Another Look At ‘Pain’

Time to talk about “Pain” again. In last week’s post putting the 1969 single by the Mystics into the Ultimate Jukebox, I got a few things wrong (since corrected in that post with some help from reader Yah Shure). And there were a few more things to learn about the song.

I’ve been aware for years that the Mystics were also known at another time as Michael’s Mystics, but I’ve also – for years – had the sequence wrong. The Twin Cities group’s original name was Michael’s Mystics, so-called, says Bill Lordan, who played drums in the band, “because the leader and founder of the band was Michael Stokes.” (The quote is included in an interview with Lordan – who also played in Gypsy – at the website Midwest Music Tribute.) Yah Shure noted in our email exchange at the end of last week that the band’s name was changed when Metromedia issued its version of the group’s recording of “Pain,” thus leaving Minnesota’s Mystics “forever henceforth confused with the 1959 ‘Hushabye’ Mystics.”

But the brief saga of “Pain” begins earlier than that, in North Carolina, says Yah Shure.

“Pain” was written by Bob Mann, a member of Nova’s Nine, a band from Statesville, North Carolina. Nova’s Nine recorded the original version of “Pain” for Heritage Records, and ABC picked up the recording for national release. Yah Shure said he thinks his promo 45 of the Nova’s Nine recording is marked October 1968. (He couldn’t lay his hands on it the other day, as the record seems to have been misfiled, but I’ll happily rely on his memory; he rarely errs.) He noted that the Nova’s Nine version of “Pain” has the same trumpet arrangement as would be used by Michael’s Mystics:

How “Pain” came to the attention of Michael’s Mystics, I don’t know. But in 1969, the Twin Cities band recorded the song and released it on the Charlie label. Observant readers last week might have noticed that the image of the record in the embedded video had no catalog number, which is odd. Yah Shure told me Sunday that he’s not sure of much about the Charlie label: “It might even have been the band’s own label,” he said. “There’s not a lot of information out there.”

And Yah Shure noted that the mix of the record on the Charlie label – the version of “Pain” I embedded last week – seems to be odd, with the drums buried deep. There’s a caveat there, however: “As with anything posted on YouTube, once can never be sure if the vidclip’s audio is the same as it is on the actual record,” Yah Shure wrote to me. “In any event, those drums are sure buried deep.”

So when Metromedia picked up “Pain” for national release, there were a few things changed. The name of the band was shortened to the Mystics, and the drums were pulled forward in the mix. The commercial single – with a cover of the J. J. Jackson tune, “But It’s Alright,” on the B-side – was released in stereo, which created a problem, Yah Shure said.

“The commercial single on Metromedia has a very wide stereo soundstage,” Yah Shure wrote, “with guitars and bass panned hard left, drums panned hard right, brass split between the two channels and Michael Stokes’ vocal centered in the middle. Playing the stereo 45 on mono AM radio would have made Stokes’ lead vocal twice as loud as everything else, so Metromedia made a separate dedicated mono mix for the promo 45, with instruments and vocals in balance.”

Here’s the Metromedia release (and, by its visual, the radio promo):

When I wrote about “Pain” last week, reader and frequent commenter Perplexio asked if the Mystics had their own horns or if they used session musicians for the horn parts. I wracked my brain, trying to remember what the band looked like on stage during that long-ago dance in September 1969, and all I can say is that I think there were horns on stage.

So I threw the question to Yah Shure, and his response confirmed what I thought I remembered: The Mystics, he said, had to have their own horn section, “or they couldn’t possibly have done justice to the recording at their live appearances.” Beyond that, he noted, “Local bands were all self-contained units. It wasn’t common to have employed session players for locally produced records at the time. It wasn’t unheard of,” he adds, “but not at all common.”

Yah Shure noted that the high prices for copies of both the Nova’s Nine and the Mystics’ recordings of “Pain” online is a result of the records having been tagged as Northern Soul, with both releases showing up on the want lists of many Northern Soul collectors. So my two dollar investment in the antique shop in Royalton was, he agreed, quite a bargain.

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10 Responses to “Another Look At ‘Pain’”

  1. Sharon Rogers says:

    I listened to this song (that I have never heard before). At the present time I can relate to the words on a personal level.
    Just a FYI – I have not been able to write lately because I injured my shoulder in a fall and can only type with one hand. Hopefully it will be fixed so I can continue. I will need surgery so it will be awhile.

  2. Yah Shure says:

    My Nova’s Nine “Pain” date guesstimate turned out to be a month late . My DJ single is stamped with the date “Sep 9 1968.”

    A listener phoned KDWB one morning in 1988, offering to sell me his collection of locally-produced ’60s singles. Among those I bought was the only other record Michael’s Mystics ever issued: “You Ran Away” on Bear Records. The title didn’t ring a bell, and neither did the record during the first part of its initial spin. The “oh, wow!” moment came during the latter part of the chorus, and I instantly flashed back to hearing it on KDWB in 1965. Back then. the drum pattern at that point in the chorus had reminded me of the Beau Brummels’ “Laugh, Laugh”, so I’d simply assumed that “You Ran Away” was the new Beau Brummels record. KDWB dropped the song within a couple of weeks, and I never gave it another thought.

    Thanks for giving the band their due!

  3. Genny R says:

    For sure they had their own horns. Early on it was Greg Hartman (gorgeous) and Wes Hayne. Know this cause I was the president of their fan club.

  4. Ellae Wilson says:

    I don’t remember the names of the other guys who played horn, but there were regular horn players in Michael’s Mystics as they performed in the late ’60s and early ’70s. One member, who played saxophone was Wes Hayne. One other horn player, though I’ve forgotten his last name was Gary. I remember that the keyboard player was Butch Stokes (Michael’s brother) and that in addition to Bill Lordan on drums, Willy Weeks played bass for a while. Later there was a guy named Joey Piazza… and there even later Buster Weldon played in the band, too.

  5. Ellae Wilson says:

    … the other sax player was Greg Hartman… not Gary. Sorry about that.

  6. Wes Hayne says:

    I played in the Mystics and was one of the sax players on “Pain”. Pain was originally recorded on Metromedia Records. The producer was Ira Heilicher who was also connected to Heilicher Brothers, the world’s largest record distributor at the time. The song was picked off of the Grassroots LP because it was getting airplay and looked like it could be a good single.
    To answer..the band had it’s own horn section. Myself(sax), Greg Hartman(sax) and Dave Hanson(trumpet).

  7. Dick Ross says:

    I have a clipping from my old high school newspaper listing the most popular songs at Albemarle Senior High School (the NC locals will know where Albemarle is) dated September 27, 1968. “Pain” (spelled {“Payne” for some reason) comes in at # 6 (right after “I Can’t Stop Dancing” by Archie Bell and the Drells and “Harper Valley PTA.” In short, “Pain” must have been released no later than September 1968.

  8. C. says:

    I had a weird experience this morning. I was in front of my house when a man stopped. He was in a truck. He asked if I lived in the house. I said that I did and he told me “Pain” by Michael’s Mystics was recorded in my garage. I asked how he knew that. He said he’d lived behind my house for 50 years. He didn’t identify himself as a current neighbor. So, truth or lie? How do I find this out?

  9. Kay says:

    I believe iknoiw someone who used to be in the mystics. In case you need more information

  10. Jerry says:

    Grew up with the Mystics ..Still remember when they played outside at Coffman Union early spring or fall in 1968-69.This was one of the best shows ever in the Twin City area. Chopper had his keyboard up above a rose planter and the Horns were out of sight. Someone told me that Butch Stokes always had a reel to reel recording at every show.If that’s true where o where are those tapes? These dudes were really really good..

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