B-side of Camel Walk
(Written by George Fowler)
B-side of Camel Walk
(Second pressing on Gordy Records rather than Motown)
According to the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2, this was the first thing LaBrenda Ben recorded when she got to Motown in April 1962, meaning that “the Beljeans” doing backing vocals on this side of LaBrenda’s début single are different people to “the Beljeans” on the A-side, because the ones on the A-side were actually the Vandellas, and they definitely hadn’t yet arrived at Motown when this B-side was cut. Helpfully, it seems nobody knows who this set of Beljeans actually were.
Anyway. Despite the fact that once completed, it took nine months for Motown to actually give it a release date (and just to add to the confusion, the earlier Motown pressing of this – see the label scan below – is credited to “LaBrenda Ben” alone, with no mention of any Beljeans, Vandellas or anyone else… but I digress), this is marginally better than the top side, Camel Walk (a hand-me-down respray job of a failed single from a few months earlier), though not by much. It’s a fairly standard, quasi-comedy “sassy” girl group number about how LaBrenda’s romantic exploits are foiled by the younger relative she has to take along with her on dates.
Unlike Motown’s previous foray into this exact comedic territory – Andre Williams’ Shoo-Doo – this one isn’t actually funny, and its attempts to elicit laughs through LaBrenda (I think it’s her, anyway) putting on a silly deep voice to play the part of the titular chaperone (I’m sleepy and I wanna go home!) somehow make the record less fun. Also, I’ve just listened to it about twenty times in a row, but the story is so tedious that I literally zoned out every single time, and only started picking up what’s meant to happen in the final verse on my 18th or so go-around (LaBrenda’s character tries to leave a party with her boyfriend, but is thwarted by the chaperone) and even then I can’t make out what the key lyric is actually saying (He pulled on my sleeve, screaming (**unintelligiblegarbledmumble**) or I’m gonna tell – any ideas, anyone?)
Man, before I started writing this blog, I hadn’t noticed just how many of these early Motown “comedy” records are undone by unintelligble lyrical deliveries.
Anyway. All that stuff makes it sound like I’m going to dish out a really low mark, I know, but no, this isn’t actually too bad. The tune is a totally off-the-peg girl group thing, but on the plus side there aren’t very many bad off-the-peg girl group tunes out there; this one is catchy and danceable. LaBrenda Ben herself, when she’s not doing a stupid bass voice, has the right mix of sass and youth to sell the thin material. The drums and tambourine are lots of fun (the latter calling to mind the slamming snow chains on Martha and the Vandellas’ mid-Sixties run of hits), and there’s a poked organ in the background adding zest to proceedings (it never gets the solo it’s crying out for). This is one of the earliest-recorded Motown tracks to have later been embraced to any real degree by the Northern Soul scene, and it’s energetic enough that you can definitely see why.
So, yes, plenty to enjoy here: a good record and one with definite crossover potential (some discographies list this as the A-side, which is totally understandable). It’s just not fantastic, as some have made it out to be.
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.
(Or maybe you’re only interested in LaBrenda Ben? Click for more.)
|LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans
“Darling, I Hum Our Song”