Gordy RecordsGordy G 7027 (B), January 1964

B-side of Live Wire

(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Freddie Gorman

BritainStateside SS 272 (B) – March 1964

B-side of Live Wire

(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)

Scan kindly provided by Gordon Frewin, reproduced by arrangement.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!In stark contrast to the ballistic fireworks of the A-side Live Wire, this is a slowed-down cover of an old Mary Wells B-side, an old Holland-Dozier-Gorman number (the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles series again credit Holland-Dozier-Holland, but this is still apparently an error) which the Vandellas had cut back in 1963 for their Come And Get These Memories LP. This turns out to be a thoughtful and well-judged re-imagining of what had been a slightly shapeless, somewhat turgid little song.

The catalyst for the improvement in this new version turns out to be Miss Martha Reeves; she owns the song now, such that Mary Wells’ original version now just sounds “wrong” after hearing Martha’s take. Reeves is the title character – an ex-girlfriend asking for another chance in order to redress a past wrong – and she’s on fine form, to the extent that even a slightly clumsy amd clunky spoken word bit can’t take away from the sincerity of her performance.

There’s a sense of improvement in the band too, the new quasi-calypso arrangement (differing from the original in swapping out horns for strings, and being taken at half-speed) having more than a touch of the early balladry of Paul McCartney’s efforts on the first Beatles albums. The Vandellas, too, are on lovely form, Roz and Annette besting the performances of the Love-Tones from the original; they add superbly to the delicate regret in Martha’s voice.

Still not a great song by any means, but this is just about the best version of it that exists, and that counts for something.



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Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:

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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Martha & the Vandellas
“Live Wire”
Gene Henslee


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