Tag Archives: Motown

“But someone picked you from the bunch, one glance was all it took”


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One of my most favourite Motown songs is the Jackson 5‘s “I Want You Back”. It’s a great song and it feels like it was made especially for the group. However it seems that whilst the Jackson boys made the song their own it was actually written for Gladys Knight and the Pips. I wonder what their version would have sounded like? Gladys had discovered the Jackson 5 and brought the group to the attention of Motown. But it is usually Berry Gordy‘s Motown teacher’s pet; Diana Ross that gets the credit for that.

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“Brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying”


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Marvin Gaye co-wrote the wonderful “What’s Going On?” with Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson of the Four Tops. Berry Gordy infamously called it the worst piece of music that he had ever heard. However Obie thought very differently and he offered the song to Joan Baez, but she turned it down.

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“He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our mind”


milkyHave you ever heard of Milky Edwards and the Chamberlings? No? Nor had I until recently. They (if indeed they are a they) come across as a classic ‘lost’ Motown band, perhaps in the mold of the Four Tops. From what I have discovered on-line Milky Edwards first appeared on YouTube last year with a video showing a record playing a cover version of some classic early 70s rock with the supposed album cover propped up behind. The album cover is very reminiscent of a 1960s Supremes album cover (see below).

Supremes-1968-reflectionsIt never really took off until the links were posted last month on David Bowie’s Facebook page. Why were they published on Bowie’s page? Well largely because the cover versions were all taken from the Ziggy Stardust album. The songs published so far are; “Starman”, “Moonage Daydream” and “Soul Love“. Mark Ronson and Tom Jones have denied any involvement in the recordings as have Bowie’s camp. But for me I would be very surprised if Bowie himself has played no part in this. I also believe that it is a wonderful hoax. There is even a website with the strap-line ‘rediscover the music of Milky Edwards, click here to see it. What do you think of all this? Have any of you got the inside track on these recordings? Personally I bloody love these tracks!

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“His eighty eight key smile is so pleasant to see”


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A 1877 Steinway Grand Piano has finally returned to Detroit after a long restoration. The piano was used for many years in Motown Studio B in the Motor City. It will be on display in the Motown Historical Museum along with some of the now unusable strings and hammers. The restoration was partly funded by Paul McCartney who played the piano along with Berry Gordy in New York last year shortly after the restoration.

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Can you imagine how many famous Motown artists have tickled the ivories on this beautiful instrument?  Click here to read the full report on the BBC website. A story about a Motown piano can really only have a couple of songs to go with it right? In my opinion one of them is very good and was produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Chic and the other one was crap despite being produced by George Martin. What do you think?

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Elton John – Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate Tuesday June 5th 2012


Some months ago when Elton John announced a UK tour of some places that never seem to get big rock stars performing the list included the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate. So as I live just down the road and as Sir Elton is now 65 I thought I had to get tickets for me and my wonderful wife Catherine a.k.a Catwoman to regular readers. I love Elton’s music, especially the early stuff, but until today I had never seen him live. It was well worth the wait and the ticket price.

The support act was the amazing 2Cellos, which does exactly what it says on the tin. The act consists of two cellists from Croatia; Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. If you had said to me before today that two guys playing cello could be really exciting and create an amazing rock sound I may well have laughed at you. But frankly these guys are outstanding. They played three covers; Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, U2’s “With Or Without You” and an electrifying version of “Purple Haze” the Jimi Hendrix classic.

Just as we all thought they were about to start another song Elton and his band took the stage and raced right into “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting“. 2Cellos remained with the band for that and many other songs during Elton’s incredible two and a half hour set. He seemed to show no sign whatsoever of his recent illness and really seemed to be enjoying himself. The band who included long time Elton stalwarts Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar. These guys have played together for more than 40 years now and I think that trust and knowledge of each other really shows.

The backing vocalists could undoubtedly be an act in their own right including; Rose Stone a founding member of Sly and the Family Stone and the sister of Sly and Freddie Stone and also Tata Vega who produced some terrific albums for Motown in the 70s. Having started the set with a superb rocker the band followed up with “Bennie And The Jets” and “Levon”. I was really pleased with the eclectic set list Elton had chosen. It included many of his biggest hits along with some of those that are not heard as often. Those included two fantastic selections from the ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road‘ album; “Funeral For A Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding” and “Grey Seal” and the gorgeous “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” from ‘Madman Across The Water‘. I was disappointed to see so many people head for the bar and the toilets when Elton played “Hey Ahab” from his recent collaboration with the supremely talented Leon Russell.

