B-side of I’m On The Outside Looking In
Oh, I do like this.
Unlike the raucous A-side I’m On The Outside Looking In, this is a much more mannered, considered number, written by its singer and his young friend and protegé Norman Whitfield as a midtempo number lamenting a complicated, destructive on-again/off-again relationship. The song was originally given to the Temptations, who cut their own version in 1962 – and promptly saw it left to gather dust on the shelves for four years before eventually finding a home as a B-side.
Still, Eddie and Norman must have felt there was mileage in the song. For whatever reason, the decision was made to re-cut it, with Eddie singing and Norman producing, in a new arrangement very much in the style of Chuck Jackson’s hit rendition of Bacharach and David’s Any Day Now (indeed, it’s almost a pastiche of that song).
Whether it was Chuck Jackson’s influence, or just the result of a few more crucial months’ experience for its writer and producer, this version sounds much more mature and nuanced than the Tempts’ cut. The song, which explores the latest in a long series of obviously-doomed reunions for its protagonists by looking back over their history together, can be read two ways – either the narrator accepting his fate with a resigned shrug, or a plea for release from the endless cycle of break-ups and make-ups which is doing neither of them any good – and that ambiguity comes across even more strongly in Eddie’s version.
Eddie himself takes a lot of the credit for that. His usual precise enunciation and mannered diction (largely absent on the A-side) is back, and while his delivery isn’t anything to write home about (especially when being directly compared to the Temptations!), it actually fits the song for once. The whole lyrical conceit is that Eddie has used up all of his emotion already and is quite literally all cried out, and so his somewhat dispassionate rendering ends up working to his advantage; whether by accident or design is another question, but one which is thankfully irrelevant to whether the record’s any good or not. (It is.)
Eddie aside, everyone else involved is on sterling form here. The recurring organ riff, almost a jingle, which underpins the song – a direct lift from Any Day Now absent from the Temptations’ version of this song – lends a jaunty, almost circus-like feel to proceedings, again (possibly inadvertently) playing up the farcical nature of Eddie’s predicament. Indeed, it all hangs together really well, testament to Norman Whitfield’s burgeoning abilities as a producer learning his trade on the job; besides the organ (which also turns in a great little gliss to announce the chorus), there’s the rich, shiny electric guitar which opens the record, the momentum-building horns, and (especially) the two sets of backing vocals, male and female, which are all to die for.
It’s not Eddie’s greatest song, and again there’s the nagging feeling that – likeable though his delivery is, with his smile once again audible when he pronounces certain words – he’s still the weakest thing on his own records. But this is still a fine record, pastiche or not, and both Messrs Holland and Whitfield could feel proud for having made it.
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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“I’m On The Outside Looking In”
“Just Loving You”
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