B-side of Every Little Bit Hurts
(Written by Brenda Holloway)
B-side of Every Little Bit Hurts
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
For the longest time, I had somehow got it into my head that this B-side – a slow-paced original number written by Brenda herself – was a cover, an adaptation of Land of a Thousand Dances. It isn’t, obviously.
In fact, listening to it now, it’s a very curious thing indeed. Cut in Los Angeles like the A-side Every Little Bit Hurts, this is another contemplative waltz, another showcase for Brenda’s powerful voice, but it’s weird and dreamlike rather than emotionally fraught. Mandolin-like guitars, brushed drums and an ever-so-slightly out of tune piano, all drenched in liberal amounts of echo, layered around Brenda’s haunting tune, a minor-key dirge that lets her alternately scream and coo… it’s all very strange, and really not what you’d expect a song called Land Of A Thousand Boys to sound like.
The explanation for the teenybopper title comes in the first verse, which also sets the lyrical tone for the whole song:
This is the land of a thousand boys
Only for lonely girls, yeah
You can take a chance
On a new romance
This is waiting for you…
It’s a song about how there’s someone out there for everyone, and so there’s no need to be jealous of what other girls have got – yours is waiting for you, and all you have to do is go out and find him. It’s got a stock girl group title because it’s a stock girl group trope – I mean, you could easily imagine someone taking that basic premise and writing a sassy, snappy uptempo dancer around it (and indeed Motown would go on to do exactly that a little later on). But this is reflective and filled with wonder, rather than hooks and pep; if it’s not a classic, being more about the mood than anything else, it’s still beguiling enough to make you sit up and take notice.
Brenda’s on fine form again vocally – though she’s a bit more strident and screechy in the loud sections (the third “This is WAITING!” is particularly uncomfortable, her loud “YEAH!”s causing some microphone distortion), she also channels Mary Wells highly effectively in the throaty passages (It will be a love you can count on!) – and she’s absolutely remarkable in the quiet, cooing bits.
This is especially true of the wordless Ah-ah-ahs that close out the song, which are something quite, quite different from anything Motown had really attempted before. (The closest analogue would be some of the early Miracles’ more sedate, dreamy numbers – Depend On Me, say, or I Can’t Believe – but it’s better than either of those, conjuring up the kind of strange, floating sonic dreamscape Smokey might have been aiming for on those Miracles records but never achieved.)
It’s a pity Brenda didn’t get to cut more of her own material at Motown; this one marks her out as a songwriter with a very different sense of tune and atmosphere than any of her labelmates save for Smokey Robinson, and it would have been very interesting to see what she might have come up with given more opportunities like this. Of course, with the A-side riding high in the charts, Motown didn’t see her future as being on the technical side of the glass; she was going to be a big star, and there wouldn’t necessarily be time for her to sit down and write too many more songs.
A shame, though, because while I wouldn’t swap her later records for anything, it would still have been nice to hear more like this.
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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“Every Little Bit Hurts”
“Bringing In The Gold”
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