B-side of Your Heart Belongs To Me
(Written by Raynoma Liles Gordy and Marv Johnson)
In contrast to the charming, understated A-side Your Heart Belongs To Me, this B-side is a tuneless menace. Produced by Berry Gordy’s ex-wife Raynoma Liles Gordy, “Miss Ray” herself, this was co-written with Marv Johnson, who’d cut the very first record ever released by Motown, Come To Me back in January 1959.
This B-side, recorded in the summer of 1961, shelved, and eventually dusted off for release on this single, is a low point for everyone involved. Horrible, shrill, incompetent, unbelievably annoying… it’s three parts generic Fifties girl group dross, one part (presumably unintentional) avant garde noise terror, and far and away the worst thing to appear on either side of a Supremes single in the Sixties. Indeed, it’s among the worst material any line-up of the group ever recorded, period.
Nothing is good about this. The song is trite and irritating in the extreme. The lyrics are banal and stupid –
Seventeen / I’ve got a guy that is seventeen / I don’t care, because I’m just sixteen / And my guy is seventeen / He’s only seventeen
– which is bad enough by itself, but then those lyrics are somehow rendered even worse by Diana Ross’ terrible lead vocal, reedy and terrified, and the rest of the Supremes’ appalling backing vocals, which are worse than the ones they’d done for Mickey Woods.
Between them, the girls contrive to stretch syllables to breaking point, artlessly elongating words which don’t need elongating and with no apparent sense of scansion; they pronounce everything so bizarrely that those lyrics up there actually become:
Se-e-e-ven-teen (Seven-seven-seven-teen-hoho-hoho) / I’ve got a gu-uy that is se-e-e-ven-teen (Seven-seven-seven-teen-hoho-hoho)…
…Painful. And then just when you’re thinking it’s as bad as it’s going to get, there’s a surprise in store to prove you quite wrong; second verse, worse than the first:
He-e-e loves me-he-he-he-he (Hoho-hoho) / And we’re as ha-a-ppy as two-oo-oo can be-he-he-he (Hoho-hoho) / We have pledged our love e-ter-nol-ly / And my guy is seventee-een (dit dit dit dit doo doo doo)…
And then we get Diana Ross channeling the Everly Brothers in a highly wet interlude (I don’t know-oh-oh whether I shall ever let him go-go-go, don’tcha know-know-know), and, well, it’s far from “supreme”, let’s put it that way. She’d been on such great form on the A-side, but this is terrible, flat and off-key, to the point where I can’t understand why this was ever even considered for release at all. Yet the vocals, astonishingly, aren’t the weakest thing on display here.
The band performance can only be described as “poor”, a sloppy, uninspired hotch-potch of dated Fifties figures, augmented, if that’s the right word, by Miss Ray’s ubiquitous Ondioline, the same early analogue synthesizer instrument that can be heard buzzing all over the Marvelettes’ first album. Used sparingly and sensitively, the Ondioline can add greatly to a record – check out the Temptations’ magnificent (You’re My) Dream Come True, for example – but here it’s just wallpapered on, slathered carelessly over everything.
The true horror, though, comes with the middle eight at 1:36. A cheesy burst of Ondioline parping, like some sort of end-of-the-pier barrel-organ, heralds one of the worst half-minutes in Motown’s history. Meanwhile, the girls strike up a truly godawful “sassy” conversation-style interlude – well, I say “sassy” because I’m guessing that’s what it was meant to sound like, but in reality it’s just nonsensical and badly acted, one Supreme (possibly Barbara Martin) boasting to her astonished mates:
– Guess what, girls?
– My guy is seventeen.
– Yeah, and guess what else, girls?
– I’m just SIX-teen.
– So come on!
Meanwhile, the Ondioline moves from cheesy riffs to great buzzing, honking stabs, wildly out of control, drowning out everything else on the track, to the point it actually veers close to becoming a novelty horror record – presumably unintentionally, but it really is close; all it’s missing is for Mary Wilson to suddenly break into a terrifying sinister laugh or start doing a comedy Dracula accent or something. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
I’m completely dumbfounded as to how this ever got past Quality Control, or whatever the rudimentary equivalent of Quality Control was back then. A blot on the CV of everyone concerned, this was still – incredibly – selected for inclusion on the Supremes’ first album Meet The Supremes later that year. They might have been better off simply leaving that space on the record blank, or printing up a bunch of speaker test signals or something.
D-, must try harder.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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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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“Your Heart Belongs To Me”
|Hank & Carol Diamond