Archie Bell & The Drells – (There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown

24th January 2024 · 1970s, 1973, Music, Soul

This was the first tune I heard by Archie Bell & The Drells when it was a hit single in 1973. It’s very different from the sprightly funk jam of Tighten Up which put them on the soul and funk map five years earlier. For that matter it’s different to the Northern Soul stomper Here I Go Again that gave them their first UK hit at the end of 1972.

With its spoken-word intro, orchestral arrangement and sweet harmonies, (There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown is a classic slice of Philly soul. Written and produced by Gamble & Huff, it came out on the Atlantic label before they signed up with the duo’s own Philadelphia International Records.

One of seven brothers (another of them, Ricky, was a famous NFL footballer), Archie formed the vocal group in his home town of Houston, Texas, in 1966 with his friends James Wise, Willie Parnell and Billy Butler.

That same year Archie was drafted into the US army but was home on leave long enough to take part in their first recordings, including Tighten Up, inspired by a dance his bandmate Butler created to try and cheer him up after he got his draft papers.

As the single took off, selling a million copies, the band had to draft in James Wise, a replacement for the absent Archie at concerts, until Archie was invalided out of the military after suffering a leg injury – not in combat but in a truck accident while training in Germany.

By the time they recorded their second album, I Can’t Stop Dancing, in 1969 Archie was back in the fold and the Drells had signed up with Gamble & Huff, with Butler replaced by Archie’s brother Lee, who became the band choreographer.