B-side of Just Be Yourself
(Written by George Fowler)
LaBrenda Ben’s last Motown bow, this is very different to the louche, worldly-wise stylings of the A-side, Just Be Yourself. Here, rather than knowing maturity, LaBrenda instead shows off teenage insouciance: this is the story of Ms Ben’s narrator, a schoolgirl, getting ready for a night out at a Contours show.
(A nice extra-textual reference; the Contours were LaBrenda’s labelmates on Gordy Records).
Very much in the vein of LaBrenda’s previous Motown B-side, The Chaperone, but somewhat more accomplished; she certainly sounds older, more confident with her deep voice.
Still, there’s so little to the song; it’s basically a lengthy monologue that doesn’t go anywhere musically, relying on the story LaBrenda tells (in an appealing low, almost half-spoken delivery – the way she pronounces “Con-tours” is particularly good fun) to keep it all moving along.
First off, she tells us she’s excited to go out and dance; then she appeals to various impediments (the dishes, homework, her parents) to free her to go to the show; then she rushes off to the show so she can get in a full night’s dancing; then – I think – she finally gets there and proceeds to dance all night (though, like The Chaperone, the story lacks definitive resolution; in this case, it just degenerates into LaBrenda repeatedly telling us how much she likes to dance.)
There’s a small hint of romance (“I’m with my lover!”), and an even smaller hint of something mildly salacious and scandalous (“I’ll be taking a chance”), but on the whole this isn’t a date record – or, rather, it is, but the love interest isn’t her man – it’s pop music. It’s a paean to the joys of the dancefloor, nothing more and nothing less.
LaBrenda is the main attraction here – everything else is just window dressing for her to do her thing. The band track sounds like an improvised jam session, liable to collapse in on itself at any minute, while the song itself is thin, and there’s no real chorus to speak of beyond the repeated exhortation to Turn me loose! that crops up at set intervals.
Not a masterpiece, but a fine showcase for a clearly talented individual who should have had a better crack of the whip once she arrived at Motown. Instead, she hung around Hitsville for a few more months before disappearing from the music industry altogether; just to drive the collectors nuts, she may or may not have cut a large number of acetate demos during this time, copies of which are prized on the collectors’ circuit. (Though if that’s her on the cut commonly referred to as I’ve Got A Right To Cry, and more recently released on A Cellarful of Motown: Volume 4 as Holland-Dozier’s Lead Me And Guide Me, then I’m President Taft.)
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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“Just Be Yourself”
“You Lost The Sweetest Boy”
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