B-side of Come On Do The Jerk
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
B-side of Come On Do The Jerk
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
As if to purposely show up the throwaway nature of the A-side, Come On Do The Jerk, Motown chose to pair the Miracles’ latest, weakest single with this, another beautiful, previously-shelved Smokey Robinson ballad. If it’s not quite the sound of Smokey and the Miracles at their best, Baby Don’t You Go is at least the sound of Smokey and the Miracles getting back to what they do best, which is almost as good.
Originally cut back in early 1963, this is very similar – in tune and tone – to Mary Wells’ lovely What Love Has Joined Together, produced and co-written by Smokey and recorded a couple of months before this one. While the Miracles would eventually turn in their own radically revised reading of the Mary Wells song in 1970, this one is actually closer to what a Miracles cover “proper” of What Love Has Joined Together might have sounded like. Which is to say, it’s lovely.
Sure, it’s got a simpler, blander chorus than What Love Has Joined Together, meaning Smokey doesn’t have to choose whether to attempt Mary’s incredible game-winning bounce up the scale on the word “love” (a bounce the Temptations and Brenda Holloway both shied away from, pulling up just before the jump, and which just doesn’t feature in the Miracles’ own rewritten 1970 rendition).
It’s more streamlined than What Love Has Joined Together, more direct; I’d guess it was chosen for these qualities, so as not to scare off easily-spooked Jerk fans while gently exposing them to the genius of Smokey Robinson and what he could do when he was allowed to write a proper song instead of a lunkheaded dance rocker – but had people really not heard much of the Miracles by the end of 1964?
Whatever the reason, I’m very glad this was resurrected. It’s a very pretty song, full of angst and longing while carrying a nice tune. It’s got all sorts of things to recommend it: a tremendously likeable vocal from Smokey (he spends a lot of his time in a quavering falsetto right at the top of his range, but there’s a slight rasp of pain, emotional and physical, in his voice throughout, seemingly right on the verge of cracking all the way through), clever use of loungey horns, lots of attention-grabbing dead air stops, and – most winningly of all – a great unexpected break at 1:35, when Smokey slips from harmonic crooning to proper heart-on-sleeve pleading –
No matter what you do
No matter what you say
Do me wrong, but STAY
– the tremulous wobble as he belts out the word stay is remarkable.
Left on the shelf for more than eighteen months before its unlikely rescue, Motown promptly forgot this song as quickly as they’d retrieved it from the waste bin, and it didn’t resurface for thirty more years. But while I’d never group it in with the Miracles’ best work, it’s a surprising song, unexpectedly intense despite its intentionally small scale, not to mention it being a nice twist on a previous success. Most of all, after the bland rock-out blind alley of the A-side, it’s just good to hear the Miracles back on something like their usual form.
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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“Come On Do The Jerk”
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