B-side of Oh Freddy
A cover of an earlier Marvin Gaye B-side, the flip of white teenage model/actress Connie Van Dyke’s one and only Motown single is a graphic illustration of the changes taking place at Hitsville in 1962.
Where Gaye’s version had been rough, raw, almost amateurish, anchored by a lolloping, clomping drum beat and a parping Ondioline synthesizer part, smoothed over only by the presence of the Vandellas on backing vocals, Van Dyke’s version is a stark indication of the difference between the previous Motown era and the next, even though it was only recorded a couple of months later. Produced by the same man (co-writer Mickey Stevenson), this is a completely different treatment, and sounds more expensive, more expansive, almost slick by comparison. More professionally played (presumably with one eye on white radio and the pop charts), it’s much quicker and lighter, the backing – banjo-like guitar, bongos, vocals, tinkling piano – pitched high and soft, all of which puts the onus on Connie to carry the song’s emotional weight and deliver something memorable.
She doesn’t really carry it off, it has to be said. Emotionally, she’s better than she had been on the A-side, Oh Freddy (a song which it’s perfectly possible to hear fifteen times in a row and still have only the vaguest idea how the eponymous Freddy fits into the story), but Marvin Gaye had already set a high standard with this story of complicated relationship issues (in short, Connie’s ex-boyfriend has crashed and burned in his new relationship, but she can’t bring herself to have a laugh at his expense because she still hurts to see him mistreated), and Miss Van Dyke muffs the opportunity to bring some real feeling to the song.
Instead, she ends up overshadowed by the backing vocals and their newly-introduced refrain “Hurt me too-ooo!” at the end of each chorus; this is first and foremost about the music, not the words. Even then, it’s not all that impressive, with more than a hint of the show tune about it; the song’s best bit, the “dangling on a string” middle eight, which seemed almost bulletproof in Gaye’s hands, just comes across like a solo spot during a big band stage number, with little real feeling for the material on anyone’s part.
This isn’t an awful record by any means, it’s charming and perfectly pleasant when it’s playing, but it’s almost totally ephemeral and done largely without feeling. Its main achievement is to inadvertently highlight what a good job Marvin Gaye had done with the same material.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Marvin Gaye (July 1962)
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|Connie Van Dyke
“A Love She Can Count On”