B-side of Where Did Our Love Go
(Written by Norman Whitfield)
B-side of Where Did Our Love Go
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
Back down to earth following the splendid, alien majesty of Where Did Our Love Go, but landing without too much of a bump.
He Means The World To Me was cut all the way back in January 1963. Things had moved on apace, at Motown and in America at large, during the intervening year and a half; but in truth, the A-side represents such a sea change that this sounds positively prehistoric by comparison. It’s a throwback to the time when the Sound Of The SupremesTM was best represented by the likes of Your Heart Belongs To Me (note the similar titles), and it’s now mostly notable as one of young Norman Whitfield’s first solo writer-producer efforts.
As with a lot of the pre-fame Supremes’ material from the time of its recording, this one is strongly reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’s calypso-tinged ballads for Mary Wells cut around the same time (the likes of Two Lovers, say, or Laughing Boy). Reminiscent in a good way, too; Whit also had an ear for a strong tune, and so while this comes across as clunky and derivative, fussy compared to the clean lines and almost insultingly simple structure of the A-side, it’s still a nice little record, a low-key pause for thought.
If it works much better as a reflective moment on the softer, more contemplative second side of the Where Did Our Love Go album (right), which features a whole crop of pop ballads with similarly skyscraping high vocals from the still young and unsophisticated Diana Ross – I’m Giving You Your Freedom, for instance, or A Breath Taking Guy, or Standing At The Crossroads Of Love – than on a 45, never mind this 45, well, it still serves that purpose when taken out of the album and pushed into service as a B-side. And it’s all rather pretty – we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
The things that are wrong with this – the rough edges, ungainly moments, wobbly music cues – are the things that the Funk Brothers had long since left behind them, or the things that Holland-Dozier-Holland had spent eighteen months ironing out of the Supremes in order to get them to Where Did Our Love Go, and so we can’t really blame either the girls or Norman Whitfield for them.
Instead, listen to what’s on the record: Diana’s sudden leaps up the register (or maybe touch MY hand) are startling, in a nice way, and the backing vocals are sounding good. Diana is as good here as she ever was around the winter of ’62/’63, (still prone to lapses into too-high, whiny territory, but also capable of real emotional impact).
A reminder that the A-side was made by very mortal human hands – you can see a lot of the joins here, and the Funk Brothers had indeed got a whole lot better in the fifteen months between the two sides of this single being recorded – but I certainly don’t hate it, it’s charming and sweet, and rather successful in its own limited way. More of a kindred spirit to Meet The Supremes than the later material on Where Did Our Love Go, it’s still, well, nice. It’s just that the world, Motown, the band and the Supremes had all moved on by the time it finally appeared, through no fault of its own; there wouldn’t be many more Supremes records like this one to make it to the surface.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“Where Did Our Love Go”