile their differences  until it was too late.  By 1990, they had put their past behind them and were in talks to reconstitute the group when Floyd Butler died of a massive coronary (some say stroke) literally in Elston’s arms.  In 1996, however, the Friends of Distinction returned to performing with Elston, Pattie Brooks, Van Jewel, and Drake Frye.  The present line-up includes Harry Elston, Geno Henderson, Wendy Brune and Berlando Drake.

Who wrote “Going in Circles“?  Songwriters Jerry Peters and Anita Poree.  It first appeared on the Friends’ debut album, Grazin’ on RCA in 1969. Since then, the song has been covered by the likes of Isaac Hayes and Luther Vandross.  Here are the words:

I’m an ever rollin’ wheel, without a destination reel.
I’m an ever spinning top, whirling around ’till I drop.
Oh, but what am I to do, my mind is in a whirlpool.
Give me a little hope, one small thing to cling to.
You got me going in circles (oh round and round I go)
You got me going in circles
(oh round and round I go, I’m spun out over you)

I’m a faceless clock, with timeless hopes that never stop.
Lord, but I feel that way, of my soul. My soul is, “Stay.”
Oh, but what am I to do, my mind is in a whirlpool.
Give me a little hope, one small thing to cling to.
You got me going in circles (oh round and round I go)
You got me going in circles
(oh round and round I go) I’m spun out over you

(I need you baby) over you (I need you baby) spun out over you.
(I need you baby, I need you baby baby)
I’m spun (I need you baby) I said I’m spun out over you (I need you baby)
Spun out over you (I need you baby, I need you baby, I need you baby)

The Friends of Distinction is at Soul Tracks.  Enjoy.

~ by blksista on August 12, 2012.

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