(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
People seem to think I was overly hard on Quicksand, this single’s immediate predecessor (and I do mean “immediate” – less than two months elapsed between the release of that one and this one.) So I’m intrigued to know what people will make of this.
Contrary to popular opinion and received wisdom alike, for me Live Wire is at least as good as Quicksand. Supposedly the straw that broke the camel’s back, a second straight retread of Heat Wave (complete with the same rollicking beat, guitar riffs and backing vocals seemingly lifted straight from the earlier mega-hit – there’s even a two-syllable title!), this is apparently where America got bored with Martha and the Vandellas living off past glories and demanded they come up with some new tricks to keep people interested. This didn’t make the pop Top 40.
Odd to report, then, that taken on its own merits, Live Wire is actually excellent fun, faster and looser than Quicksand, recapturing some of the exuberance of Heat Wave, building on the theme of unwanted, unstoppable attraction explored in Quicksand (and only hinted at in Heat Wave), and matching it in form with a brutal, flat-out musical attack that’s at least 10 bpm too fast for the vocals to keep up without running out of breath.
Oh, everything I said about Quicksand goes double here; it is a retread, it is treading water creatively, Martha herself is again not on her very best form (probably this time because the music is going too fast), Roz and Annette aren’t given enough to do – but on its own merits, it all actually works slightly better than Quicksand as a mid-chart hit record in its own right.
Most of that can be credited to the band, who lay down a track so exciting that Brian Holland actually interrupted the ’63 Motown Christmas party to drag Martha away to listen to it. It’s easy to hear what he heard. From the chiming bar-room piano at the start pretending to be a baby grand, to the driving drums, bass and horns (check out the instrumental break at 1:54, easily the thrilling equal of the drum solo from Quicksand), and the incredible guitars, this is just about the most “everything going on” Motown production since Carolyn Crawford’s Devil In His Heart. When you then add Martha’s shouted interjections at the end (My eyes light up! Yeah! Sets my soul on fire – REAL live wire!)… I wouldn’t trade any of that stuff for the world.
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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