B-side of Pride And Joy
(Written by Mickey Stevenson)
B-side of Pride And Joy
(Released in the UK under license through Oriole Records)
Of course, while tracking the development of Marvin Gaye’s musical career through his early Motown singles makes for interesting research (and hopefully interesting reading!), doing the same through a sampling of his B-sides to date is probably a subject worthy of serious investigation in its own right.
Marvin’s flipsides are always worth a listen, just because you never know just what you’re going to get. So far, on the underbelly of the six singles he’d released before this one, we’ve had attempts to show his range (Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop) contrasted with Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide); we’ve had attempts to underline whatever characteristics the A-side was highlighting, a way to “boost the signal” with the hitherto-uninterested audience (Taking My Time bolstering Soldier’s Plea); we’ve had weird throwbacks which try to diminish the strides made by the A-side (Hello There Angel inexplicably chosen to back Hitch Hike); and we’ve had songs which could have made perfectly good hit singles on their own merits (see It Hurt Me Too).
One Of These Days is one of the ones that sounds like a hit single. Specifically, it sounds like a distillation of Marvin’s last two hit singles – the insistent groove and pop harmonies of his big chart breakthrough Stubborn Kind Of Fellow and the raw quasi-blues feel and driving beat of Hitch Hike – and perhaps that’s part of its problem. As with It Hurt Me Too above, it might well have worked as a follow-up single if Motown had struck while the iron was hot, but instead this was recorded fully seven months after Stubborn… and Marvin, always looking ahead and seemingly incapable of sitting still, had already moved on.
Sure, seven months doesn’t sound like a long time, but everyone at Motown – artists, writers, musicians, producers, everyone – was forging ahead at a white-hot pace during 1963, which turned out to be a great transitional year for the company; the Motown Sound at the end of the year would be a very different proposition from that which had existed at the start, and sitting still meant flying backwards. Esteemed contributor Dave L. made a comment on yesterday’s entry that Pride And Joy is a “gateway song” pointing the way to Marvin’s great mid-Sixties run of crossover singles, and I think that’s absolutely on the money – but it means that the likes of One Of These Days, as a not-too-distant cousin of Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, with its slightly rough edges and its roots very firmly grounded in the blues- and jazz-inflected early Sixties Funk Brothers sound, being left behind in a kind of no-man’s-land. It’s paradoxically too catchy, too good, to be a B-side, but out of date as a viable chart single.
Which is a pity, because if you were sat down and told with no prior knowledge that this was Marvin’s follow-up single to Stubborn Kind Of Fellow, you’d have no reason to doubt it. It’s a more plausible follow-up than Hitch Hike, at any rate, even if Hitch Hike was probably more necessary (for a number of reasons) and so likely would have kept this on the shelf even if it had existed in time for there to be a straight fight between the two, despite One Of These Days being (on paper, to me anyway) obviously the stronger record.
Oh, I’m not going to claim it’s a masterpiece or anything; it’s certainly catchy, has a pretty tune, but it lacks the brio, the joy of Stubborn…, Marvin making up for the song’s more mannered and sedate pace by occasionally losing his vocal grip. Gaye’s voice is still finding its real groove, hence some lapses into slightly loose, hoarse bluesy territory (more charitable reviewers have cited Otis Redding, less charitable ones point out he’d all but exhausted that line of development on Hitch Hike), which is something he doesn’t need to do considering the splendid Sam Cooke vibe his beautiful voice lends to other parts of the song.
There is a real hook, though – a male backing vocal chorus (courtesy of the Love-Tones) of Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo… played against some female backing vocals (though I don’t think these are the Vandellas this time?) – and it carries the song very far. Between this and the pleasingly disgruntled lyrics (a growled threat / potential kiss-off to a wayward girlfriend), it’s also a rippingly obvious blank canvas for a big live performance; check out the version recorded for posterity on the Recorded Live LP.
Ultimately, the overall vibe that keeps coming back is that this was a fine lost single. This is Motown’s most commercial B-side since the Miracles’ If Your Mother Only Knew, and possibly since that group’s Mighty Good Lovin’ two years previously. I wonder if Mickey Stevenson – serving here as both writer and producer – ever cursed himself for not making this record a bit sooner and wringing a deserved hit single out of it. Of course, both Mickey and Marvin would go on to have plenty of hits to make up for missing out on this one.
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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“Pride And Joy”
“Your Old Stand By”
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