B-side of Come See About Me
B-side of Mickey’s Monkey
(Released in the UK under licence through Tamla Motown – note UK-only A-side)
Another rousing big band cover of a Motown R&B pop hit, courtesy of Walter “Choker” Campbell and (a version of) the Motown live stage band. But unlike the A-side, a fun but fundamentally misjudged cover of the Supremes’ Come See About Me, this flip makes for a much easier conversion into a swinging Fifties workout.
Marvin Gaye’s original version of Pride And Joy, getting on for two years old when Choker’s version appeared, had been a curiously dated number from the start. In its first edition, as featured on Marvin’s That Stubborn Kinda Fellow LP, the song was a straightforward blast through the halls of boogie-woogie and rock ‘n’ roll via gospel and jazz. The 7″ version we covered here on Motown Junkies had been buffed and polished to give it a bit more of a pop sheen for the folks on the radio, but underneath it all the song’s roots always showed through. It’s those roots which Choker brings to the fore on his version, and he seems to think he knows what the underlying melody and rhythm really needed to make them come alive. (Rightly, as it turns out). So, he ends up turning in a tight, bumptious, aggressively-modified track that – pound for pound – fits the song even better than the backing Gaye had used. I wonder if Marvin ever heard this version, and what he made of it?
What’s missing, of course, is Marvin himself. The main vocal line is taken up here by some flirtatious horns, but there’s a tantalising hint always lurking in the background, a hint of a reality that never came to be; Marvin Gaye, the frustrated MOR/jazz icon, standing on stage in an immaculate tuxedo belting out Pride And Joy over the jazzier, livelier Choker version of the backing track, two forces of almost perfect cockiness coming together in a perfect storm of blinding, brilliant arrogance. And they’d be singing for you.
But, of course, it didn’t happen. Oh, this is a better record than Come See About Me because its creator’s stylistic motives are more in tune with the basic feel of the song, and so it stands up better as a standalone 45 – but it’s not Marvin’s version. It’s not the Pride And Joy we know and love.
Of all the various reinterpretations included on Choker’s Hits Of The Sixties LP (left), this is probably the most tasteful; by which I mean, this is the one where Choker’s approach, while still not constrained by notions of deference and respect, still takes full account of what the original record was trying to achieve. So, it’s a lot of fun, and it comes across as less cheesy than his take on Come See About Me, simply because it translates very well to being a big band instrumental; the new elements (rippling, balalaika-like guitars, for instance, or blaring trombone that rises up the scale to approximate Marvin singing the word “my”) all add to the experience.
But what it adds up to, eventually, is an amusing and entertaining diversion, fun but absolutely lacking in ambition beyond the here and now; with Marvin and the lyrics gone, while it’s still a song of riotous celebration, it’s not just that the groove is king, it’s that the groove is all that’s left behind. And what that means is a record that gets progressively less good each time you play it. Once the novelty value has worn off, once the thrills have died down, it’s left as nothing more than a lively little instrumental romp. In the midst of Motown’s glorious mid-Sixties Golden Age, it’s a nice enough throwback to an earlier time, but one that feels more like an aperitif than a main course.
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!)
Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:
- Marvin Gaye (April 1963)
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