B-side of Castles In The Sand
B-side of Castles In The Sand
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
Rewinding back to the earlier kiddie novelty sound of Little Stevie Wonder – the earliest, in fact, as this seems to have been the first thing Wonder ever recorded at Motown. (The band track is even older, having apparently been cut by professional oddball Andre Williams back in late 1961 prior to Stevie’s arrival at Hitsville).
The effect of the transition between the A-side Castles In The Sand and this – going from 14 to 11 – is an unwelcome jolt in itself, and the age gap is most noticeable in his quavering, piping voice here. However, it’s not a terrible performance, and in its clumsy reach for some dimly-grasped notion of “sophisitcation” it’s a perfect fit for the A-side, making it a more appropriate and understandable choice of flip.
That’s not to say it’s particularly good, or anything like that. It’s ungainly and amateurish, the bum notes that crop up throughout are jarring, and Stevie’s reedy boy soprano isn’t charming enough to sell it. There’s again no harmonica here (as with the A-side, Motown were seemingly going for some sort of weird MOR novelty piece rather than the hot R&B frenzy of Fingertips), but there’s a tempo and rhythm shift from bossa nova to bolero which instantly demands attention, and the frequent dead air stops are a bold choice for a first-ever cut by a child artist.
What’s really strange, though, and most jarring of all, are the lyrics. Thank You (For Loving Me All The Way) spends most of its almost 3 minutes of duration having Stevie pledge his eternal love and gratitude to an unnamed woman, promising he’d hand over hoards of treasure in grateful thanks for her love, patience and understanding. There’s an excellently mature spoken-word bit covering the first complete stop – And I love you because: – pretty good, bold and assured. (In conjunction with the title, it’s surely not an innocent mistake that there’s a slight hint of suggestiveness to this – with the joke being shared between label and listener at Stevie’s expense, of course, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool style – to ensure sales to misty-eyed older people whilst still carrying a hint of a knowing wink.)
Except! At the very end, we get this:
I’m so glad I have a mother like you, to love me all the way through / Thank you, thank you
I wasn’t expecting that. And this is a lot less fun (not to mention faintly weird and creepy) as a straightforward thank you note from a little boy to his mum. Still listenable and everything, but somehow it all seems so much sappier, so much less interesting. Knowing what’s coming up also makes the rest of the record less enjoyable on repeated listens, as it changes the whole context of everything that’s gone before. A strange decision to end what is ultimately a strange record.
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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“Castles In The Sand”
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