B-side of Farewell My Love
Norman Whitfield had taken control of the Temptations for the first time on a prevous B-side, producing The Further You Look, The Less You See, co-written with Smokey Robinson. Whitfield’s collaborations with the Tempts in the late Sixties and early Seventies would become legendary, but he was still very much learning his craft here.
Written by Whitfield together with Hitsville receptionist and seasoned songwriter Janie Bradford (fresh from a stint as lyricist with Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier), May I Have This Dance features a lead vocal from Eddie Kendricks, but – uniquely – a lead vocal anchored in the lower reaches of Eddie’s register, giving him few opportunities to break out his trademark falsetto.
The effect is unusual; just as Eddie’s soaring falsetto was maturing and getting more and more effective doing group harmonies, he’s suddenly pulled down to earth where he’s far less comfortable, turning in an awkward semi-spoken delivery, to the point that it actually sounds a bit strange when he takes off back up the scale right at the end of the song.
Otherwise, there’s not much to report, as this record is little more than an exercise in treading water, both for its writers and the group. A very brief (two minutes) doo-wop throwback number, it actually anticipates the Drifters’ Under the Boardwalk by several months, in slightly eerie fashion; musically, it’s almost exactly one part Boardwalk and one part the Vells’ little-remembered flop You’ll Never Cherish A Love So True (Till You Lose It), with some added mariachi horns for no readily discernible reason.
Lyrically, it actually took me a couple of listens to realise this is actually a comedy record, albeit a very gentle one. Eddie’s narrator tells a story of lacking the gumption to pluck up the courage to ask out a girl he fancies; he then sees her dancing with someone else (“The way he held you in his arms with his many charms I knew my chances were slim”), so he contrives to get his rival to leave. He achieves this by passing on a false message, telling the other guy there’s some other girl (“by the name of Pearl”) looking for him, causing him to run off – all so he can cut in and dance with his chosen girl. (She doesn’t get a say in the matter, but the whole song is addressed to her, including the titular question, so it’s quite possible she answered “no”.)
Nothing else happens, either lyrically – there’s no resolution, no funny postcript where the original guy comes back for retribution, nothing – or musically, where if you’ve heard the first four bars of this, you’ve heard the entire record.
It’s not awful, but nor is it hugely impressive; both sides of this single mark a sort of watershed for the Temptations, who were about to leave this sort of stuff behind forever.
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 The Temptations? Click for more.)
“Farewell My Love”
“My Daddy Knows Best”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.