Spoken word interview disc
(UK fan club release – promo only)
As we reach the end of August ’64, here’s a little surprise Motown Junkies bonus for you.
The history of Motown in Britain owes a lot to the late, great Dave Godin, founder of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society – so named before EMI opened a UK label under the “Tamla Motown” banner, and thus instrumental in their eventual choice of name. It’s hard to overestimate how much of a debt of gratitude British Motown fans owe to Mr Godin, or how many great UK Tamla Motown records we might never have seen were it not for him – but we can say with certainty that this one definitely wouldn’t exist without him.
Godin was an early adopter who did a lot to boost awareness of Motown and its artists among the British public. Within a few months, several hundred hardcore fans had joined Godin’s club, receiving an iconic badge declaring them to be a “Swinger and Friend” (the phrase taken from the lyrics of the Miracles’ excellent I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying); his efforts caught the attention of his US counterpart, Margaret Phelps, who organised a trip over to Hitsville for Godin to come and meet some of the stars of the Motown show. Whilst in Detroit, Dave managed to convince the Motown top brass that here was a real opportunity to “break through in England”, and so Berry Gordy ordered some of his top talent to each record a few lines for a special fan club only disc, paving the way for a full-on British tour later in the year. This is that disc.
Copies were originally only distributed to the fan club, but it’s since been leaked all over the Internet, officially re-released as a hidden track on the amazing compilation A Cellarful of Motown! Volume 2, and modern fans wanting a pristine vinyl copy can obtain one as a special gift with Al Abrams’ equally-amazing book Hype and Soul. Here’s what’s on it – my comments are in italics.
[MUSIC: The Supremes, Where Did Our Love Go]
This was a big coup – at the time of recording, the single hadn’t been released yet and the Supremes were unknown in Britain (which perhaps explains why the girls themselves don’t appear until a tiny cameo right at the end), so the UK fan club ended up unwittingly getting the world première of their big breakthrough.
MARGARET PHELPS: “Hi, Tamla Motown fans, and especially the members of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society. This is Margaret Phelps of the Hitsville USA Fan Club. Since we have been receiving many letters from you asking for information about our President, Mr Berry Gordy Jr., we thought we’d like to take this opportunity to have you meet him. Well, here he is!”
BERRY GORDY: “Thank you, Margaret. Greetings to all of you swingers and friends. This is Berry Gordy Junior. It was a real pleasure meeting Dave, and getting first hand information about the music scene over there. We over here really appreciate the sincere effort you’re making to publicise and promote our artists in Great Britain, and throughout the world. I hope that one day, I may have the opportunity of meeting each of you personally. Thanks a lot.”
Berry Gordy sounds really hesitant and uncomfortable reading this stuff. Supposedly, Berry had trouble reading throughout his life, and remained self-conscious about it – he certainly doesn’t sound very much at ease here, but it’s fascinating to hear a contemporary “interview” like this.
[MUSIC: The Miracles, I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying] – (specifically the “swingers and friends” bit)
SMOKEY ROBINSON: “Hi there, swingers and friends. This is Bill “Smokey” Robinson of the Miracles, extending our greeting to all the Tamla Motown fans in England. We’re looking forward to coming over and seeing you very soon.”
[MUSIC: Stevie Wonder: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 1)] – not Fingertips, weirdly, in light of the message!)
STEVIE WONDER: “Hi, this is Stevie Wonder, and I’d like to thank all of my fans for buying my records over in Great Britain, and when I was there I’d have to say I enjoyed it being there very much, and I’d like to thank very definitely all of my fan-members in the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society. I’d like to say, until I come over there, I just wanna hear everybody to keep on saying YEAH!”
Note he doesn’t say “Little” Stevie. Just as well, as his voice is clearly mid-break here – no longer the kiddie artist who cut the track which plays in the background.
[MUSIC: Marvin Gaye: Can I Get A Witness]
MARVIN GAYE: “Hello. This is Marvin Gaye speaking, and I’d like to say a special thanks to all of Great Britain, and especially to the, uh, Tamla Motown Appreciation Society, for voting me number 2 in their poll for top artist of the year. It’s certainly appreciated. I’d like to also say that we will be seeing you all very, very soon, when we arrive there in England. Thank you so much.”
Marvin sounds really “serious” here, more so than in other contemporary interviews I’ve heard – he’s audibly not smiling. Perhaps he wants to be taken seriously as an artiste, or perhaps he wasn’t so impressed being voted Number 2! Does anyone know who came in at #1?
[MUSIC: The Marvelettes, As Long As I Know He’s Mine]
GLADYS HORTON: “Hi. This is Gladys of the Marvelettes. Uh, it was such a pleasure meeting Dave today, and we hope to meet all of you over in Great Britain soon.”