Most of the crowd were out to have a good time and the rain didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Although it was quite ironic to be listening to “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” when the weather had created the effect that the sun had never really come up! There was an element in the crowd that seemed to fit with the stereotypical breed of Harrogate snob. They seemed to be there more for the social occasion, to drink Pimms and most importantly to be seen. One bloke and his wife/ partner asked us to swap seats with him so that he could sit near his friends. We refused largely because they had been getting up and going in and out of the grandstand during the whole show (well the part they stayed for anyway). But it was interesting that five minutes after our refusal all his ‘friends’ left without telling him! I named him Mr Yo Yo Bollocks.

There were two ladies who spent most of the show dancing around and trying to get everyone else up, including the security guards. They were draped in a ‘we love Elton’ Union Jack and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, but I suspect that their hangovers may be huge. It took “I’m Still Standing” to get everyone up, most of whom stayed up for the rest of the show. When Elton and the band left the stage it was hard to figure out what the encore would be as they had played some many classics, but of course it was the beautiful “Your Song”. Preceded by Elton signing a whole bunch of autographs for those at the front.

Elton John is a talented musician, a gifted songwriter, a real showman and a consummate performer. There are not many people around that can match him I believe. It is nearly 39 years since I saw my first ever gig (Jackson 5 at the Wembley Empire Pool in 1973 if you’re interested!) and todays show is easily in my top 5 ever. If you are going to one of the shows on this tour I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not then do whatever it takes to get a ticket; sell your grannie, send your kits out to clean chimneys or get your dog to wine ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (OK probably too late on the last one). And finally thank you for a great gig Elton!

I have no film from tonights show (I was enjoying myself too much to get my phone out) so here is a clip of Elton playing “Your Song” from a couple of years back, followed by 2Cellos with their version of “Smooth Criminal”

“I wish the world were truly happy living as one”


Happy Christmas dear readers and good people of the blogosphere. This is the last post in my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. It’s the 24th December and technically that means the letter Y, but I’ll throw in X and Z for free along with a couple of Motown Christmas songs. The big bearded dude in red arrives on his venison powered sleigh tomorrow. I hope that you get everything you want this Christmas and more importantly I hope that you have a really enjoyable Yule.

The first song for the letter X has been a tough one to find. But I have found one, I know hardly anything about it so if you have any information feel free to get in touch. I do feel like I’ve cheated you a little though, the song is called “Xmas Twist” although the chorus uses the proper phrase ‘Christmas Twist’. The song was released by a group calling themselves the Twisting Kings. So clearly no cynical tie-in with a popular dance craze then! The song was written by Berry Gordy and Barney Ales. Gordy was the producer for the song which was released in November 1961. It can be found on a couple of compilation albums to my knowledge; #A Motown Christmas Volume 2′  and ‘The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 1 1959-1961’ released in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

For the letter Y I have chosen a song from a superb act who haven’t yet appeared in this ABC of Motown. It’s Gladys Knight and the Pips with “You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You)”. The most memorable line up from the Pips included her brother Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight and two of her cousins; Edward Patten and William Guest. Her first pitch at fame came when she won a local TV talent show aged 7 in 1952.Gladys and the Pips were the first Motown act to record the classic song “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” which they took to number two in the US charts. In their early Motown career they were the opening act for Diana Ross and the Supremes. It is alleged that Diana had them kicked off the tour because Gladys and the Pips were far more powerful a talent and probably a very tough act to follow.  “You Need Love Like I Do” was an US hit in 1970 reaching number 25 in the Billboard charts and number 3 in the US R & B charts. It never charted in the UK. The song was another from the talented song writing partnership of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It was also recorded by the Temptations.

The final song from my ABC of Motown selection is a rather well-known album track from the Commodores who made an appearance in this Advent Calendar with the letter J on December 10th, click here to read it. The song is “Zoom” and should not be confused with the Fat Larry’s Band song of the same name. It was never released as a single in the US but made it to number 38 in the UK charts in 1978. The album it came from was released in 1977 and in the US it was called ‘Commodores’ whilst in the UK it was called ‘Zoom’. The song was written by Lionel Richie and Ronald LaPraed from the band. The album also included two other Commodores classics in “Brick House” and “Easy”. Fergie sampled “Zoom” on her ‘Duchess’ album on the track “All That I Got (The Make-Up Song)”

Finally let me wish you a Happy Christmas once again and to finish please enjoy two of my favourite Motown Christmas songs from the Jackson 5 and then Stevie Wonder.

