It should take you only a minute--or four at the most--to fall in love with The Tavares' 1975 hit "It Only Takes A Minute." My bad puns aside, the danceable track represents one of the group's first crossover hits as well as a perfect slice of mid-70s soul.
While The Tavares' music resembles the Philadelphia International sound, the group hails from New Bedford, Massachusetts. The five Tavares brothers--Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch, and Tiny--began performing as "Chubby and the Turnpikes," playing R&B covers in local clubs. As they honed their sound during the late 60s and early 70s, they finally caught the attention of Capitol Records, who were just launching an R&B music division. Their first album, 1973's Check It Out, produced the group's first number one R&B hit with the title track. But their collaboration with then-emerging producers/songwriters Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter sent the Tavares brothers into the stratosphere, as 1974's Hard Core Poetry and 1975's In the City sold well due to a string of successful singles. The latter album featured "It Only Takes A Minute," which topped the R&B charts and peaked at number ten on the Billboard 100.
"It Only Takes A Minute" succeeds based on two key elements: the keyboard-based riff present at the beginning of the song, before each verse, and toward the end; and The Tavares' tight harmonies. That riff lingers long after the track is finished, and the singers' voices precisely blend together even when they are essentially doing percussive vocals (such as on the line "Bom, bom, bom, bom, fall in love"). The brothers trade off vocals, with each voice having a distinct tone that just adds to the track's funkiness. Indeed, Lambert and Potter knew how to write a memorable hook, which is key to any pop song, but the driving beat keeps listeners on the dance floor.
Another fascinating aspect of the song is in its relatively deep lyrics. The chorus appears like any typical love song ("It only takes a minute, girl/ To fall in love, to fall in love"), but some of the verses recall Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's subtly political material. Like that legendary duo, Lambert and Potter sneak in some commentary while enticing everyone to do the hustle. Think back to 1975: the U.S. was experiencing a recession, the unemployment rate peaked at 9.2%, and the country was still recovering from the Watergate scandal. This general malaise is present in the lyrics: "What's an hour of the day/ We throw at least one away," the brothers sing. "And walk the streets for half the year/ To try to find a new career." The unease continues in the next verse:
Now in the unemployment lines
You can spend your life reading signs
Waiting for your interview
They can shoot the whole day for you
To matters worse, the Tavareses sing, "Now winter's gonna turn to spring/ And you haven't accomplished a thing." But when it comes to love, there's no wasting an hour, a day, a month, or a year, as the lyrics already mention. Instead, "baby leave a little time/ 'Cause you never know what's on my mind"; in other words, carpe diem. "It Only Takes A Minute" may deal with some weighty stuff, but its beat and The Tavares' smooth yet funky vocal style make for an irresistible combination.