With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

“I’m just about at the end of my rope, but I can’t stop trying, I can’t give up hope” December 15, 2011


Smokey and the Miracles really tried their best to help out in the promotion of my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar

Have you been good? Will Santa bring you lots of goodies (I mean as in presents as opposed to Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie of course)? I hope you are getting excited anyway as we’re now on day 15 of my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar, yes folks it’s December 15th and it’s the letter O. the song is from one of my favourite Motown voices, Smokey Robinson. It comes from his days with the Miracles and it is “Ooo Baby Baby

The song was written by Smokey and Pete Moore of the Miracles. The strings were arranged by Pete Moore. As is usual with almost all Motown hits it was the supremely talented Funk Brothers who provided the backing. “Ooo Baby Baby” reached number 16 in the US chart in 1965. A cover version of the song by Linda Ronstadt hit number 7 in the US in 1979. sadly it never charted in the UK. It has been covered by many other artists in addition to Ronstadt; including Todd Rundgren, Ella Fitzgerald and Shalamar who covered it as part of their “Uptown Festival” hit from 1977. That recording was actually a medley of classic Motown hits.

Smokey’s real name is William Robinson Jnr. His Uncle Claude gave him the nickname ‘Smokey Joe’ when Smokey was a boy. Smokey initially thought of it as his cowboy name, but as he got older his Uncle explained that as young Master Robinson was quite light-skinned it was a name to remind him of his roots. He dropped the Joe part of the nickname when he was a teenager. A couple of Smokey’s children also have interesting names too. There is a son called Berry, named after Motown President Berry Gordy. Smokey was Vice President of the label from 1961 until 1988. He also has a daughter called Tamla named after a label from the Motown portfolio. Those Motown fans from the UK will be very familiar with the amalgamated name the label took in Europe where it was known as Tamla Motown.

He also gets a mention in a couple of hit songs too. Firstly there is the sublime “Genius Of Love” from Talking Heads offshoot the Tom Tom Club in 1981. Most notably though he was the main man in ABC’s 1987 hit “When Smokey Sings”

 

“Red light, green light, speeding through the dark night” December 7, 2011


We’re up to the letter G in my ABC of Motown Christmas Advent Calendar, which means that today is December 7th. Todays song is from the, in my opinion, very much underrated Richard Dean Taylor. He is better known. He is a Canadian and was born in Toronto in 1939, which makes him 72, just like yesterday’s featured artist Jimmy Ruffin.

Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, R. Dean Taylor, Don Gooch

Taylor signed with Motown in 1964 as a songwriter. His first single was scheduled to be”My Ladybug (Stay Away From That Beatle)” which was deemed unworthy of release. His biggest success as a writer or cowriter at the label was with songs such as “I’ll Turn To Stone” by the Four Tops and “I’m Livin’ In Shame” from Diana Ross and the Supremes. One of his biggest hits was actually one that he didn’t have a hand in writing. It was “There’s A Ghost In My House” which was written by the classic Tamla Motown writing team of Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier aka Holland Dozier Holland.

Strangely enough todays song in the advent calendar is “Gotta See Jane” which Taylor wrote with Brian Holland. It reached number 17 in the UK charts in 1968. It has been covered by both the Fall and Golden Earring (enjoy those versions below). The song was released on Motown’s Rare Earth subsidiary in the USA.

 

“See that girl she does something to my chemistry” July 12, 2010


These two music deaths almost passed me by, they certainly didn’t seem to get much in the way of column inches in the UK press. But on July 6th Harvey Fuqua died of a heart attack aged 80 and on July 10th Sugar Minott died aged just 54, the cause of his death has not yet been announced but he was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2009. So I won’t let their passing go unmarked in my blog!

Harvey Fuqua in the Moonglows along with a very young Marvin Gaye

Harvey Fuqua first came to prominence in a group called the Moonglows along with a certain Mr Marvin Gaye. He had quite a musical pedigree. His Uncle, Charlie Fuqua was a member of the Ink Spots and he was also married to Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen. he was responsible for bringing the Spinners (aka the Detroit Spinners and the Motown Spinners in the UK) and Johnny Bristol to Motown. He went on to produce quite a few hits with Bristol. He worked closely with Marvin Gaye and it was Fuqua’s idea that Marvin record a series of duets with Tammi Terrell. He was the producer on Gaye’s first post Motown album ‘Midnight Love’ which featured the classic “Sexual Healing” In the late 70s Harvey discovered the late, great Disco artist Sylvester and produced two of his biggest hits; “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” My favourite Slyvester cut though is “Was It Something That I Said?” Mr Fuqua had such a rich musical history and career he will be sadly missed. Click on the song title to hear a great duet he did with the wonderful Etta James, called “If I Can’t Have You” (which incidentally is not the same as the Yvonne Elliman song of the same name from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Harvey Fuqua with Stella Ragland and Smokey Robinson

Lincoln Barrington Minott began his career as a member of the African Brothers in 1969. Here they are with “Hold Tight” from 1970. He went on to record with top Jamaican producers; Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd and Rupie Edwards. He relocated to the UK from Jamaica in 1980 and had his biggest UK chart success with  a cover of an old Michael Jackson song “Good Thing Going” which reached number 4 in 1981. He recorded hundreds of tracks during his career. In 2006 he appeared on the Easy Stars album of Radiohead covers, titled ‘Radiodread’. He provided guest vocals on the track “Exit Music (For A Film)” Click on the song title for one of my favourite Minott songs, “Lovers Rock“. So like Mr Fuqua the music industry has lost another very talented man.

The late, great Sugar Minott

 

 
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