B-side of Do The Pig
(Written by George Coolures and Bobby Hunt)
And so, finally, to the end of 1964. Without a doubt Motown’s most successful year to date, artistically and commercially, it was also their busiest; the bumper crop of 168 sides slated for release in ’64 has actually taken us longer than a year to review here on Motown Junkies. But we’ve had some magnificent highlights – My Guy, My Girl, Baby I Need Your Loving, the Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go and Baby Love, and – from last week – the Velvelettes’ peerless He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’. And we’re really only just getting started.
Compared to that little lot, closing out the year with a throwaway scribble like Thompin’ can only produce disappointment. Perhaps this is another reason why the Merced Blue Notes’ one and only Motown single went unreleased, the masters returned to the band to sell on elsewhere (which they did, hence the Galaxy Records label scan up there) – maybe someone felt they just weren’t good enough to keep that kind of company.
If so, it’s a little harsh. This is the stronger of the two sides, a helping of jaunty instrumental organ-led R&B/jazz fare, and while nobody’s going to be mistaking these guys for Earl Van Dyke or Booker T and the MG’s, it’s actually quite good fun.
The structure’s very similar to the A-side, the underwhelming, beery Do The Pig, a strident organ riff leading into a shuffling blues-rock groove, and again the organ isn’t played with any particular virtuosity – but there are two big improvements here.
Firstly, instead of a shouty chanted vocal, we instead get a lengthy guitar solo a la Django, bright and plucky and flexible, before the guitarist (I think it’s Ken Craig, who co-wrote the A-side, but I don’t know for sure, I’m afraid) descends the scale and starts flat out shredding, something we’ve not heard on a Motown 45 since the long-forgotten days of Nick and the Jaguars. It’s a fine performance which blows away any musty jazz cobwebs left by the slightly clumsy organ work, and lightens the mood considerably.
Secondly, both the guitarist and organist/co-writer Bobby Hunt – who seem to be treating this as an extended jam session (often the best way with jazz musicians of any stripe, of course) – indulge themselves creatively throughout the record, which is a boon given the lumpen lack of ideas on display on the A-side.
It’s still not great or anything, but it’s much more listenable than the topside, and it boils down to a fun little record. The Blue Notes’ slightly lumpen synthesis of pop, blues, jazz, rock and roll and R&B is awkward, and yet despite that – or maybe precisely because of that – it’s nonetheless an appropriate note on which to close out 1964, a year in which Motown had dabbled in all of those things, often all at once.
As Motown began 1965, flush with the previous year’s success and with My Girl (released just in time for Christmas ’64) heading quickly up the charts to Number One, I’m tempted to ask whether anyone at the company really believed that the new year would end up being even better. But it did. In 1965, Motown would not only rack up more hits, and ring up more sales, than ever before, they’d also create some of the most enduring pop records ever made – records destined to be labelled with that dirty old critic’s word, classics – and end the year a truly worldwide force. All of which feels a long way from Merced, California, but the Blue Notes had at least played their little part in the Motown story, and they weren’t embarrassed by the competition.
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5 / 10
(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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“Do The Pig”
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“Ask The Lonely”
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