b/w Poor Girl
Pasty-looking, pullover-wearing white Canadian singer-songwriter R(ichard) Dean Taylor is perhaps one of the more incongruous characters to populate the Motown Story, but he’s an important one all the same, a smart and classy writer with an ear for a killer tune and a knack for interesting lyrical ideas. He was also a vital sounding board (and allegedly sometimes rather more than that) for the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting partnership, who team up with him for the first time here.
Possessed of a decent singing voice and some ability with a guitar, Taylor always had his eye on a performing career as well as a profitable songwriting portfolio. He would carve out an idiosyncratic niche at Hitsville over the next eight years, racking up some fine singles as an artist but only getting his just rewards right towards the end of his Motown stint.
That we first get to meet R. Dean in these surroundings – Motown’s abortive second deliberate attempt to cash in on Beatlemania, following the Hornets’ dismal Give Me A Kiss – is a weird quirk of history. This isn’t a Beatles pastiche like the Hornets’ record; rather, it’s a likeable bit of whitebread R&B with rocakbilly overtones and gently amusing, possibly even self-mocking lyrics.
Here, R. Dean isn’t yet the stronger singer he’ll later become, but the tune is jaunty and undeniably catchy, and the band turn in a (by now) customarily strong performance to back him up as he delivers his exasperated diatribe against the British Invasion – something which must have struck a chord with parents and boyfriends alike in those Beatle-crazed first months of 1964.
What power does he hold
That makes your heart beat faster?
You know this craze could be
A national disaster!
You know that I’d do almost anything for you;
But if you want me to look like that, well –
Lady bug, you and I are through!
It all means that once again, a Motown novelty ends up stronger than the sum of its limited parts. Not all that much more, admittedly – R. Dean himself is the weakest link here, his diction and delivery lacking strength and confidence – but it’s far from horrific.
Motown’s ear for this sort of thing was improving all the time, resulting in less atrocities year on year. That they didn’t actually end up releasing this is actually almost something of a pity; this is silly, silly stuff alright, but it’s definitely not awful.
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 R. Dean Taylor? Click for more.)
“Set Me Free”
|R. Dean Taylor
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.