Posts Tagged ‘Nova’s Nine’

Another Look At ‘Pain’

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

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.