B-side of (Like A) Nightmare
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
Future Marvelette Ann Bogan again fronts the Andantes, which is still just as wrong as on the A-side (none of the actual Andantes allowed to sing lead on either side of their one and only Motown single); but this slow-burning ballad suits her voice rather better than (Like A) Nightmare, while the Andantes themselves are at least given more to work with on what was ostensibly their big chance to shine.
Both sides of the Andantes’ supposed shot at the big time were written and produced by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, and while neither song could ever be mistaken for the trio’s best work, it’s equally important to note that nobody’s phoning it in here either.
Where the A-side had fitted neatly into a long line of upbeat, Spector-flavoured HDH girl group stompers, this B-side is effectively Darling, I Hum Our Song – an early HDH number as recorded for B-sides by both Eddie Holland and Martha & the Vandellas – with the rubbish clunky “humming” part replaced by a riveting Oh yes! Oh yes! backing vocal chant, a much stronger hook. The lyrics are awkward and scan poorly (“awkward” both in terms of choice of words, and of the story being told – a cousin to Mary Wells’ Your Old Stand By, Ann chiding a male friend for not seeing what’s in front of his eyes, but which never really quite comes across, never quite connects, as if Eddie needed another draft to really nail it but just didn’t have time), and the rest of the tune isn’t as strong as either version of Darling, I Hum Our Song, but the performances are all good – good enough to compensate for the failings in the song, certainly.
Ann does her best Martha Reeves on lead – in terms of technique, at least, if not lyrical interpretation (and there’s a weird splice at 2:34 where she just appears on the track mid-note, clearly an accident but the effect of which I rather like), while the Andantes themselves turn in a far more satisfying performance on backing vocals than the shrill, staccato interjections featured on the A-side; here, filling out a soft, cooing bed of harmonies dovetailing with the waltzy band track and woozy sax, they’re as flawlessly lovely and all-enveloping as on many of their uncredited appearances.
All good fun, then, but not a great lost treasure; this single is an interesting curio, a historical footnote, and it’s not terrible, but nor is it the Holy Grail it’s sometimes referred to. Not for me, anyway – I know there are a few soulies out there who revere (Like A) Nightmare, but I’ve always suspected this had more to do with its rarity and obscurity than its outright quality. Having said that, I always get cross when the same accusation gets levelled at me regarding my love for Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), so perhaps I should just call it a difference of opinion and leave it at that.
Anyway, yes, I think I prefer this one to the A-side, all told. Neither is a masterpiece, nor a lost classic (not to my ears anyway), but they’re both good solid pop records, this one slightly better than that one, and I can’t hold the name-subterfuge against them or Motown too much when I’m just listening along fifty years later. The Andantes gave us plenty of magical moments during their time at Motown; it’s only a shame that their sole single release under their own names doesn’t quite reach those same dizzy heights.
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.
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“Like A Nightmare”
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