694. The Temptations: “Get Ready”


Gordy RecordsGordy G 7049 (A), February 1966

b/w Fading Away

(Written by Smokey Robinson)

BritainTamla Motown TMG 557 (A), April 1966

b/w Fading Away

(Released in the UK under license through EMI/Tamla Motown)

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1966 is full of Motown landmarks, and they don’t come much bigger than this.

Or, well, do they? Before I ever Got Into Motown, this was one of the obvious touchstones I was always familiar with, one of the ones I just assumed everyone knew. A Top 10 hit here in Britain, it’s certainly a well-known song, and – if it isn’t quite as ubiquitous as My Girl (but then again, what is?) – it’s immediately recognisable, from the second those first few grizzled horn-and-bass pulses come pumping out of the radio. This isn’t the Temptations’ great monument, but it’s surely not far behind, right?

So, it was something of a surprise for me to discover that, while it did the business back home on black radio (becoming the Tempts’ third R&B number one), Get Ready was actually considered something of a flop on original release, enough to lose Smokey the gig as the Temptations’ main writer/producer. In 1966, Motown valued crossover success far above scoring big on the R&B charts, and when this single limped into the top 30 (quite literally, at number 30) for one week before sinking like a stone, Berry Gordy was deeply unimpressed. Smokey may have been Gordy’s closest and longest-serving lieutenant, a friend and a trusted collaborator and valued second-in-command, but for Motown’s flagship male group to be shunned so harshly by white radio was not only embarrassing, but potentially extremely harmful to Gordy’s overall vision.

After this, Norman Whitfield took over at the helm of the Temptations, effectively for the rest of their top-level career; rather than being the triumphant pinnacle I’d assumed it to be, this record in fact marks the (commercially) disappointing end of a chapter, and of a glorious era.

All of which is not only a shame, but also really confusing, because this is truly spectacular. Continue reading