The Marvelettes – Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead – TMG 535
It feels like a relief to get back to familiar Tamla Motown territory with this single after Tamla Motown’s previous couple of excursions into music style dead ends with Billy Eckstine and Dorsey Burnett.
The Marvelettes were established mainstream Motown artists, with their debut, “Please Mr Postman” hitting the US Number one spot and being picked up by the Beatles. However, they never recaptured that peak and although they continued to record and release some good, even great, material, they were being overtaken by Motown’s other girl groups – notably the Supremes.
This record is a good one that gets plenty of plays and remains one that I really like.
Dorsey Burnett – Jimmy Brown – TMG 534
To my ears, this is the strangest record in the whole of the UK Tamla Motown singles catalogue. It’s a country song that is clearly inspired by Johnny Cash. It was lifted from the US Melody label, which was a subsidiary of Motown.
Dorsey Burnett was the brother of Rock ‘n’ Roller Johnny Burnett, who had hits in the UK with “You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine” and “Dreamin'”. Dorsey never emulated his brother’s success, but Motown in the USA kept faith with him until he departed to the more country-friendly Mercury label and they welcomed him back in the Mid 70s when US Motown had another stab at a country label.
I doubt that this song is even on the radar of most of the DJs and Radio shows that play Motown and I’d love to see the reactions of a norther soul crowd if this slipped onto a turntable at an all-niter!
Billy Eckstine – Had You Been Around – TMG 533
In 1965, Billy Eckstine’s career had passed its peak, but he was the biggest name to join Motown up to that point. From his roots in jazz and big bands, he had become a crooner in the 50s and made the transition to soul with his stint at Motown and later at Stax.
However, the record itself isn’t the last gasp of a fading artist, it’s actually rather good, if a little dated by the prevailing musical styles of 1965. Interestingly, Tamla Motown in the UK took the wise decision to relegate the US A side of this record and promoted the original, and in my view, better, B side for its UK release.
Although Billy Eckstine stayed with Motown for four more years, this was his only single release for the label.
Stevie Wonder – High Heeled Sneakers – TMG 532
Although Motown had some talented songwriters, a surprising number of their releases were cover versions of hits (and non-hits) by other artists. This song was originally recorded by Tommy Tucker in 1964 and you can also hear his version on YouTube.
Stevie’s version was no ground-breaker, but seems to re-tread his 1963 hit, “Fingertips”. Put simply, Stevie’s best days are a long way into the future, so it’s good the Motown didn’t give up on the novelty child star, but gave him the time to mature.
The UK release wasn’t a hit, but isn’t particularly rare. I have to say that this is more of collection filler than a record to be hunted down for its own worth.
The Contours – First I Look At The Purse – TMG 531
This Northern Soul stalwart record has been a fixture since the earliest days of the dance genre, right back to the Mods and before the Northern Soul label had been devised in 1970 by soul music fan, collector, retailer and journalist Dave Godin, who incidentally was also the founder of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society.
The song was written by Smokey Robinson and his Miracles band-mate Bobby Rogers and is is essentially a comedy song, although for the Northern Soul scene, its appeal lies much more in its driving rhythm from the Funk Brothers.
This song marked a parting of the ways for the Contours as the original lead singer, Billy Gordon left after this single.
Martha & The Vandellas – Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things) – TMG 530 B
Today’s stroll though the history of the UK Tamla Motown singles catalogue sees a rare excursion onto a B side.
As we will see as this series unfold, Martha Reeves had more than one great song hidden away on the flip side of what was often a successful single in its own right. I
n 1965, Martha and The Vandellas were very much an uptempo, feel-good part of the Motown roster, so this deep soul ballad on the B side of You’ve Been In Love Too Long, was an oddity. Even more oddly, it was picked up by radio stations across the USA and received enough airplay to make the Billboard chart in its own right (OK, only at number 70).
Martha Reeves herself is reported to have said that is one her own favourite Motown recording, so please don’t let anything put you off taking a listen to her great, soulful vocals on this track. Of course, it did nothing in the UK charts and this single is something of a rarity on UK Tamla Motown, although import copies (including promo copies like mine) on US Gordy are rather less scarce.
Martha & The Vandellas – Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things) US promo copy
Martha & The Vandellas – You’ve Been In Love Too Long – TMG 530
For many people, myself included, Martha Reeves recorded some of the best female vocals of the Motown stable of artists.
The record is a competent dancer, but other than the tinkling piano, probably deserves its UK chart obscurity. It is a good song to hear occasionally and is revived at the ever popular Soul and Motown Nights that seem to be a staple of almost every otherwise failing pub.
This single was something of an oddity because the “A” side, written by Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Hunter and Clarence Paul) went top 40 in USA, (but again, not in the UK) but the B side took on a life of its own. For that reason, I am going to post “Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)” tomorrow.