b/w Pig Knuckles
(Written by Earl McDaniel)
Yet another in the ever-increasing throng of one-and-done Motown artists who saw a solitary single release during 1963, the Morrocco (sic) Muzik (sic) Makers were a large R&B ensemble from Dayton, Ohio who had at least two separate recording sessions at Hitsville, resulting in six finished songs, only two of which ever saw the light of day. This particular record, a spectacular misfire, was cut in August 1962 but then held in the can for a year, until its date-specific subject matter made it commercially viable again.
Commercially viable in theory, anyway. This didn’t sell, and no more was heard of the Morrocco Muzik Mak… you know what, I’m fed up of these deliberate spelling mistakes. Ahem. “No more was heard of the (“Morocco Music Makers” – Ed.) at Motown ever again.” That’s better.
This is a most unusual record, in both concept and execution. Concept first, since that’s the bit that’s easier to talk about. This is the only pop record I can think of which celebrates the end of the summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year, rather than vice versa.
The liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3 explain this away as part of Motown’s social responsibility programme, citing Motown’s “commitment to the education program by recording ‘don’t drop out’ radio promos; this ‘positive-spin’ single was conceived along the same lines”, but I’m not as sure. While stuff like Brenda Holloway’s 1966 Play It Cool (Stay In School), or the Supremes’ 1965 Phil Spector collaboration Things Are Changing have an obvious “good cause” foundation, this record is more ambivalent – I can see how a resoundingly positive “You’ve got to go back to school, but don’t be down, there’s lots to look forward to!” message might have worked, but that’s not what Back To School Again is, not really.
Instead, the (“Music Makers” – Ed) just seem to be making a record about going back to school, without any particular message to it at all. It’s not completely positive in its attempt to get the kids excited about going back to school, instead including both good and bad things indiscriminately and without comment (the main chorus begins with an exclamation that Summer’s almost at an end! in such a celebratory way, and so completely lacking in any accompanying redeeming message, that I can imagine most kids simply switching the record off right there and then).
Seriously, if this was meant to encourage kids to feel better about going back to school – see the lyrics “A lot of new faces now, a lot of new friends”, for instance, or “You’ll have so much fun / Watching a touchdown run / Or sitting at a basketball game / Or wearing your class ring”, all admirable sentiments – then surely it would focus unremittingly on those positives, and not undo that good work by also gleefully reminding the kids: “No more playing in the park / No more staying out after dark / You got to be home by eight / Nothing but a weekend date”?
No, for me this isn’t a grand social gesture; it’s simply an attempt to cash in on a current event, and a horribly misjudged attempt at that. Motown may have been intrigued by the idea of putting out a record on a subject nobody else had touched on – but there’s a reason nobody else had touched on it, and it’s the same reason the Beatles never released a song called “Remember To Brush Your Teeth”. Teenage record buyers didn’t enjoy messages reminding them of their lack of authority and autonomy – see the Marvelettes’ similarly misjudged (but infinitely superior) My Daddy Knows Best – and this is so cack-handed it might as well have been called “You’ve Got Chores To Do, Young Lady”.
Execution now. We’ve seen the lyrical content being badly mangled, but the scansion is also horribly forced – Summer’s almost at an end / It’s back to your pencil and pen”, goes the main refrain, with a heavy caesura right in the middle of the word “pencil” for good measure. The tune is almost completely forgettable; trite and cheap-sounding stuff, the only bit that passes muster is the middle eight (the Watching a touchdown run bit), and even that’s ruined by an uneven number of syllables in the final line. It also sounds awful, bongos popping away all through the track, off-key parps of trumpet, massive amounts of hiss that make it sound as though it was recorded through a sock… It’s just not very good, all told, and – as with many Motown singles recorded during the era using outside musicians rather than the immortal and ever-improving Hitsville house band, the Funk Brothers – it only serves to throw the musical deficiencies of the external players into sharp relief.
Embarrassingly poor, this would have been beneath Motown’s standards in 1959. By 1963, there’s just no excuse for this sort of nonsense to have ever found its way in front of Quality Control at all. That it was passed for release beggars belief.
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 Morrocco Muzik Makers? Click for more.)
“That’s The Reason Why”
|The Morrocco Muzik Makers
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.