B-side of No Love
(Written by Berry Gordy)
A helping of fun, but forgettable, faux-blues. Written very quickly by Berry Gordy (the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 claim it was knocked off in just five minutes, a feat he was supposedly able to achieve as a result of his close and long-lasting friendship with Mable, plus his supposed innate understanding of similar-minded women thanks to his family upbringing), it’s much more uptempo, much more pop than the smoky A-side No Love, but also more ephemeral and less affecting.
This is an upbeat, wryly earnest pop song, in the mould of Mable’s previous Tamla single Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That, but faster and frothier. One of a whole clutch of early Motown records with a discernible blues flavour, Looking For A Man is, if nothing else, an indication of where the label might have been headed in Berry Gordy’s mind at the time.
Before the emergence of the immediately-recognisable peerless pop-soul that would come to be known definitively as “the Motown Sound”, it was in Gordy’s commercial interests to chase success in as many different directions as possible, going after lots of different audiences on the chance that one of these forays would hit the jackpot. In 1961, blues-influenced, radio-friendly pop music – blues-lite like this – must have seemed as good a bet as any, and it was arguably this avenue which did eventually lead Motown to where it was going. After all, there’s not exactly a million miles between this and Mary Wells’ hit I Don’t Want To Take A Chance, released just a couple of weeks previously.
This one definitely has a go, anyway; it has a suitably slinky setting, the band laying down a bouncy track as Mable advertises her search for the perfect husband, setting out her strict criteria and contrasting these qualities with the losers she’s encountered to date. (Supposedly Mable provided Berry Gordy with the raw material for his lyric by giving an off-the-cuff answer to his question about what she looked for in a man). It’s quite good fun to start with, as she informs us she’s looking for a man “who don’t smoke and don’t drink and don’t fool with no woman but me”, and pours scorn on a “two-timing rascal telling me that I’m the one / Let me tell you people, a man don’t fool me none”.
Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to the song. Like the A-side, it’s yet another early Jobete song that promises much before delivering little, but the biggest problem in this instance turns out, rather unexpectedly, to be the singer. Just as with Barrett Strong’s earlier efforts, highlighted in particular on Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right, the combination of singer and song sounds wrong. Here, Mable’s voice, so convincing on throaty, gospel-inflected, and – crucially – slow numbers like No Love, somehow just doesn’t really work. It turns out Mable isn’t ideally suited to doing a sassier, poppier song like this one, and as a result, another bad match of vocalist and material leads to a record that, while fun, ends up being less than the sum of its parts.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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