B-side of Ever Since The World Began
(Written by Dorsey Burnette)
Dorsey Burnette had recorded the A-side, Ever Since The World Began (an unimpressive pop-tinged battle-of-the-sexes slog) in the wake of a family tragedy, his beloved brother Johnny Burnette having drowned in a boating accident three months earlier. Understandably, Dorsey was in no mood to record much new material, and so for the B-side, Motown reached back into the vaults to pull out a cut from earlier in the year.
Unbelievably, the recording they chose – whether with or without Dorsey’s input – was Long Long Time Ago, a song about two star-crossed lovers who end up drowning. I can’t decide whether this pick is just a terrible mistake, an appalling lack of tact, a brave attempt at closure, or something rather more crass; whatever the reason, it leaves an uneasy taste in the mouth.
It’s actually a better song than the A-side, all told; it’s perhaps more of a hardcore country number than the half-hearted pop inflection of Ever Since The World Began, and it’s much more atmospheric. Plinking piano and fiddle dominate the track, a low-key bar-room blues where the bar in question is actually an 1880s saloon.
Leaving aside all the extra-textual factors for a moment (easier said than done), this works because Dorsey doesn’t try to oversell the schmaltz in the Romeo and Juliet-esque story, and the result – taken in isolation – is touching in a way the last five sides we’ve covered here on Motown Junkies haven’t managed. It has almost nothing to do with Motown at all, but it’s a decent little tune with a strong repeated hook, and – put bluntly – I like it.
But it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room, the extremely stark reminder of the death of Johnny Burnette, which dominates all future listens and which still draws an inward gasp. I try not to pay too much attention to context when reviewing these singles, but it’s a big ask in this instance, and the idea that this might be in phenomenally poor taste holds me back from really enjoying it.
A rather nice little record on its own merits, neat and tidy, skilfully avoiding the dangers of sentimental treacle through sensitive handling, I think I’d probably have been kinder to this if I didn’t know the backstory. But there are some things you can’t un-learn.
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.
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“Ever Since The World Began”
“This Is The Life”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
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