B-side of Forget About Me
(Written by Robert Gordy)
Unbelievably, Carolyn Crawford hadn’t long turned fourteen when she cut this. Fourteen. Seriously.
Carolyn had arrived at Motown as a Tip Top Bread contest winner, given an audition just to humour her, but the label quickly became convinced of her worth. She’d cut the A-side, Forget About Me, a song she’d written herself, just a few hours after midnight on her 14th birthday; this B-side was laid down a couple of months later, but the development is nothing short of remarkable.
More restrained vocally than the barrelling, uncontrollable massive chest trauma of the A-side, Carolyn is on excellent form here; the producers (none other than Motown boss Berry Gordy himself, together with his brother Robert, hitherto best-known as awful Motown recording artist Bob Kayli, who wrote this song) take some of the burden away from Carolyn by throwing just about everything else in the studio at the listener.
The 4/4 tempo may be slow and steady rather than frantically excited, but its relentless march (military pun definitely intended) gets right into your head, the drummers hitting the beat (or trying to, anyhow) in a fashion Holland-Dozier-Holland were sure to notice. Otherwise, despite that relatively sedate rhythm, this is just about the noisiest record Motown had released to date; the hiss and crash of cymbals and tambourine flood every channel, the rolling barrage of handclaps pound out that steady beat, the onslaught of what feels like layers upon layers upon LAYERS of horns, the heady mix of backing vocals which barely let up even for a second, female voices enveloping Carolyn and the musicians, male voices heard in the far distance with a cry of “Hey!”… talk about your Wall of Sound, this feels like an actual wall made out of sound, and it’s only Carolyn Crawford keeping it from collapsing in on all of us.
The decision to scale her back – or to encourage her to scale herself back, in the face of stiff competition from what sounds like just about every musician on Motown’s books – works wonders. Dialled down a bit, the emotional intensity of the lyric really comes across, Carolyn delivering a cracking tale of love gone bad.
The extra couple of months’ development in her voice compared to the A-side leave her sounding worldly-wise and heartbroken here, working on some level far removed from the unbearable angst of teenage love; but the story (lamenting her fate in falling for a cad) is a good one and she sells it with total sincerity. When she describes his idea of fun – Collecting poor lonely souls like me, and tearing them apart – we’re in the kind of bleak territory where even country music stars of the era usually feared to tread. It’s remarkable.
Everything about this is far better than it has any right to be, from the ominous, piercing horn riff that runs right through the song to the just-keep-adding-stuff production that somehow balances out. Not for the first time, Motown seem to have chosen the wrong side of a single to plug: an excellent record through and through.
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 Carolyn Crawford? Click for more.)
“Forget About Me”
“When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.