b/w I Love Your Baby
The first Motown appearance of the Miracles (following on from the horrendous side project novelty record It, credited to “Ron & Bill”), this was also the first ever release on the new Motown Records imprint that would go on to give its name to the entire company. The label credits “The Miracles Featuring BILL SMOKEY ROBINSON”. Smokey was already being tabbed as one to watch, a charismatic, good-looking singer/songwriter on his way to becoming a star. He was nineteen years old.
Apparently very few copies of this were ever pressed up on Motown before the single was leased to Chess to be distributed nationally, scraping a Top 100 pop hit (see scan below). I’m not even sure that G1 is the catalogue number, despite what it says in The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1; it looks like it might just be a matrix number to me.
Anyway, enough nerdiness, let’s talk about the actual record. This is the first in a long line of classic Miracles ballads, and it’s really rather lovely. Young Smokey’s voice soars as high as it ever did, especially in the chorus as he laments “she’s breaking my heart”, crushed that the girl he’s besotted with doesn’t feel the same way any more (the liner notes describe him as “pining”, and it’s a perfect description of what’s happening here); the backing vocals are almost effortlessly perfect, and the whole thing is pinned together with an unobtrusive Beans Bowles flute solo.
The arrangement and the vocal performances are so good, and the atmosphere so sweet and dreamlike, that it takes a listen or two to register the rather conventional doo-wop skeleton the fabric of the song is hung on.
But then Smokey the master songwriter (even at nineteen) chips in with a trademark unexpected bridge at 1:25, and as the music swells and changes key and Smokey pours his heart out, kicking himself for prematurely bragging to his mates about his girlfriend, and then gets so caught up in emotion that the grammar in his sentence falters (“And my only wish is that I… I wish… I could make a…”) and then he gives up altogether, needing the other Miracles to finish his sentence for him, before starting up again on the verse, again trying vainly to explain what he’s going through.
This is songcraft on quite another level from the workaday R&B and doo-wop that had been Motown’s stock in trade up until now; not even twenty and already a class apart, this is a superb calling card for one of the all-time great songwriters.
Trivia: This single was Smokey and the Miracles’ only appearance on Motown Records; for all future releases for the next eighteen years, together and separately, they would appear on their spiritual home Tamla instead. By the time Smokey returned to the Motown imprint in 1986 following Tamla’s demise, he and the Miracles had long since parted company. (Yeah, I did think it was interesting, actually. Shush.)
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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|Nick & The Jaguars
“Cool And Crazy”
“I Love Your Baby”