TamlaTamla T 54026 (B), July 1959

B-side of Going To The Hop

(Written by Berry Gordy and Charles Leverett)

Label scan kindly provided by Lars “LG” Nilsson - www.seabear.se.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!Like the A-side, this is another uptempo doo-wop number, but it’s taken at a faster pace and has more pop/R&B overtones; instead of the gentle self-mocking comedy of Going To The Hop, this is a straightforward paean to the joys of Detroit, complete with unwelcome novelty “beep beep!” interjections.

Head Satintone Jim Ellis again takes lead vocal; his voice is unusual, slightly flat but quite distinctive (it sort of reminds me of Alan Wilson from Canned Heat, actually), and as with the A-side the four Satintones don’t ever really gel in a vocal harmony sense.

Just as the A-side had an unexpected surf guitar solo which called the Beach Boys to mind, so this B-side has lyrics which are thematically similar to the Beach Boys’ California Girls, as Ellis talks about the girls to be found in various locations across America before concluding, naturally, that Detroit girls are the best.

It’s not terribly exciting. Co-written by Chico Leverett, who was acknowledged by the rest of the group as its creative leader and songwriting maven, but whose track record thus far has to be judged as outstandingly ordinary, it’s flat and forgettable; the Beach Boys didn’t exist yet, and once they did they would take almost all their initial cues from black pop records like this one (or white knockoffs thereof), but Motor City bizarrely almost sounds like a lifeless Beach Boys pastiche.

According to the liner notes for The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1, this song may have been the inspiration for the name for Berry Gordy’s new label, Motown, launched that September. Gordy offered $100 to whoever suggested the eventual name, and Leverett ventured “Motor City Records”. True to form, Gordy never paid up, saying Leverett’s suggestion wasn’t close enough. The liner notes (officially sanctioned by Motown, lest we forget) accept this explanation. I think a long drawn out “hmmmmmmmm” is an appropriate response at this point, possibly with a raised eyebrow for added effect.

Still, at this point the Gordy music empire was looking decidedly unremarkable. Of the seven official singles now released, one – the first one, Marv Johnson’s Come To Me – had been a hit, but the rest of the roster had failed to make any commercial impact at all. Two respectable R&B numbers (Eddie Holland’s Merry-Go-Round and Barrett Strong’s Let’s Rock), an excellent but largely uncommercial instrumental jam (the Swinging Tigers’ Snake Walk), and three somewhat underwhelming releases (this one, Chico Leverett’s solo stab Solid Sender and Ron & Bill’s terrible novelty atrocity It); that was all there was to show for seven months of financial struggle and back-breaking work. Sales had been poor, it’s arguable the two best songs to date (Johnson’s Whisper and Holland’s It Moves Me) had been tucked away on B-sides, and the company was being sustained by the money received from the sale of the contracts of Marv Johnson and Eddie Holland to United Artists, coupled with the production work Berry Gordy was doing for them on that label.

Gordy could be justly proud of what he’d done so far (seven singles in just over half a year and the company still afloat), but if you’d asked anyone at the time whether Tamla Records was going anywhere special, whether people would remember Berry Gordy in fifty years’ time, the answer would most likely have been a polite but firm “no, not really”. The next release would change all that.



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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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The Satintones
“Going To The Hop”
Barrett Strong
“Money (That’s What I Want)”