B-side of Hold On Pearl
(Written by Robert Gordy)
The story goes that when Robert Gordy, youngest member of the Gordy family, released his début single, the gentle Everly Brothers flavoured rocker Everyone Was There, on Carlton in 1958 under the name of “Bob Kayli”, it started picking up radio play and climbing the charts – until he played a live show to capitalise on his record’s burgeoning success, and audiences realised he was African-American.
I never knew whether that story was true – the coruscating sax on that record should have been a dead giveaway to racist thickos that “Bob” wasn’t some clean-cut Caucasian bobbysoxer – but had the record in question been this dreck, released over four years later yet somehow sounding even more dated, I could certainly believe it.
Motown boss Berry Gordy Jr. lavished quite a big production on his little brother’s label swansong, with echoing brushed drums, gentle woodwind backing and double-tracked vocals, but it’s all in the service of a thin, wispy bit of half-song that would have seemed wet and lifeless even ten years before. A syrupy ballad bearing a resemblance to the excellently-named Henry Lumpkin’s We Really Love Each Other, but without that song’s inherent loveliness; it has a pretty enough but entirely inconsequential tune, and it goes absolutely nowhere, just petering out at the end as if it’s given up.
Also, there’s not a vocalist in the world who could convincingly sell a breakup song centred around the words “Toodle-loo!”, and so Kayli – never a particularly talented singer – is on a hiding to nothing from the start. Hearing Bob try to infuse those words (which he wrote himself, incidentally) with a completely unearned, unsubtle helping of passion and heartache, you’re actually embarrassed for him. Calling the song Farewell My Love or something more sensible might have been a cliché, but in very self-consciously avoiding that trap by trying to come up with a unique hook, this song just ends up falling down a very deep hole.
Cringeworthy, drippy and pointless.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“Hold On Pearl”