Incidentally if you’d like to know the songs that came before in the ABC of Motown Advent Calendar, here they are;

  1. ABC – Jackson 5
  2. Bernadette – Four Tops
  3. Cloud Nine – Temptations
  4. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) – Frank Wilson
  5. Endless Love – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
  6. Farewell Is A Lonely Sound – Jimmy Ruffin
  7. Gotta See Jane – R Dean Taylor
  8. How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You – Marvin Gaye
  9. I’m In A Different World – Four Tops
  10. Just To Be Close To You – Commodores
  11. Keep On Truckin’ – Eddie Kendricks
  12. Let’s Get Serious – Jermaine Jackson
  13. Money – Barrett Strong
  14. Needle In A Haystack – Velvelettes
  15. Ooo Baby Baby – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
  16. Pops We Love You – Various
  17. Quicksand – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
  18. Rockin’ Robin – Michael Jackson
  19. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  20. Take Me Girl I’m Ready – Junior Walker & the All Stars
  21. Up The Ladder To The Roof – Supremes
  22. The Night – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (this is the only one based on artist name rather than song)
  23. War – Edwin Starr

“Induction then destruction, who wants to die?”


Ho Ho Ho we’re nearly there, you’d better not be bad, you’d better not dare! It’ s December 23rd and Day 23 of my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. Which brings us to the letter W. This was a tough letter for me I had four songs in mind before I finally selected a song with a real message, it’s “War” by Mr Edwin Starr.

Edwin was born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Tennessee in 1942 and sadly died aged just 61 in 2003 at his home in Bramcote in Nottinghamshire. I never knew he lived in England, but apparently he moved here in 1973. Ironically his death came just a couple of weeks after the start of the war in Iraq. He started his singing career in the late 50s with a doo wop group called the Future Tones. He later signed to the Ric-Tic label where he had his first big hit with “Agent Double ‘O’ Soul’ in 1965 which reached number 21 in the US charts. He became a Motown artist in 1968 when Motown took over the Ric-Tic label.

“War” started life as a Temptations album track, but Starr’s version was his biggest hit by far when it was released in 1970 hitting the top of the US charts and going to number three in the UK. Motown and the Temptations were very reluctant to release such a controversial song by one of their most popular acts. But Norman Whitfield who wrote the song with Barrett Strong kept pushing for its release. Eventually Motown offered a compromise and said that it could be released if Whitfield recorded it with another act. He chose Edwin Starr who was seen by many as a second string Motown artist. But for many others, including me, he was seen as a fantastically powerful vocalist.

Edwin made the song his own and it became his signature song. Many other artists (including the Jam, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen) have covered it but none have reached the power and impact of Starr’s version. The Undisputed Truth supplied backing vocals on the song and once again those Motown stalwarts the Funk Brothers played the music in another excellent Whitfield production. Incidentally the Funk Brothers also played on the original version by the Temptations.

Enjoy Edwin’s version followed by a Baby Bollox remix of the Temptations original and some covers of this great song, ending with a live perfprmance featuring both Springsteen and Starr. It’s sad to think that the message still resonates today more than 40 years after it was released.

“If a day could last forever you might like your ivory tower”


We’re easing down that Christmas road pretty fast now, it’s December 22nd and we’re at the letter V on my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. I have a confession to make before I tell you what the song is. It doesn’t begin with V, it was so difficult to find a V song. So for today I have opted for an artist whose surname starts with a V. It is the one and only Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with the Northern Soul classic, “The Night”

In 1970 the group signed to Motown subsidiary label Mowest and the single was originally released in 1971 in the UK with no success it was never issued in the US. When it was re-released in the UK in 1975 following a lot of interest in Northern Soul clubs it reached number 7 in the UK charts.

When the band left Motown in 1974 Frankie Valli wanted to buy the master tapes of everything they had recorded for the label. However when he heard the price he decided to buy just one song for $4,000. That song was “My Eyes Adored You” which Valli took to Private Stock records who wanted to release it as a Frankie Valli solo single. They did and it became a massive hit reaching number one on the US Billboard charts and number 5 in the UK.

I also found a couple of strange covers while looking for this song; firstly Pulp (sorry Jarvis it really isn’t very good mate) then Lene Lovich (a little weird) and finally Soft Cell (a faithful rendition). I prefer the original to all of these though. How about you?

“We’ll laugh and I’ll tell you the story of love, how it is and the happiness in it baby”


Just days away from the big day now. It’s nearly Christmas people and I hope you’re still being good or at least hiding your being bad evidence very well. It’s Day 21 of my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar which I believe makes it 21st December and therefore the letter U. So today we’ll be going somewhere where Santa will be very soon; your roof! Yes it’s the delightfully uplifting “Up The Ladder To The Roof” from the Supremes.

The song was the first single showcasing the vocal talents of new lead singer Jean Terrell who had replaced the departing Diana Ross. Which meant it was also the first single to be credited to the Supremes (i.e. minus the ‘Diana Ross and the’ bit) since “The Happening” in 1967. It was released in February 1970 and reached 10 in the US charts and number 5 in the UK. Coincidentally it was the first UK top ten hit for the group since “Reflections” from 1967.

