(Written by Berry Gordy)
There’s an argument to say that Motown were never better than the winter of 1965/66, that this was in many ways the label’s high water mark. For sure it was both the best and worst of times to be newly signed to Motown; the label’s coffers were now swollen to such an extent that Berry Gordy could afford to take as many long shots as he fancied, but the pressure to perform had grown too. If the chances of getting a Motown record deal were high, so were the chances of being dropped straight after. Anyone without a hit under their belt couldn’t expect to stick around for too long.
Indeed, as 1965 draws to a close, we find Motown in a bit of a strange place. In some respects, this was the same little black-owned independent company, run from out of a cramped house in Detroit; new signings, wooed by the label’s sudden vault to the top, were often underwhelmed by the modest premises, so much at odds with Motown’s slick, glossy public image. In other ways, though, Motown had changed beyond recognition, and those new signings were a major part of that. We’ve already said goodbye to a lot of the faces that built Motown, their departures barely registering as talented newcomers came thick and fast.
At this stage, the most striking of the new arrivals were female vocalists. Most of Motown’s attempts to replace Mary Wells in the label’s line-up had met with limited success, commercially if not artistically; the careers of Brenda Holloway and Kim Weston had both seemingly hit brick walls, and despite the company’s perseverance with both, they were still in the market for a new solo female star. And they certainly went looking; although the slow pace of entries here on Motown Junkies has dulled the impact a bit, we’ve only just met Tammi Terrell and Barbara McNair. All of these women have exceptional voices, and with Gladys Knight just around the corner, the larder was now well-stocked with great singers. And still Motown went looking.
And now, here’s Chris Clark, who offered something very different indeed. Continue reading