b/w Would I Love You
b/w Would I Love You
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
Hard to know what to make of this one, really. Smokey Robinson was having a banner year in 1964 as a writer and producer – but only for other people. Perhaps as a result of Smokey being occupied elsewhere, strong material for the Miracles was in rather shorter supply over these twelve months than in days gone by, and the sales were starting to fall off too.
This one was released just two months after the Miracles’ previous single, the rather lovely I Like It Like That; despite that song being something of a return to form, it hadn’t really set the world on fire, and so Motown rush-recorded this follow-up. That’s What Love Is Made Of is a thinly-disguised rewrite of I Like It Like That, with lyrics almost directly cribbed from That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of. It’s better than that makes it sound, but not by much.
If you’re wondering why Motown might have been thinking “Well, I Like It Like That didn’t sell, but it was good – it just needed some more nursery rhyme in there”, it’s not a completely baffling move. There’s a dollop of the Temptations’ big breakthrough hit The Way You Do The Things You Do (written and produced, of course, by Smokey Robinson) in here too, the Marv Tarplin two-chord guitar riff that begins the song and runs all the way through the record a kind of gentle reminder of the sterling work Smokey was turning in away from the Miracles in ’64.
Also, the group themselves are getting better and better with each successive single, in terms of performances if not songs. Compare this one not only with its predecessor, but with the best Miracles cuts from 1962 and 1963: the harmonies are tighter, the voices are smoother, the production is crisper, the arrangements are better. Plus, of course, the band – not just Marv, but the bass, drums and horns, too – are constantly improving. All in all, it sounds great.
But you keep coming back to the song itself, which even the most devoted of worshippers at the altar of Smokey Robinson would have to admit is a weak effort by his standards. It’s not quite a throwaway scribble, but the nursery rhyme thing is a hard blow to its lyrical integrity: by focussing attention on a twee, artificial rhyming scheme at the beginning, and forcing a refrain out of the most childish bit of the nursery rhyme (Snakes! / Snails! / Puppy dogs’ tails!), the later (original) couplets end up sounding similarly forced, when they’d probably be quite sweet in a different context:
Pride gets broken
Cruel words spoken
Hearts say goodbye
Eyes have to cry
Hearts on a tree
Walks by the sea…
Three years on from Smokey’s rhyming-dictionary C&W pastiche Broken Hearted, this is a step backwards from there – and it’s missing the lovely Maybe you don’t know it, girl bit from that song to make up for it. The tune isn’t all that, either – a kind of amalgamation of I Like It Like That and The Way You Do The Things You Do missing all of the best bits of both of those records, formed from 100% connective tissue.
It wasn’t a huge success on the charts (scraping into the Top 40, though it followed the lead of I Like It Like That into the little-read Cash Box R&B Top 10), and it’s not difficult to see why.
All of that being said, I’d underline that it still sounds really good; there are a couple of sweet moments, and some great performances on backing vocals which make this well worth a visit. It’s just that for a Miracles single written and produced by Smokey, that’s kind of the bare minimum I’ve come to expect. This is a water-treading, wheel-spinning entry in the Miracles catalogue, pleasant enough but lacking everything that made me love I Like It Like That, and if anyone were to tell me this was their favourite Miracles record, I’d be deeply suspicious.
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!)
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“Out To Get You”
“Would I Love You”
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