*12.08-BALL OF CONFUSION (Temptations)




People movin' out.
People movin' in.
Why? Because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sure can't hide.

An eye for an eye.
A tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me, and I'll set you free!
Rap on brother, rap on!

Well, the only person talkin'
'Bout love thy brother is the preacher.
And it seems nobody’s interested in learnin'
But the teacher.

        Segregation, determination, demonstration,
        Integration, aggravation,
        Humiliation, obligation to our nation.
        Ball of Confusion!
        That's what the world is today.

The sale of pills are at an all-time high.
Young folks walk around with their heads in the sky.
Cities aflame in the summer time!
And the beat goes on.

        Air pollution, revolution, gun control,
        Sound of soul.
        Shootin' rockets to the moon.
        Kids growin' up too soon.
        Politicians say more taxes will solve everything!
        And the band played on.

        So round 'n' round 'n' round we go.
        Where the world's headed, nobody knows.


                Just a Ball of Confusion!
                Oh yeah, that's what the world is today.

        Fear in the air, tension everywhere.
        Unemployment rising fast.
        The Beatles' new record's a gas.
        And the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation!
        And the band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction.
City inspectors, bill collectors.
Mod clothes in demand.
Population out of hand.
Suicide, too many bills.
Hippies movin’ to the hills.
People all over the world are shoutin' end the war!
And the band played on.


                A Ball of Confusion!
                That’s what the world is today.
(3x & fade)

A constant tempo is set up for Ball of Confusion upon which a nearly spoken unrhymed “rap” is laid down. (By the way, Ball of Confusion is probably the first time “rap” showed up in a popular song lyric.) The Temptations song thrusts frantically forward like a locomotive, and there’s such a variety of voices, in the manner of Sly & the Family Stone, that one is unaware that the lines are not being sung. Instead of escape and fantasy, a psychedelic format is bent toward “today’s headlines” jostled together in such a manner as to communicate the confusion of the times. Hippies movin’ to the hills comments on the change of the counterculture movement from an urban to a rural experience—a shift in lifestyle that echoed the shift of aesthetic from psychedelic space exploration to “sincere” simplicity and Americana. The lyric The Beatles’ new record’s a gas is ironic at this point, as everyone knew there would be no more new Beatles records.

Ball of Confusion, with its mention of the beat goes on echoes a 1967 song by Sonny & Cher. Though The Beat Goes On was not a psychedelic song, it commented rather breezily (and in rhyme- “the grocery store’s the super mart”, etc.) on changing times. In contrast, Ball of Confusion is early evidence of a new and primarily Black aesthetic of keeping it real which would begin to blossom during this period through lyricists such as Barrett Strong and Curtis Mayfield, and develop into a central point of view for hip hop in the decades to come. [Whereas Cher sings a cabaret-like “la di da di di, la di da di die” in The Beat Goes On, the break in Ball of Confusion contains a threatening curse of “oogum boogum”.] Today the song might be considered primarily as funk, but it was billed at the time as psychedelic soul. Multi-tracked wah-wah guitars and other technological effects such as reverb added the psychedelic dimension and indeed helped to connect the song to a White audience, though the lyrical point of view in Ball of Confusion is critical of the psychedelic scene, connecting, as it does by its lyrical sequence, drug use with urban riots.