B-side of Let Me Go The Right Way
Yet another track featured on the Supremes’ début album Meet The Supremes, Time Changes Things was originally slated to be the A-side of the Supremes’ fourth single, before Berry Gordy intervened and chose his own composition Let Me Go The Right Way instead, relegating this to the flip.
If that hadn’t happened, this would have been the first Supremes single produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, the duo whose future Supremes productions would dominate the charts in the mid-Sixties. As it is, this is still the first time the Supremes sang a song written by Holland and Dozier; Brian Holland had had a hand in crafting the group’s début, I Want A Guy, while the Holland/Dozier duo, along with Freddie Gorman, had turned in a clutch of fine new songs for the Marvelettes, including the single sides Someday, Someway, Strange I Know and Too Strong To Be Strung Along.
By the time the duo were given the chance to produce the Supremes, Freddie Gorman had been all but forced out of their songwriting team thanks to the rigours of his day job with the US Postal Service; his replacement as the team’s lyricist was Janie Bradford, sometime Hitsville receptionist and already a fine writer in her own right, having co-written Money (That’s What I Want) back in 1959.
This is a strange little artefact. Certainly a bigger step forward than the A-side, it actually reminds me a great deal of the early Beatles when they’d do ballad covers (I’m thinking in particular of Till There Was You); the music is hesitant, slightly wonky, but this is a guitar-led pop record in very much the same vein. It’s a million miles from the slick, lush, all-enveloping runaway-train perfect pop of the Supremes’ mid-Sixties heyday, but it’s something that they hadn’t tried before, and it’s a definite step forward in a direction, if not necessarily the right one.
All told, this is probably a better record than the track which replaced it. It’s a bit more fun, a midtempo, cod-calypso backing with a couple of pretty chord changes that instantly betray the Holland/Dozier connection – they’re not yet the masters, but they’re getting there, and there are musical hooks to be had here as with any record featuring their tunesmithery.
The best bits are towards the end of each “chorus” – although really there isn’t a chorus at all, just a pattern ending to each verse, a quick chord change for the girls to deliver a penultimate line before concluding each verse (Time changes things, it’s true / ‘Cos now I want you) followed by a repeated guitar riff. (The riff actually extends into a slightly botched, wince-inducingly amateurish guitar solo at 1:12, but we won’t dwell on that).
Flo and Mary’s mics are turned down too low, and their performances are still a bit off, alternating between unsure and diffident, and strident and shouty – check out the unreleased live version for the aborted Live, Live, Live LP which some kind soul has uploaded to Youtube to see how far they progressed in a very short time, and how good they sound mixed way up in the front – but on the single version, there’s still some attractive cooing and harmonising, especially the opening chant of “Funny!”. Meanwhile, Diana Ross is again on good form, even if (as on the A-side) she sounds very different to her later hits; she does well, delivering a strong and capable lead.
The problem with the song, really, is that it doesn’t ever come close to sounding like a hit single. (Which probably explains Gordy’s last-minute switcheroo). It’s a nice set-filler, a pretty bit of enjoyable “middle of Side Two” album padding, but it’s not catchy or instant enough to cut it as a hit record in its own right.
Plus, the lyrics are a bit poor – not just in terms of content, though written down they often come over a bit clunky (“When you wanted me, I didn’t want you / Yes, and time changes things, it’s true / ‘Cos now I want you”), but also in the way that they force Diana through a number of increasingly tortured hoops to fit the tune, giving her too little or too much time to get to the next word. It’s not really Janie Bradford’s fault – this sort of thing was often a problem for early Holland-Dozier tunes, and wouldn’t be satisfactorily solved until Eddie Holland joined the writing team full-time – but it does mean that the record lacks some of the charm and impact it could have had.
Still, even if it’s a slight let-down as a would-be foundation stone for a musical dynasty, and an underwhelming, underpowered affair as a would-be hit single, it’s nonetheless fun, and it’s definitely different, which counts for a lot in my book.
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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“Let Me Go The Right Way”
“Hold On Pearl”