The song was produced by Motown house producer Frank Wilson who featured on this advent calendar himself on December 4th, click here to read that post. Wilson co wrote the song with Vincent DiMarco and once again the music track was provided by those heroes of Motown the Funk Brothers. Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong were the other two Supremes. personally I have always thought that this was the best incarnation of the group, much better than the Diana Ross version. I have a liking for some songs that mention my name, not all of them though. But the B Side to “Up The Ladder To The Roof” was a pretty good example of a ‘Bill song’ it was called “Bill When Are You Coming Back”

Jean Terrell the lead vocalist for the song was often thought to be related to another Motown star, Tammi Terrell. But Tammi’s real surname was Montgomery and she was no relation to Jean Terrell. However Jean was related to Ernie Terrell a boxing champion who once went in the ring with Muhammad Ali. Ernie was her brother and he was WBA heavyweight champ, a crown he lost to Ali in 1967. Jean sometimes sang with his group Ernie Terrell and the Heavyweights.

“For my wrongs I’ve no excuses, I couldn’t blame you if you refused me”


Please allow me to paraphrase from an Elton John song for just a moment; ‘ho ho ho grab a beer, the bearded weirdy’s nearly here’. Yes folks in just a few days Old Saint Nick will be giving your chimney a good clean with his beard. Don’t worry if you don’t have a chimney, in that case he’ll just break into your house. Of course he is the only person who illegally enters your property and leaves stuff rather than taking anything, well not counting the odd tipple or mince-pie of course. Anyway it’s now December 20th and therefore day 20 of my ABC of Motown Advent calendar. Which brings us to the letter T. For me this was an easy choice. It’s “Take Me Girl I’m Ready” from the stellar band that was Junior Walker and the All Stars.

Surprisingly for me Junior Walker wasn’t his real name. When he was born in June 1931 in Blytheville, Arkansas he was called Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr. He played in a number of bands from the age of 14 including the Jumping Jacks and the Rhythm Rockers before settling on the All Stars. The band was spotted by Johnny Bristol who was friendly with Harvey Fuqua who had is own Harvey label. Fuqua signed the band in 1961 but they didn’t have much success until the Harvey label was bought by Berry Gordy to become part of his Motown empire.

Their first Motown hit was the timeless classic “Shotgun” which was written by Junior Walker and produced by Berry Gordy himself. It also featured Funk Brother James Jamerson on bass. That song reached number 4 in the US Billboard chart and was an US R & B number one in 1965. They had plenty more hits but the only one that equalled “Shotgun” in the charts was “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969, that song also hit number 13 in the UK. Sadly Junior died from cancer aged just 64 back in 1995.

“Take Me Girl I’m Ready” was originally an US hit in 1971 reaching number 50 in the Billboard chart. It was written by Pamela Sawyer, Gloria Jones and Johnny Bristol. Bristol produced the song which was arranged by Dave Van DePitte. It was a record I could never get hold of in my early teenage years, but then it was finally reissued in the UK in 1977. Obviously I bought it as soon as it came out. I no longer have the vinyl copy but I have it on CD and MP3.

I have blogged about this song before with regards to its appearance on a pub jukebox. Myself and a bunch of friends used to be regulars at the Windmill pub in Ruislip Manor back in 1977/ 78 and “Take Me Girl I’m Ready” was selection number 77A on the pub jukebox. Usually it was myself or my good friend Glen Voisey who were first at the jukebox and without looking we would always select 77A. However on one occasion I approached the jukebox as usual and fed my coins into it and then hit the buttons for 77A. I then started looking for what other tracks I would choose. After a few seconds of that scratchy stylus hitting plastic sound a familiar refrain started. However it wasn’t Junior Walker, much to my dismay and embarrassment it was “Save All Your Kisses For Me” by Brotherhood Of Man. My friends just started laughing and muttered about disowning me, but I was able to prove that I had indeed chosen 77A. The landlord stepped in to support me when he said that all the records on the jukebox had been replaced and the old tenant of 77A no longer lived on the machine. It was a devastatingly disappointing moment for me, but as they say, ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’!

So without further ado please enjoy the former occupant of 77A on the Windmill pub jukebox in the late 70s; “Take Me Girl I’m Ready” from Junior Walker and the All Stars. This one goes out to Glen Voisey, Keith Plant, Chris Skinner, Neil Payne, Phil Isaacs and Jonesy (aka Bryan Jones)!

RIP the Windmill Pub in Ruislip Manor. It was built in the 1930s and closed down in 2006. Like many of my old haunts it has been knocked down or put to use other than as a pub.