Ball Of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)

Album: The Ultimate Collection (1970)
Charted: 7 3
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  • This was one of the many psychedelic soul records that Norman Whitfield wrote and produced for the Temptations between the late '60 and early '70s. The song tries to make sense of the chaos and disorder pervading the times.
  • Lyrically, the song attacked the Vietnam War, Nixon's government, and drug addiction, making it one of the few protest records that came from Motown.
  • Bob Babbitt of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers recalled to Mojo magazine February 2009 the recording of this track: "Norman Whitfield gave the call to me the night before (the session). So I got to the studio the next day, there were a whole load of guys in there - Uriel Jones, Pistol Allen, Jack Ashford, Eddie Bongo, Earl Van Dyke on clavinet, Johnny Griffith on organ, Joe Messina, Dennis Coffey.

    There was no song, just some musical ideas, some chord patterns, and part of a bassline he played us. Norman knew what he wanted though, that it was going to be funky. He'd been listening to a lot of Hendrix, Sly & the Family Stone, that's the sound he wanted to make the Motown sound.

    Putting it together was simple, we just did that one song in the three-hour session and we had enough time left over to eat some BLT sandwiches. We didn't know it was going to be political, because the lyrics weren't written when the rhythm track was recorded.

    I heard the song four days later. It was a Saturday morning, I was running errands and it came on the automobile radio. They got the songs out quick in those days, especially in Detroit."
  • Dennis Coffey used a Vox Tone Bender pedal and an Echoplex effect unit on his guitar to get psychedelic delay. Coffey also used the Echoplex on "In The Rain" by The Dramatics, where it is more pronounced.
  • This was one of number of classic R&B and gospel songs performed by Whoopi Goldberg and her choir in the 1993 movie, Sister Act 2 Back in the Habit.
  • A number of artists have covered this tune, including The Neville Brothers, Tina Turner, Duran Duran and Anthrax. Tina Turner's version was included on the 1982 LP Music of Quality And Distinction Volume One, a tribute album by the B.E.F, a production team formed by former Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh who later became Heaven 17 (with lead singer Glenn Gregory). The album involved other artists covering classic songs, mainly done in their electro-pop style with synthesizers and LinnDrums. Martyn Ware recalled to us the moment where Tina and her manager Rodger Davis first walked into the studio. "She said, 'Martyn, nice to meet you. Where is the band?' And I pointed at the Fairlight and I said, 'It's there.' Of course, this was the early days of that stuff. They were blown away, really."

    Tina Turner's recording of the track opened the album and was also issued as a single reaching the Top 5 in Norway. It proved to be an important song in Turner's career as it led to Capitol Records signing her and her next single, a Martyn Ware produced cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," became a surprise hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Comments: 8

  • Julie from DmvI've always loved this song. My kids know it because Motown us all listen to but I just read the words to them because they're so relevant today!! Wow! God help us!
  • Major from Lost In ArkansasIf ever a 'song' that ALL can\could relate 2...itz Ball of Confusion...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer:
    Dennis Edwards, who sang on Temptations hits like "Ball Of Confusion", "I Can't Get Next To You", "Cloud Nine" and "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", died Friday (February 2nd 2018) in Chicago while rehabilitating from an aneurysm. The Fairfield, Alabama native was one day shy of his 75th birthday.
    The Edwards family moved to Detroit when Dennis was 10 and he began singing with the Mighty Clouds of Joy gospel group there. In 1961 he recorded a local secular single, but gave up music temporarily while serving in the military. In 1966 he auditioned for Motown Records, where he was placed on retainer and sang for awhile with the Contours. He then moved on to the Temptations, where he replaced the troubled David Ruffin. Dennis himself was released by the group in 1977 but returned three years later (though he was let go on two more occasions). In recent years he has toured as the "Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards", a splinter group of the originals. He was married briefly to Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters. Dennis was inducted along with the Temptations into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
    May he R.I.P.
  • Markantney from BiloxeMay 2015, I like this song (a lot) but many others of theirs I like more but they don't get enough credit (them, Motown,...) for this song is a huge departure from their reps.

    Yet the song is arranged/performed like all their other hits but this one is singing about serious issues outside of Love and Romance.
  • Jorge from Sunrise, FlPlayed this for my daughter : She told me " This is about all the problems today!" well....
  • Tony from Vienna, WvConfusion, mixed up minds, political unrest, war, taxes, racism, fighting, hate, love, tears, religion, anti-religion, and joy. What else can be said. Norman Whitfield wrote a song of the time and he could not have found a better group to record it. Jump in, jump out, all there was to do was play on!
  • Charlie from Nyc, Nygreat song by the temptations. great beat and lyrics.
  • Jay from Brooklyn, NyI am shocked that no one else has commented on this song, because it is one of the Temptations' greatest. Ball of Confusion is chaotic: a singer darts in with a few lines - or a few words - before another singer comes in to take his place and the lyrics jump from theme to theme in a disjointed manner. The song is utterly insane and perfectly displays what so many people were feeling in the late sixties and what many people are feeling today.
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