Chart Week: November 6, 1976
Song: “The Rubberband Man” – The Spinners
Chart Position: #15, 9th week on the chart. Peaked at #2 for three weeks in December.
As promised, our first journey into the 1970s occasionally. This is the perfect jam to make that deeper run into the chart history.
As I’ve said many times in the past, my parents listened to a lot of soul, R&B, urban, or Black music, whatever you want to call it. Within their record collection were albums from both mainstream artists like Stevie Wonder and The Commodores and more traditional soul outfits like The Spinners. So I go way back with these cats. It’s obvious why they were in my parents’ stack of albums: they simply made great songs.
I always had a special affinity for this song. My five-year-old mind took the song rather literally and imagined a cartoon character made from a rubber band. He was a totally 70s dude, big cheesy smile on his face, wearing some funky shoes, bouncing around town fighting crime, going on adventures, making kids happy, or whatever. To me this song wasn’t much different than songs like “Kung Fu Fighting” or “Disco Duck,” which was #2 on this week’s chart.
Turns out the song was originally called “The Fat Man” and was written by Thom Bell in an attempt to give his son, who was overweight, a boost of self-confidence. Man, the 70s were a weird time. Someone, I don’t know if it was Bell or one of the Spinners, realized a better title might be in order and somehow they landed on The Rubberband Man. That probably made Bell’s son feel better than a song with the word fat in the title.
Fast forward a few years, probably to the spring of 1981. I was watching the NBC pregame show for the college basketball game of the week and they ran a feature on Tulsa’s Paul Pressey, who had been given the nickname “Rubberband Man” because of his dunking prowess. The piece featured clips of some of his best dunks over the song from which he earned his name.
Spinners song + cool nickname + generic 1980s dunks = very excited (almost) 10-year-old me! Paul Pressey was probably my sixth favorite basketball player on the planet that spring, behind Magic, Kareem, Darnell Valentine, Tony Guy, and Phil Ford. Which was kind of weird because I’ll guarantee you in our no-cable-having days I never saw Pressey play other than in that 2–3 minute NBC feature.
I remember being so inspired that I sat down and drew my version of the Rubberband Man, which came from those mental images I had put together five years earlier. I drew a long, twisted rubber band with a wink on his face, floppy basketball socks and Converse high tops, reaching for the rim to throw down a dunk. I was not a very artistic kid, but I guarantee this was the greatest picture I ever drew. I’m bummed I didn’t save it so I could prove it.
Anyway, great song, fun memories. And this video? Holy shit!
(BTW, I wondered if I had ever written about this before. [Turns out I had]. But I’m not not posting this, so if your memory is good enough to remember a post from almost 10 years ago, my apologies for wasting your time.)