This is Motown Junkies, a track-by-track review of every US and UK Motown single, including all subsidiaries. Not ambitious, then.
“I wasn’t always a Motown junkie. In fact, I wasn’t always interested in pop music at all. Thirteen-year-old me was into Kraftwerk, T.Rex, the Electric Light Orchestra, and knew nothing of Motown beyond a handful of overplayed oldies on the radio. (I also knew nothing of the Beatles, Stones, Commodores, Coltrane, Cole, Beethoven or Bix Beiderbecke, for that matter. I knew nothing full stop, really.) I was unprotected and unprepared, and I made easy prey for pop music’s most insidious pushers of hooks and tunes. I spent my teens listening to all sorts of random stuff, in search of the ultimate hit (in every sense), eventually rummaging around in the equivalent of the music industry’s scrap bins – samplers from Finnish indie labels, unsigned Louisiana hip hop collectives, anything – to try and get another taste of something that ran through the veins of all my favourite records, something I couldn’t quite grasp or understand but always recognised as soon as I felt it. I didn’t know, of course, that what I was looking for was staring me right in the face the entire time. So when – thanks to a bunch of compilation CDs at a local shop’s closing-down sale – I eventually fell for Motown, I fell hard and I fell deep.”
- (from my review of Dancing in the Street)
Ten years ago, this sort of undertaking would have been totally impossible; it’s only with the release of the superb Hip-O Select Complete Motown Singles box sets, and the scholarship of the compilers and researchers who put those sets together and provided the copious liner notes, that a buffoon like me is able to sit here and do a blog like this.
Research by many dedicated, knowledgeable soul fans across the Internet has unearthed a great many more facts, corrections and other bits of trivia, serving as a kind of gloss on those box sets. As recently as twenty years ago, the information that’s now freely available through a couple of clicks and a few well-worded Google searches would have marked you out as an expert, a Motown nerd of the highest caliber. Nowadays this vast slew of other people’s hard work provides an instant reference for anyone wanting to know anything about what came out on any Motown label, who wrote it, who recorded it, when it was released, how it fared on release, and what happened afterwards. Provided you’re willing to put in a minuscule amount of time searching for it, that information is out there.
And yet, there’s seemingly very little information on the net about what some of these records are actually like, or which ones people like, and which ones they think are rubbish. And if there’s one thing I like to do, it’s talk about records. At length. That, and swearing a lot. (Sorry.) So I pounced, almost catlike, on the opportunity to talk about these records. All of them.
So, here we are. I’m Nixon, and I’m British. I love music in almost all its forms, and I love Motown. The title, for the uninitiated, is a Manic Street Preachers joke. (I note James Dean Bradfield has long since stopped singing the opening bars of Baby Love when introducing Motown Junk; good for him.)
Here’s how this will work. I’m going to do a separate post for every released (or planned) A- and B-side, and these will then be compiled both on the pages for each label, and also in the Master Index, which is just a great big list of everything that’s been posted to date. Unless otherwise noted, for the stuff between 1959 and 1972, I’ve treated the liner notes in the Complete Motown Singles box sets as the Word of God, and will only be dissenting from the officially-sanctioned “party line” where I think it’s important to do so (and noting the conflict). I’ll also provide external links to any information out there which I’ve taken note of, or which might provide useful further reading.
Each song will have its own post, and that post will note (in the header) what label it was on, the catalogue number, the month of release (or scheduled release) – not the date of recording – and the writers. At the bottom of each post, there’s also now an entirely subjective mark out of ten, mainly for my own amusement and to provoke debate. There, you’ll also find links back to the previous Motown release and forward to the next one. (Obviously, I’ll add those last ones retrospectively.) Yeah, I can tell you’re excited.
Comments are enabled, so should you disagree with what’s been said or spot a glaring error, you can have your say too.
Well, that’s enough preamble. Now, time for a bit of prehistory. Enjoy the blog.