Tamla RecordsTamla T 54027 (B), August 1959

B-side of Money (That’s What I Want)

(Written by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy)

BritainLondon American HLU 9088 (A), March 1960

B-side of Money (That’s What I Want)

(Released in the UK under license through London Records)

Scan kindly provided by Robb Klein, reproduced by arrangement.  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!(Or “Oh I Apoligize“, as the Tamla 45 label mis-spells the title. Tsk.)

This follows the same formula as the very first official Motown single, Marv Johnson’s Come To Me / Whisper in having a slow, gospel-tinged, piano-heavy doo-wop number as the flip of a more upbeat R&B pop smash.

Just 18 years old and still in high school, Barrett Strong had no real desire to be a solo singer – like Eddie Holland, he often got nervous behind the mic and disliked live performances – and the A-side here was the strongest (ha) thing he’d ever do. You’d think, then, that being stuck under one of the great Motown singles would mean that Oh I Apologize suffered by comparison, but in fact, staggeringly, it’s almost every bit as good.

Completely different, of course. The confidence which permeates Money (That’s What I Want), which made that song such a success, is still present in spades here, but the raw attack employed by Strong and the entire band on Money is replaced with something quite new here, a confident, measured performance where the band and the backing singers all find, and use, precisely the right touch.

The Anna issue, which manages to spell 'Apologize' correctly (though not 'Jobete'!).  Scan provided by Gordon Frewin, reproduced by arrangement.Strong is superb here, too, using his new-found belief and digging to the very depths to find an excellent gospel-inflected vocal performance, redolent of the early work of later Motown signing Marvin Gaye. It’s really rather special.

Nowadays, everyone in the world knows Money and almost no-one knows Oh I Apologize, but between them these two Barrett Strong sides contain the foundation stones of everything the Hitsville USA legend was built upon – great songwriting, a world-beating band knowing what they could do and (more crucially) the difference between that and what they needed to do, near-perfect arrangements, and a buzzing energy and confidence that goes far beyond just singing loud and playing hard, and into the realms of knowing a record’s going to be good.

It would be at least another three years before Motown consistently delivered singles approaching this level of quality, but this pair of sides is such a major leap forward compared to what went before that Barrett Strong – reluctant, stage-shy Barrett Strong – should really be considered the first great Motown artist.



(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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Barrett Strong
“Money (That’s What I Want)”
Nick & The Jaguars
“Ich-i-bon #1”