Maxine Nightingale did not like this song. She thought the lyrics were vapid. She thought keyboards were annoying and the handclaps were downright obnoxious. When she finally relented to recording it, it was under the promise that it wouldn’t be released under her own. She also didn’t want any royalties, thinking it was a dumb song that nobody was interested in. But rather that give her a $75 recording fee, her friend and songwriter, Vince Edwards, talked her into taking a back-end royalty cut. To Maxine’s chagrin the 45 bore her name. But to her good luck, the song was an around the world smash, giving the appropriately named Nightingale her signature hit. (and a lot of royalty money)
So why did this song have so much success? Here are my thoughts.
In England, Northern Soul was peaking as a genre. But its playlist of obscure 60s & early 70s soul and funk was beginning to grow stale. So newer releases with that same vibe readily filled that gap on the packed allnighters at the Wigan Casino. Right Back Where We Started From had the feel of a Holland-Dozier-Holland song buried on the B-side of a Motown artist’s LP with Maxine provided a Martha Reeves-styled vocal.
In the U.S. we were riding high, emotionally proud with our approaching Bi-Centennial around the corner and a desire to put our Vietnam-Nixon mistakes behind us. We wanted to dance & party. In came Maxine with a bright poppy hit that we could bounce & clap to. Had Johnnie Taylor’s Disco Lady not held residence at the top spot for a month, this Gold record may have been a bride and not a bridesmaid.
As a kid I always got excited when this song came on the radio. Maybe it was the easy singalong chorus. Maybe it was the handclaps. Handclapping is fun when you’re 5. Maybe it was the retro feel, before anyone knew what that was, that harkened back to a time that had only just passed 8-10 years previous. Standing fresh-faced in the present as a step out of time.
Bonus facts: The bass player from E.L.O plays on this as well as one of their violinists who did the string arrangement.