Album: Tighten Up (1968)
Charted: 1


  • Archie Bell & The Drells were a soul group signed to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's record label. Gamble and Huff were prolific songwriters, but this song was written by Bell and the group's guitarist, Billy Butler. The song is about a dance, and the title has a double meaning: "Tighten Up" can mean to play music together in tempo or tune, with a psychological element that the band is emotionally engaged in the music. The phrase can also mean moving closer together on the dance floor, or to engage in sexual activity.
  • At the time of the release of this record Archie Bell was drafted into the US Army and began serving in Vietnam. He was shot in the leg and the song went to #1 while he was in a military hospital trying to convince people the song on the radio was his.
  • Originally a B-Side, by Archie Bell's return it had sold 4 million copies.
  • The line, "We dance just as good as we walk" was a little ironic, given that Bell was lying crippled in a hospital bed at the time this was a hit.
  • Archie Bell & The Drells had another American hit the same year: "I Can't Stop Dancing," which peaked at #9. However they had to wait until 1972 for their first British chart entry, when "Here I Go Again" peaked at #11. Their only other UK Top 20 entry was in 1976 with "Soul City Walk," which reached #13.
  • James Brown performed this song at some of his live shows - it's one of the few songs he performed but did write. His version can be found on the 1968 album Say It Live And Loud: Live In Dallas.
  • This was used in the 2007 movie Talk To Me, which is about Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph "Petey" Greene.
  • Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff explained in a 2008 interview with National Public Radio that along with Bunny Sigler, who was a producer at their record label, they often sang backup on records for their artists, so in the studio, they were "The Drells." They sang on a lot of the Stylistics and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes records as well.

Comments: 6

  • Camille from Toronto, OhI would love to have Tighten Up as a ringtone. I was just a skinny little ten year old white girl when this song was popular and even then I loved it; still do. It was one of the first songs I added to my ipod in 2005. (The instrumental song K-Jee, from Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, sounds suspiciously similar, I love that song, too.) This song was listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the only #1 song by an active Vietnam soldier. It is ranked #265 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is one of the earliest funk hits in music history.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScRegarding the fact about James Brown: Did they mean to write that this is one of the few songs that he performed that he didn't write? Did write does not make sense in this context. I know this question is silly; I just wanted to make sure I'm reading correctly.
  • Jerry Jenkins from Houston , TxHi I'am Jerry Jenkins:
    I start off that way because it good to see that Tighten-Up is still being played.Now to set the record straight Iam th original Bassist on the 1968 mega-hit as well as a memeber of the real hit makers behind Archie Bell's success that group is called the T.S.U.TORONADOS and we too were on ATLANTIC RECORDS and STAX RECORDS. We to have cd. out with all our rare recordings as well as the only Live cd of all the original memebers
    before the gutiar player died.Just some truth songfacts that most people in the music business
    know about.Most of the music world think that Archie Bell played the music but that is not truth..."THAT IS THE REST OF THE STORY"

    Fill free to contact me at my e-mail

    Jerry Jenkins
  • Shaun from Baker, FlI was recently in a mall in Florida and I heard "Tighten Up" being played and it was a lady's rington for her cell; and she wasn't of the Black Ethnic Race; that was so enlightning for me; to know that other people enjoy our music from back in the day to the point of using it as their rington. I have always loved that song and recently have tried to find the ringtone for my cell; I found this site just today and will definitely use it for my rington; indefinitely! There's nothing like Old SChool Songs that move your inner soul to feel like everything is still "Right On" in 2008.
  • Raymond from Chicago, Il, IlI heard Archie Bell and the Drells song the Tighten Up the other day. I told someone that "that song is over 40 years old". I know because I am am (45)years old and I remember my sister who was (17) years old and my brother (15) years old playing the Tighten Up while I was 5 years old. The Tighten Up will always be one of my favorite songs ! Great Song !!!!!

    Raymond, Chicago, IL
  • Hugh from Kansas City, MoMy wife loves this song. It was used in a Simpson's episode when Homer is recalling a stint in his youth as a one man band. Just doesn't seem quite as hip when he is singing this on a street corner, covered with instruments.
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