B-side of Heat Wave
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
B-side of Heat Wave
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
However much Martha Reeves and the Vandellas might have enjoyed their breakthrough into the “big time” in 1963, with two magnificent singles in Come And Get These Memories and Heat Wave, they paid a price for that success early on. Motown, keen as ever to squeeze as much profit from a hit as possible, rushed the group through recording not one but two quick-fire follow-up albums. When Come And Get These Memories became an unexpected Top 30 pop hit, Berry Gordy wasted no time in corraling the group into the studio to augment their first two singles and their B-sides by rush-recording material to fill out what would become their début LP, imaginatively titled Come And Get These Memories. It failed to chart.
Almost before that album was even in the can, the girls had cut Heat Wave, its obvious quality meaning no third single was ever taken from Come And Get These Memories (the album). When that single became an even bigger hit than Motown had anticipated, the girls were again rushed into the studio to cut a slew of new tracks for their second LP, imaginatively titled… Heat Wave. It, too, failed to chart.
(In case you were wondering, the Heat Wave album, packed with rushed or disinterested covers of then-recent Hot 100 hits, is a nasty failure on almost every level – commercially and artistically – and no further tracks were taken from it by Motown for use on singles, hence it not being discussed in any depth on this blog.)
When this single came out, though, that second album didn’t exist yet – indeed, I’m guessing Motown probably hadn’t planned on cutting a second LP on the Vandellas until a more suitable interval had passed; the Heat Wave LP to me sounds rushed, panicky and opportunistic. (In the late Sixties or early Seventies, Motown would most likely just have shoved out a new version of the Come And Get These Memories LP with Heat Wave tacked on as an extra track, but at this stage the album market was still new territory for Gordy, learning as he went along). So, when it came to finding a flipside for Heat Wave, there being no other suitable new material from the Vandellas’ recent sessions with Holland and Dozier, Motown went back to that first album.
The Come And Get These Memories album (pictured left; the items featured on the cover are all taken from the lyrics of Come And Get These Memories itself, which – in a mindbending bit of extra-textual play – is also the single shown there, making it the “old favourite record” referred to in its own lyrics) is a variable but ultimately enjoyable mix of new Jobete material (some of it never found anywhere else), covers of older Jobete songs, and throwaway filler, in a variety of styles. (Check out HDH’s other contribution, This Is When I Need You Most, either a shoddy rewrite or early draft of the title track).
Other than the songs already featured on Motown singles, its outstanding moments are a doo-wop number written by Brian Holland and Robert “Bob Kayli” Gordy, To Think You Would Hurt Me, Smokey’s Give Him Up, which sounds like a rejected Mary Wells commission… and this.
A Love Like Yours is probably the most accomplished-sounding thing on that album, and it’s only fitting that it was chosen to have its own moment in the sun. A slow, pretty ballad, this song is built almost entirely around its repetitive chorus – A love like yours don’t come knock-knock-knock-knockin’ / Knock-knockin’ everyday; clunky, but it does work as a hook. The lyrics combine two staples of romantic pop records (the straightforward “thank you” to a much-appreciated lover, and the plea for forgiveness) by having Martha’s narrator acknowledge her boy’s exceptional patience. It sails along as a vocal showcase for Martha, Roz and Annette, augmented by some piano and chugging drums. There’s a lovely organ-and-vibes intro, and a spoken word interlude at 1:50 where Martha recites the lyrics of the first verse; otherwise, there’s not a lot to capture the ear of any passing tourists, but it’s still a really nice little song.
Indeed, in some alternate universe, this may well have ended up being picked as the hypothetical third single from Come And Get These Memories (Nelson George isn’t alone when he mistakenly lists it as having actually been an A-side). It’s a great showcase; to me, the charm of this is that it’s small-scale, almost domestic, making Martha’s delivery come across all the more vulnerable and sweet, fitting for a tale of heartfelt appreciation.
Phil Spector certainly clocked the song, cutting a typically over-the-top rendition in 1966 on Ike and Tina Turner, slowed down even further; it sounds good, but for me its big, showy bombast somehow misses the point. Motown themselves took a different approach when re-using the song that same year for Kim Weston (of which more later), speeding it up and adding power to the drums; Weston’s version works better than Ike and Tina’s, but this original Vandellas cut is still the best of the bunch.
It may not have been a big hit if it had been chosen as a single, but I’m glad I got to feature it anyway; it’s a neat little jewel in its way, oddly affecting and eminently likeable, a snapshot of a group who knew they were good but didn’t yet know they were famous.
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!)
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