Psychedelic Shack is the twelfth studio album by The Temptations released on March 6, 1970, for the Gordy (Motown) label. All songs were written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and produced by Whitfield. Most of the songs stray from the “Motown Sound”, instead delving fully into psychedelia.
The album cover, a collage/illustration by Hermon Weems, places photographs of the Temptations in a depiction of a psychedelic shack: an establishment in urban neighborhoods where people could go to “enhance their minds” through art, music, and mind-altering drugs. The album begins with a knock at the door, and the sound of footsteps as a stranger wanders into an unfamiliar location.
- Dennis Edwards: vocals (tenor)
- Eddie Kendricks: vocals (tenor/falsetto)
- Paul Williams: vocals (tenor/baritone)
- Melvin Franklin: vocals (bass)
- Otis Williams: vocals (tenor/baritone)
- Norman Whitfield: producer, composer, lyricist
- Barrett Strong: composer, lyricist
- The Funk Brothers: instrumentation
Finding a phonograph, the stranger drops the needle on the song that happened to be in the player—The Temptations’ 1969 number-one hit “I Can’t Get Next to You”. The phonograph is heard playing “I Can’t Get Next to You’s” intro, reaching Dennis Edwards’ interruption (“Hold on, everybody, hold it, hold on…listen!”) before the album immediately segues into the first song, “Psychedelic Shack”.
“Psychedelic Shack”/”That’s The Way Love Is” was the only single from this album and was released on December 28, 1969. This single features the Temptations and Whitfields continuing their submergence into psychedelia, with multi-lead vocals, hard rock guitars, synthesizer sound effects, multitracked drums, and stereo-shifting vocals giving the record a distinct sound.
Album Track Listing
- Psychedelic Shack 3:53
- You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth 2:46
- Hum Along And Dance 3:53
- Take A Stroll Thru Your Mind 8:32
- It’s Summer 2:35
- War 4:13
- You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) 4:02
- Friendship Train 7:53
The song’s title and lyrics refer to a type of hippie nightclub popular in the late 1960s. The song reached #7 on the US Billboard Hot 100, #4 Cash Box, and #2 on the US R&B charts. “Hum Along and Dance” was released as the B-side of their 1970 single “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)”. “You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth”, was issued as the B-side of the 1971 hit “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”.
This album contains the original recording of the song “War”. Motown didn’t think the Temptations should be presented in the anti-war image so Whitfield was convinced to re-record it, this time with Edwin Starr, who had a smash hit. It has a military beat to it, with Paul Williams and Edwards singing lead and Franklin doing the military marching count. This was a superb song protesting the Vietnam War, both versions.
- Native Detroiter Hermon Weems was born on February 21st, 1938. He began his musical career as a teenage member of a street corner group known as The Sparrows during the early 50s. Hermon found himself working for Gordy for a second time. Hermon’s talents extended further than just that of a musician he was a talented artist and soon found himself working in the art department at Motown. Some of his most accomplished works are the covers for the Temptation’s “Psychedelic Shack” and “Cloud Nine” albums. [Back]