B-side of You’re My Remedy
B-side of You’re My Remedy
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
Listening to this shapeless, stumbling, ungainly B-side, I started to think about the subjective nature of music appreciation. (Stay with me, folks.)
It’s not just that this is a weak song – although it certainly is a weak song, don’t get me wrong – it’s more that everything about this feels somehow forced, or forced-together; nothing’s natural, everything seems to be taking a lot of effort. The backing vocals and the lyrics they’re singing, the musicianship and the charts they’re working from, it’s all artificial, all difficult, coming across as both unlovely and unloved.
Not only can you see all the joins, where the various elements that make up the song have been wedged together into spaces where they don’t really fit, but you can almost feel the frustration in the studio, as though the magic touch needed to make all of this work is mysteriously absent – and everyone on the record knows it. And I thought to myself, goodness me – is this what most people hear when they listen to the Supremes’ I Want A Guy?
This had been sat in the can for a year and a half when Motown finally dusted it off and passed it for release, and as far as I can see, the only reasoning that went into that decision was to provide contrast with the rollicking A-side, You’re My Remedy. That song was an upbeat, driving, R&B-laden number with Wanda Young on lead vocals; this song is a slow, soft, contemplative ballad with Gladys Horton taking the lead. Gladys is the best thing about this, even if this wouldn’t even make it into her top fifty, as at least she has a go at making this sound like a coherent record.
All those other things I mentioned about the way this was seemingly meant to sound – slow, soft, contemplative – they’re all barely achieved, and it feels like a real agonising effort each time we’re forced to reach for them. The juddering, lurching tempo (marked out unevenly by guiro-esque brushed drums, the brushes scraped against the skins in a varying pattern, and bolstered by bell-like blasts of vibes and piano which fall out of time with each other a few times) makes it hard to settle into the record; Gladys’ vocal is well-taken, but she’s forced into a number of unflattering moments when the tune leaves her high and dry in an attempt to bridge distinct sections, leading to long, stretched syllables in strange places.
The lyrics are a whole different kettle of uncooked fish. Not only are those syllables distorted and distended, as though the text was written completely separately from the music (which it may well have been – this is the first time we’ll meet Tony Hester, and the last for a good few years yet, as this was apparently his only stint as lyricist to Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier before Brian’s brother Eddie took over the job permanently), but the central idea is completely undeveloped and clearly hasn’t been thought through properly.
(Briefly, Gladys’ narrator gives the listener some advice on how to repair a broken relationship, mostly recommending we fall upon our former partner’s mercy and beg his forgiveness – she literally uses those words – for any minor transgressions we might have committed. Enlightened it ain’t.)
The whole thing just feels like a rough draft that was never properly finished, and was probably never meant to leave its writers’ wastepaper-baskets; it’s a bunch of ideas for a song that didn’t really pan out, a barely-adequate sort-of-hook coupled to a meandering verse/chorus structure and a half-completed lyric. It all ends up feeling ugly, particularly when up against some of the bright, beautiful creations that were now sailing out of Hitsville on a weekly basis.
It must have been obvious, before this ever even got near a studio, that it just wasn’t working, but the overwhelming feeling listening to this is that everyone involved had to carry on with it anyway even if they all knew it wasn’t going to be very good. Tempting to wonder, looking at the next record we’ll be reviewing here on Motown Junkies, whether the experience of having to cut such a palpably substandard number gave the Marvelettes the backbone to start turning their noses up at songs they didn’t like when they were offered in the future.
Artless and joyless, this is one of the weakest records the Marvelettes ever released, especially on a 45, and the song should never have left the drawing board.
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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“You’re My Remedy”
“Where Did Our Love Go”
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