B-side of Baby I Miss You
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
Wow, just listen to those drums!
“Recorded live at the Duchess Lounge, Detroit”, it says in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4, with no further explanation – so I’m not sure if this, Tommy Good’s one and only Motown B-side, was recorded during an actual live show (there’s no discernible audience, for example), or whether “recorded live” just means it was run through at what we’d now call a soundcheck, rather than pieced together from studio tracks. Either way, though, this is surprisingly energetic, especially thanks to drummer Jimmy Lawrence (his identity confirmed by Tommy himself in the comments section below!) – he’s on fire (possibly literally), beating the living hell out of their skins with a demented syncopated shuffle.
If this was a soundcheck recording that ended up being polished for use on a 45, it’d make sense for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a strange choice of cover – Eddie Holland’s original version of Leaving Here had only come out six months ago, and though Motown would later think nothing of releasing versions of the same song so close to each other they’d cannibalise each other’s sales, the company wasn’t really into doing that sort of thing yet. Secondly, this record isn’t really about Tommy Good at all, it’s much more an extended instrumental jam session for organ, horns and (obviously) drums, a pickup game that Tommy has just wandered into and grabbed the mic. This just isn’t his song, in almost every sense.
It’s less charming or likeable than Eddie’s original, both because Eddie’s not on it (which isn’t Tommy’s fault, obviously) and because Tommy sounds as though he’s surplus to requirements (which is his fault). He doesn’t do anything particularly wrong as such – he’s clearly a capable vocalist, and I do like his voice – but he sounds as though he’s singing along to the band track from Eddie’s version, and turning in a slightly softer-edged cover, lapsing into spoken-word asides (“They’re getting tired of us. Sick and tired.”), while the band have turned everything up to eleven and are busy going absolutely nuts all around him, and so I end up almost tuning him out.
I don’t know if this even needed a lead vocal on it, to be honest; the rest of the record is a crazed amphetaminesque attack that comes out of nowhere (this is a good thing!), pretty much the exact sort of material I’d have liked to see Earl Van Dyke and the Funk Brothers turn in on their own headlining records rather than the cozy organ-led remakes of Motown pop hits we usually ended up with. But that’s a story for another day, I guess.
A pity for Tommy, whose Motown career wasn’t officially over (he’d have lots more recording sessions in Detroit and California before finally parting company with the label), but of whom we’ll be seeing no more on Motown Junkies. Still, it’s a cool enough note to bow out on, even if in this particular instance most of the credit is due to other people – and to the stellar drumming of Jimmy Lawrence in particular.
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!)
Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Eddie Holland (December 1963)
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 Tommy Good? Click for more.)
“Baby I Miss You”
“My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)”
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