Gladys is obviously reading from a pre-prepared statement, and she sounds just as nervous and stilted as Berry Gordy had – it’s fascinating to hear who was comfortable with this sort of thing and who apparently hated it! Further evidence that Motown didn’t know what to do with the Marvelettes comes from the rather random choice of backing track.
[MUSIC: The Temptations, The Way You Do The Things You Do]
MELVIN FRANKLIN: “Hi. This is Melvin Franklin of… and I’m speaking for all the Temptations, and all the rest of the people here at Hitsville USA, and we want to say we’re grateful, and we’re very happy at all the, um… all the enthusiasm that you people there in Britain have, um, been giving us, so we’re looking forward to coming over, and seeing you very soon. Uh, it’s a pleasure to meet Dave, and if all the rest of you are as friendly as he, we just can’t wait to get there.”
Melvin may seem an unusual choice to represent the Tempts, but his is easily the most “natural”-sounding message on Side A; he’s apparently recording this down the phone from some tour date somewhere, and the lack of preparation doesn’t hinder him in the slightest. Also, his speaking voice is exactly as you’d imagine it to be from his impossibly deep bass vocals, which is fun – imagine Michael Clarke Duncan with a sore throat.
[MUSIC: Martha & the Vandellas, Quicksand] – another unusual choice!)
MARTHA REEVES: “Hi! This is Martha, of Martha & the Vandellas. I’d like to tell all of the Tamla Motown swingers and friends that I appreciate the card to the highest. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever received – it was a little early, but I appreciate it because it was one of the first, and (laughing) I’ll enjoy my birthday, and think of each and everyone of you. Dave has been wonderful and I really appreciate meeting him, and I hope to see you all soon. Bye bye!”
Martha is the first person to actually giggle during the recording of these messages, and it’s a really nice, warm moment.
[MUSIC: The Contours, Can You Do It] – apparently only chosen because it says “1964!” in the opening lyrics!
BILLY GORDON: “Hi! This is Billy Gordon, speaking for the Contours. We’d like to thank all of you swingers and friends of Tamla Motown for helping to make our record Do You Love Me a big hit in Great Britain. Keep swinging, we hope to see you soon!”
…Speaking for the Contours, except for everyone else in the group, who have effectively just been fired?
[MUSIC: Eddie Holland, Leaving Here]
EDDIE HOLLAND: “Hello swingers and friends. This is Eddie Holland telling you to keep swinging. And we hope that one day each and every one of you will be able to visit us here at Hitsville USA.”
…That one was a surprise. From reading interviews with Eddie, hearing him sing, seeing his dapper style and cheeky smile, and knowing he had a sharp mind, I’d always imagined he’d come across in interviews like his writing partner Lamont Dozier: a witty, avuncular kind of guy. But here Eddie is really uncomfortable reading his little script – he enunciates every single syllable of that last sentence in a terrified monotone, sounding like he’d rather be anywhere else right now. All those rumours about stage fright, about Eddie wanting to get out of the spotlight, suddenly ring very true.
[MUSIC: Kim Weston, Love Me All The Way]
KIM WESTON: Hi there! This is Kim Weston, I would like to say hello to all the Tamla Motown fans, and I would like to also say that I’m glad that you enjoyed Love Me All the Way, and I hope very soon that I will be over there to see you. Dave has been very wonderful to everybody and we have enjoyed him since he has been over here and I’m sure that we will enjoy everyone else. Bye.”
Another telephone interview, the sound of stiletto heels on tiled floors echoing in the background of wherever Kim is calling from, but unlike Melvin Franklin, Kim reads from a pre-prepared statement. Utterly charming, but she also sounds faintly amused at having to do this. The choice of artists on this thing is quite interesting, isn’t it?
[MUSIC: The Supremes, Where Did Our Love Go]
ALL THREE SUPREMES: “Hi Dave! We’re the Supremes!”
DIANA ROSS: “I’m Diane…”
FLO BALLARD: “…I’m Florence…”
MARY WILSON: “…and I’m Mary!”
DIANA ROSS: “We miss you very much, and in our book you are a very swinging fella.”
Again, nobody had really heard of the Supremes, certainly not in the UK, and so the decision to bookend both sides of this fan club release with their new single, and to push “Diane” to the fore, is of historical interest. Well, to me it is.
Anyway, that’s the end of it. I’ll be doing a similar thing with some of the other interview and spoken word discs that crop up from time to time, so, er, there’s that to look forward to. No ratings here, but see you tomorrow for a proper entry!
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