This song is about marital infidelity. The couple meets at the same time and place every day, but must be careful not to arouse the suspicions of their partners. It's somewhat rare in the sense that it's told from the point of view of the people doing the cheating.
A hint about this song's subject matter is cleverly "hidden" in its intro: the saxophone is playing the first line from a 1953 Doris Day hit entitled "Secret Love," which won the Oscar for Best Original Song (Day sang it in the movie Calamity Jane). (thanks, Robin - Birmingham, AL)
This was written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Carey Gilbert. Gamble and Huff formed a famous songwriting team that helped define the Philadelphia Soul sound of the '70s. Gilbert, also known as "Hippy," is a lyricist who often teamed with Gamble and Huff, and worked on hits for The O'Jays, Lou Rawls and many others.
Kenny Gamble explained to National Public Radio in 2008 that he and Huff got the idea for the song from trips to a little bar downstairs in the Schubert Building, which was where their record company was located. Said Gamble: "This guy used to come into the bar every day - little guy that looked like a judge. We're songwriters, so we're always thinking about a song. The next day he came in again, and every day after he'd come in, this girl would come in 10-15 minutes after he'd get there, and they'd sit in the same booth, then go to the jukebox and play the same songs. We said, 'That's me and Mrs. Jones.' Then, when they'd get ready to leave, he would go his way and she would go hers. It could have been his daughter, his niece, anybody, but we created a story that there was some kind of romantic connection between these people, so we went upstairs to our office and wrote the song."
The song came to life after Billy Paul took it with him on vacation and came back to deliver the powerful, emotive vocals that many people could relate to.
This was released on Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International records. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul was his first release on the label.
The female backing singers on this one were Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Known as "The Sweethearts Of Sigma" or just "The Sweeties," they sang on many of the recordings that took place at Sigma Sound Studios, where this song was recorded.
When this hit #1 on December 16, 1972, it knocked Helen Reddy's female-empowerment anthem "I Am Woman
" out of the top spot.