Gordy RecordsGordy G 7011 (B), September 1962

B-side of I’ll Have To Let Him Go

(Written by Mickey Stevenson and Martha Reeves)

BritainOriole CBA 1814 (B), March 1963

B-side of I’ll Have To Let Him Go

(Released in the UK under license through Oriole Records)

Scan kindly provided by Gordon Frewin.  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!From the recording dates listed in The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2, this would be one of the first songs Martha Reeves ever recorded at Hitsville. The date given there for the session – May 8th, 1962 – is at odds with the rest of the existing information about the Vandellas’ time at Hitsville and how the group’s breakthrough three-woman line-up came to be settled, so either this was a one-off Del-Phis session at Motown in May (recorded, implausibly, with Martha on lead but while Gloria Jean Williamson was still the group’s leader) prior to them arriving in July to perform backing vocal duties, or the dates are wrong, or – and this is just my personal theory – maybe this is just a demo cut by Martha Reeves the A&R secretary, with the Vandellas’ backing vocals either added later, or not featuring on the record at all. If anyone knows the truth, please do speak up, as it’s all highly confusing.

Anyway. Assuming the dates aren’t wrong, this song – a song co-written, very unusually, by Martha Reeves herself, along with her then-boss Mickey Stevenson – would already have been in the can when the A-side I’ll Have To Let Him Go was cut. That song had originally been written for Mary Wells, but was rearranged for a group performance by the Vandellas; listening to this B-side, it’s tempting to wonder whether that new arrangement was based on this record.

Certainly, the arrangements are very similar – group harmonies in a slow, near-acapella intro, with sutble instruments almost humming in the background (brushed cymbals here, rather than the A-side’s strummed guitar), followed by Martha launching into an unrestrained lead vocal, while a more conventional band track strikes up behind her.

It’s easy to see why this was used as the B-side, though. For a start, the basic song isn’t as good as I’ll Have To Let Him Go, sounding like a half-finished idea with a couple of nice chord changes but not much else going on under the hood. Secondly, Martha’s lead vocal performance – so astonishing on the A-side – is just a little too raw and uncontrolled for the midtempo, calypso-tinged R&B backing. She cuts loose, but the song doesn’t really warrant it, so it just comes across as badly matched.

Not terrible by any means, but not particularly good either, especially when compared to what was just around the corner for the group; it’s mostly of historical interest, showing both the A-side and Reeves herself in an early stage of development.



(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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Martha & The Vandellas
“I’ll Have To Let Him Go”
The Pirates
“Mind Over Matter (I’m Gonna Make You Mine)”