B-side of Stop! In The Name Of Love
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
B-side of Stop! In The Name Of Love
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Tamla Motown)
This seems to have gone largely unnoticed at the time – back in 1965, the album itself was relatively new, only really beginning to emerge as an artistic statement, rather than a different format of single which happened to feature eleven B-sides instead of one. Also, of course, the fact that the Supremes were (a) black and (b) women didn’t exactly have critics falling over themselves to praise, or even seriously consider, their latest LP; not until Touch in 1971 would Rolling Stone deign to give America’s biggest-selling pop group a good album review.
And yet listening back today, their “proper” mid-Sixties studio LPs (Where Did Our Love Go, More Hits By The Supremes, I Hear A Symphony, Supremes A’ Go-Go, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland), all make for excellent listening. The innate popcraft of the Supremes and writer-producers Holland-Dozier-Holland resulted in five long-playing platters packed with catchy, hook-filled, three-minute moments, the kind of “all killer, no filler” approach to albums only matched at the time by the far more critically-acclaimed likes of the Beatles or Beach Boys – white boys with guitars who wrote their own songs, who in the late Sixties began to experiment with the concept of the LP as grand artistic statement, all the easier for the critics who’d originally turned up their noses to admit defeat – and which wouldn’t really be seen again until the rise of Abba in the mid-Seventies.
This approach – which rewards occasional “pick and mix” sampling of individual delights, rather than end-to-end plays on heavy rotation (like a dessert rather than a main course, as I’ve often said) – is a gift that keeps giving for the discerning pop fan. It bears dividends not just for the iPod generation, but also for readers of Motown Junkies – the group were so successful that Motown began to mine those albums relentlessly for material, often slating various album cuts for B-sides and even A-sides (with scant regard to whether the songs in question were new or old) in order to get as much highly-profitable Supremes product into the stores. The Brits got in on the act, too, Tamla Motown skimming already-released albums for potential 45s; the upshot is that, over the next three years, we’ll be meeting almost as many Supremes LP tracks here on Motown Junkies as we’ll be forced to skip.
Case in point: I’m In Love Again, the strange, symphonic semi-ballad which would end up closing out More Hits by the Supremes, is one of an astonishing 17 – that’s seventeen – Supremes tracks we’ll cover during 1965, with another twenty to go before we reach the beginning of 1968 and the end of Motown’s Golden Age. It’s not an obvious choice for use on a single, given that the Supremes had had three straight Number One hits, and that the peerless pop of the A-side was about to make it four in a row, meaning there was little call for the traditional ballad flip to “show a different side” of a group who’d just sold something like three million records in six months… but it’s remarkable all the same, and I’m glad we get to hear it.
It’s a very unusual record, this. It bears strong resemblance to the kind of material the group had specialised in earlier in their musical lives, when they were the awkward, slightly shambling “no-hit Supremes” derided throughout Hitsville. In fact, what this sounds like is an out-take from the girls’ patchy but fascinating curate’s egg of a début LP, Meet The Supremes, remade three years later when those same girls were on top of the world in both skill and confidence.
The melody is haunting, and I mean that literally – it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t just get stuck in your head, but rather creeps up on you in unexpected ways, a really pretty tune full of bold, startling choices, backed up by some absolutely lovely harmonies. Some of the chord changes are enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up, reminiscent of the strange, eerie moonlight and shadows of the Temptations’ space age doo-wop days; meanwhile, the rhythm bed is surprisingly bouncy, like the Funk Brothers running through an early proof-of-concept test for What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted the following year.
The lyrics are remarkable, the opposite of most of the Supremes’ best tracks to date: whereas they’d always find their greatest success marrying downbeat sentiments with upbeat tunes, this one is a celebration wrapped in a lament, the narrator scarcely able to believe her good fortune as a lifetime of loneliness and misery is suddenly brushed aside.
Plus, there’s a splendid lead vocal from Diana Ross to cap it all off; the lyrics are full of flashbacks to earlier, sadder times, Diana’s narrator describing what a wreck she used to be in order to highlight how happy she is now. In less-skilled hands, this could fall very flat, but as always, Miss Ross can be relied upon to deliver the emotional connection the song needs, able to turn on a sixpence between sentiments like:
Once in heartbreak, I believed
Always in heartache
Lost in sorrow
With little hope for tomorrow
…and then, scarcely a few seconds later:
When you smiled at me
My heart stood still
All the emptiness I had inside
You lovingly fulfilled
I then felt born again
And it feels so grand!
If the central hook isn’t quite there, meaning the chorus is left grasping for greatness, bumping into the bar rather than sailing over it as on the A-side, this still remains a surprising and surprisingly subtle record; forget all the novelty Broadway, British Invasion or country & western albums Motown forced them to record, this right here is the true showcase for the Supremes’ versatility, and they nail it. The group’s best B-side since Never Again all those years ago, this is excellent, and it’s no surprise Motown made sure it found a place in history closing out a splendid album.
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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“Stop! In The Name Of Love”
“When I’m Gone”