B-side of Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
B-side of Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
They can’t all be winners.
When I started this project, going through both sides of every last Motown single, I already knew some B-sides were better than some singles, and I figured there’d be more to discover – things that flew by in a blur when listening to The Complete Motown Singles sets, things by groups I’d never heard of, things by groups I definitely had heard of but tracks I’d overlooked.
But I also knew there’d be some B-sides that were forgotten because they deserved to be forgotten. Hastily-recorded throwaways, previously-rejected cuts resurrected from the archives to fill space, badly-conceived ideas that never quite came together; they’re all in the mix. Plunge your hand into a stack of Motown 45s and pick out a random seven-inch, stick on the flip without looking at the label; chances are you’ll find something good, and the odds are in your favour (though perhaps not so much on the pre-’64 records we’ve covered here on Motown Junkies), but even with a “reliable” act there’s still always the possibility you’ll pull out a Rock And Roll Banjo Band or a Don’t Take It Away instead. Or, indeed, a Baby Baby I Need You.
This isn’t as bad as either of those, but it’s still an unimpressive mess, at times verging on the unlistenable. On paper, I should love this; Smokey writes and produces a throwback to the Tempts’ earlier “space age doo-wop” sound of 1962, all eerie chord changes and swooping harmonies, Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks duelling on the lead, definite echoes not only of the past and the astounding Dream Come True (my favourite Temptations record so far) but also the future and the equally astounding You’ll Lose A Precious Love. So what in the hell went wrong here?
For starters, it’s sloppy, in a way that isn’t like Smokey at all. The vocal charts are all over the place – this is an old recording, cut before arrangers and producers had worked out what best to do with Eddie’s skyscraping falsetto, but the harmonies (singled out for special praise in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4) are a mess even after you take that into consideration. Eddie’s yelping vocal may be out of control, as was so often the case on the early Tempts’ singles, but Paul isn’t any better, giving maybe the worst lead of his career, flat and off-key.
Meanwhile, Melvin, Otis and Elbridge Bryant combine with the two leads to provide a five-part harmony that never quite matches up with the backing. After hearing the soaring, effortless vocal acrobatics of the ascending chorus on the A-side Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue) – in particular the “…Girl! GIRL! Girl!” part – the equivalent rising harmony bit here (“…that I love you so! so! so! so! so!”) sounds like a horrible joke. Every source I can find gives this a glowing review, and it seems to be much beloved of Temptations fans, but I’m just not hearing it at all. The production’s really weak, too, muffled and quiet in places, loud and buzzingly distorted in others (though maybe this is just my copy, I don’t know).
Even if it had been perfectly recorded and sung, I doubt I’d have fallen for it; the song is plodding and treacly, and if there’s the germ of a good uptempo hit buried within the lugubrious slow-paced balladry, calling for a drastic reinterpretation, it’s snuffed out by the tarry downtempo gravel being slowly spilled over the top. It never threatens to spark into any kind of life, it never grabs the attention (at least not in a good way, though there are plenty of wince-inducing bum notes that raise the eyebrows); it’s just a slog.
It won’t do to be too hard on either the group or the producer, knowing they’d both moved on apace since this was cut back in the autumn of ’63, and knowing what was round the corner; but that still doesn’t make it right. The whole thing is just a chore to listen to, a massive comedown after the rush of the A-side, and if doo-wop afficionados and hardcore Tempts fans want to lap it up then that’s their business; I won’t be playing it again.
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.
(Or maybe you’re only interested in The Temptations? Click for more.)
“Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)”
“My Lil’s Run Off”