(Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King)
This is supposed to be an “answer record”, i.e. a record which attempts to cash in on the chart success of another, usually unrelated record. Indeed, it’s meant to be the most literal kind of answer record: a sweet, reassuring response to another song whose very title is an unanswered question – the Shirelles’ Will You Love Me Tomorrow? Here, the Satintones attempt to give voice to the voiceless boy being addressed in the Shirelles’ hit, as they strive to reassure their girl that yes, they will indeed love her Tomorrow and Always. Aw.
In fact, though, it’s not really an “answer record” at all. It’s an unashamed, inexcusable, totally brazen rip-off of the Shirelles record, literally a note-for-note cover version with slightly different lyrics. Not only that, a note-for-note cover version of a song everyone in the world already knows. Seriously, it’s hilarious.
The story quoted in the liner notes The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 smacks of the party line to me. Janie Bradford, who claims much responsibility, brushes it off as an error; “Mr Gordy was out of town”, she says, “we didn’t know anything about stealing melodies”, and so on. There are a few rather gaping holes in that story. Firstly, young they may have been, but Janie Bradford was also already a successful hit songwriter; I find it hard to believe anyone could be that ignorant of copyright law, or that Berry Gordy, one of the most ruthless, brilliant businessmen in Sixties America, would have overlooked what was happening and allowed such a jape to continue when he got back to the office. Secondly, according to both the paperwork and the record’s label, Berry Gordy actually produced this record, in two separate versions recorded several weeks apart, so unless he somehow did it in his sleep, I fail to see how Bradford’s story stacks up.
I like to fill my posts with Youtube links to other records to provide context and reference, but I never normally post links to the actual record I’m writing about – I always think if you’re going to do that, well, why bother reading what I’ve written when you can listen to it yourself and make your own mind up? But here I’m going to make an exception to that rule, just this once, in order to illustrate just how gobsmackingly brazen a rip-off this record is.
First, the Shirelles…
…and then, the Satintones…
…yeah, OK, you’re thinking, it’s pretty egregious, but… what’s that? It’s not quite as blatant as I’ve made it sound? It’s not completely outwith the bounds of probability that this was just a youthful mistake, naïve teenagers with no real idea about copyright law, blah blah blah, no harm done?
Maybe, except – and this is the really unbelievable bit – except that, having somehow avoided attracting a lawsuit, those involved then went back two weeks later and re-recorded it to sound even more similar.
I mean, just listen to it, for goodness’ sake. Sheesh.
No, it’s utterly inconceivable that everyone involved didn’t know exactly what they were doing, and it’s impossible to work out how they thought they’d get away with it – but they obviously did think they could get away with it, since they had the sheer brass neck to pretend this was a new original song, and award two Jobete writers, Robert Bateman and Janie Bradford, songwriting credits.
It doesn’t say that any more, because they very much didn’t get away with it; Motown were served with a lawsuit at breakneck speed, less than a week after the release of the second version, an open-and-shut case of copyright infringement. Which they would have lost, obviously. (I’m guessing this may have been an out-of-court settlement deal, rather than Motown actually having the sheer gall to stand up in court and pretend otherwise, but I don’t know the facts and don’t pretend to.)
What is clear is that the songwriting credits now list only Goffin and King, reflecting Tomorrow And Always as a barely-altered cover of Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, and that this single was swiftly withdrawn for a second time, being re-pressed with the same catalogue number but with the A-side now replaced with an older (and far superior) recording, the pretty Angel.
I’m inclined to see this as an error of judgment about how far you could push your luck nicking other people’s songs, rather than an honest mistake about the minutiae of copyright law, and I find it brazenly amusing rather than disgracefully venal – but it’s still scarcely admirable behaviour, and I’m glad Motown didn’t do anything like this again.
Oh yeah, and the record itself? It’s not a bad cover, as you can hear, but it’s nothing more than that.
Needless to say, it didn’t arrest the by-now-starting-to-get-alarming run of non-charting, critically-underwhelming Motown singles in early 1961, though one gets the feeling this was a bit of a lucky escape; a struggling indie label trying to pull this sort of stunt today would probably find themselves dissolved and penniless having been sued back to the Stone Age by some major label’s relentless legal pressure. Music fans everywhere should be eternally grateful that Motown got off so lightly.
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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|Richard Wylie & His Band
“I’ll Still Be Around”
“A Love That Can Never Be”