(Released in the UK through EMI/Tamla Motown)
In Britain, the newly-formed Tamla Motown imprint flipped this single over, and Out To Get You became Shorty Long’s first UK A-side. The liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4 make this out to be a natural decision, dubbing this side “the stronger track” (in preference to It’s A Crying Shame (The Way You Treat A Good Man Like Me)).
All of that makes me wonder if this is going to be another one of those times where I’m out of step with everyone else’s opinion. As with Shorty’s Motown début, Devil With The Blue Dress, for me the A-side is definitely the more interesting – and the stronger – of the two picks.
I can’t really get my head around the process that nominated Out To Get You as a sensible choice for a single, let alone a single for the still-conservative British market. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that with the benefit of hindsight, it’s kind of a strange decision.
This is a healthy bit of rollicking, uptempo 12-bar blues rock, hammered along by boogie-woogie piano, bass and handclaps, punctuated by riotous harmonica. It’s more danceable than …Crying Shame, and perhaps it seemed like the more immediately commercial of the two sides, but it sacrifices the sly winks, the slink and personality of that song in favour of a pounding bar-room rhythm, and vibe over tune or lyrics.
Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s mileage to be had in moving the feet rather than the soul, and Shorty is pretty adept at getting the crowd up and dancing. There’s an excellent bit where Long starts spitting his words staccato style (talking! squawking! bragging!) which gets the attention, and the harmonica break (played, as on the A-side, by Shorty himself) provides a definite spark. The Contours might have been proud to have made this.
But it’s too generic for a Shorty cut, too plain and workmanlike in its approach – a throwaway lunkheaded exercise, much like his previous Motown B-side Wind It Up. Fine as far as it goes, but not going far enough. Not for Shorty Long.
Ironically, that was still too far for British audiences, who found Shorty’s brand of dancehall pop music altogether too rough and ready to find a place in the charts. They were wrong on that score, of course, but you can’t really argue with the end result: this is never a hit single.
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 Shorty Long? Click for more.)
“It’s A Crying Shame (The Way You Treat A Good Man Like Me)”
“That’s What Love Is Made Of”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.