B-side of Mother Dear
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
B-side of Nothing But Heartaches
(Issued with different song on the A-side)
B-side of Nothing But Heartaches
(Released in the UK under license through EMI/Tamla Motown)
So before the inevitable controversy over Nothing But Heartaches, here’s a little calm before the storm: it’s another old Mary Wells song hastily-repurposed as a Supremes B-side, a throwaway affair meant only to bulk out the tracklisting of the upcoming More Hits album, a gentle watercolour doodle.
It’s absolutely lovely. As with their take on Mary’s Whisper You Love Me Boy, the Supremes do a fine job with this. The newly-recorded backing vocals are an improvement over the original, while Diana Ross’ high, piping lead vocal floats around the track like fluff on the wind but still somehow manages to convey some of the jejune, defensive pride that Mary’s narrator had previously brought out. (In fact, Diana’s more girlish voice – again sounding several years younger than Miss Wells, even though she wasn’t, giving the impression of a far younger schoolgirl narrator – might actually suit the song better).
Most strikingly for a Beach Boys fan like me, having sat through the echoes of Help Me Rhonda in Mother Dear, He Holds His Own fosters a sense of karmic balance: the similarities between this and Brian Wilson’s beautiful Please Let Me Wonder, recorded a few months after Mary’s version of He Holds His Own hit the shelves, jumped out at me right away. This doesn’t have the soaring chorus, of course – in fact, it doesn’t really have a chorus at all, now I come to think of it – but besides the nearly identical tune in the verses, the tone, the sense of painful pining under a gentle, genteel exterior is here alright. And for me, this is a Good Thing.
(Of course, the Supremes aren’t white men, and so this doesn’t get discussed very much. But hey.)
Anyway. This is the beautiful centrepiece of side 2 of the More Hits by the Supremes album (left), and – as with Mother Dear – I’m so glad we get to talk about it in isolation here on Motown Junkies, because it’s one of those “missing link” pieces that helps fill in the Supremes story – another halfway step between the Supremes of 1964 (when this was written and the backing track laid down) and the Supremes of 1965 (when the vocals were cut), the yearning bouffant schoolgirl blues of the past as re-envisaged by the new biggest pop group in America.
The calypso-tinged percussion, hints of bossa nova and wandering Sergio Mendes jazz piano, mark it out immediately as an artefact out of place, but it’s also a blissful exercise in romance, a song of joy and future happiness, magnificent in places, all with a dark edge of uncertainty kept at arm’s length but never completely pushed away.
If it’s one of the few tracks on More Hits which could absolutely never have been picked as a would-be hit single, that works in its favour there as it does here: a brief oasis of calm and contemplation amid a sustained barrage of banging high-gloss pop tunes. Really rather lovely, and not at all unwelcome.
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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“Nothing But Heartaches”
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