B-side of I’ll Always Love You
(Written by Harvey Fuqua and Thomas Kemp)
B-side of I’ll Always Love You
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Tamla Motown Records,
credited to “The Detroit Spinners”)
This was more than a year old by the time Motown dug it out for use as a 45 B-side, one of a bulging sheaf of songs recorded by the Spinners under the tutelage of their mentor and champion Harvey Fuqua following the closure of the Harvey and Tri-Phi labels and their absorption into the Motown empire.
It’s no surprise to discover this is old material; in fact, the surprise is that it’s not the oldest thing they had available, because this stuttering, pedestrian doo-wop cut sounds about five years out of date.
The Spinners had scored an unexpected hit back in 1961 with the lyrically dubious That’s What Girls Are Made For, and so Tomorrow May Never Come works as a kind of attempt to recapture that success by going back to that sound; recorded after three years had passed, released after four. But four years is a long time anywhere in pop music; at Motown, this might as well have been unearthed not by an archive search, but by an archaeological dig.
It’s nowhere near as good as That’s What Girls Are Made For, featuring rougher harmonies, feebler hooks and a shapeless, meandering song that doesn’t really go anywhere. The band track is fine as far as it goes – some slick, modern sax, stabbing horns, and a bed of cooing female backing vocals do their best to cover up the surprisingly indifferent singing from the Spinners themselves, as well as being pretty much the only clue that it’s not still 1961 – but it’s still not great.
Perhaps its biggest mistake is that, in taking the decision to have a joint lead vocal on this, Fuqua takes usual Spinners lead singer Bobbie Smith – one of the top male Motown voices, the group’s secret weapon and greatest asset – out of the fray.
It’s a tactical error, and a grave one. Hiding Smith’s light under a bushel turns the Spinners into a decidedly average street-corner doo-wop group: the sort of amateur concern you might have seen gathered beneath a lamppost in 1958, and certainly not the same guys who’d almost touched the stars on the magnificent A-side, I’ll Always Love You.
It’s even more baffling when one considers the number of great songs on the group’s first Motown LP, The Original Spinners (left) – not to mention the amount of unreleased material on the excellent Truly Yours CD compilation – that was recorded well in time to be considered for the flip here, only to be overlooked by Motown in order to give Tomorrow May Never Come its moment in the sun. A rare miss, not just for the Spinners, but for Quality Control.
(If they had to go for an older-sounding cut on the B-side, my pick for a throwback flip would have been Lonely Tomorrow, which has no Youtube clip; but there are maybe eleven or twelve eligible choices that might have been better picks, to my mind, than Tomorrow May Never Come. Suffice to say, this is not even the sound of the 1964 Spinners doing their best doo-wop, never mind the sound of the 1965 Spinners soaring into the sky.)
Dated (which isn’t necessarily a problem), rough (again, not always a problem), and boring (definitely a problem), this is an inexplicable return to a time already vanished, and the trip does the Spinners no credit at all.
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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“I’ll Always Love You”
“This Time Last Summer”
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