B-side of Pretty Little Baby
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
B-side of Pretty Little Baby
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Tamla Motown)
If the A-side, the beautiful Pretty Little Baby, represented a baffling entry in Marvin’s canon of work, it’s as nothing compared to this flip. It’s a weird, sketchy little song, originally recorded as a rare collaboration with Smokey Robinson almost two years previously, discarded, re-recorded with a string section, discarded again, and then – after the original version had been dusted off for inclusion in Marvin’s most recent LP, How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You – for some reason, finally, the re-recording somehow found its way onto this Tamla 45 as a B-side.
(And credited to the wrong writer, to boot – this is Smokey’s song, despite what that label up there says.)
Confused? You will be once this starts playing. Now That You’ve Won Me launches with an opening every bit as baffling as the A-side, a sparse, spare-sounding, pared-back blues full of echo and dead air. Plucked, chunky bass and a lonely tambourine punctuate the silences, and the mood is ominous and strange – but this is a trick to wrongfoot the listener. Soon enough, the track erupts into a jazz-flavoured pseudo-show tune workout, satisfying for fans of Marvin Gaye the would-be crooner and Marvin Gaye the Nat King Cole impersonator, but perhaps not so much for fans of Marvin Gaye the newly-minted sex symbol and pop chart icon.
Still, this is no refugee from the Hello Broadway standards sessions – it’s recognisable as a Marvin Gaye record (if not a record written and produced by Smokey Robinson, whose touch is almost entirely absent, save for some vocal passages which are vaguely reminiscent of the Miracles’ A Love She Can Count On).
There’s plenty to enjoy here – I love the bridge that leads to the refrain which passes for a sort-of-chorus, as the strings and horns and backing singers swell and lift Marvin, and the song, up on their cloud, out of the darkness and into what feels like bright, warm sunlight:
Keep on kissing me day and night!
Don’t you ever change!
Keep on holding me tight
Don’t start acting strange
…And that sort-of-chorus is surprisingly catchy in its simplicity, something approaching a chanted mantra that’ll get stuck in your head for hours on end.
The rest of the song, frankly, feels like padding between each instance of those two excellent moments, such that I’m once again struggling to remember a single lyric from the verses, never mind tell you what the song is even supposed to be about.
Still, two excellent bits is two more than a lot of songs manage, and the overall effect of Now That You’ve Won Me is to remind me of the Supremes’ similarly beautiful, similarly half-realised Standing At The Crossroads Of Love: when it’s lovely, it’s lovely enough to matter.
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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“Pretty Little Baby”
“First I Look At The Purse”
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