B-side of We Call It Fun
(Written by Lawrence Horn, Eugene Bunten, Ray Clayton, Ralph Gallant and Norman Warner)
From the Beach Boys to the Beatles. Following the A-side, We Call It Fun, which sounded like the sort of thing that might have been used to bulk out a Beach Boys LP circa 1963, we now get Voodoo Plan, which sounds exactly like the sort of thing Ringo might have been given as EP filler a year or two before.
On stage, this was probably a gas, the lengthy list of writing credits suggesting it came together as a jam, the Headliners (a self-contained band who played their own instruments) rocking out together with a silly bit of froth. On vinyl, much of the energy’s somehow gotten lost in the process, and what we’re left with is a curious record – it’s a so-so run through a pastiche of early ’60s American white rock-pop music. It’s the sort of thing a British Invasion group might have turned their hand to in their early days on the pub circuit: hearing something on a jukebox or pirate radio, pricking up their ears, instantly recognising the spark of excitement – but unable to recreate it themselves, having to translate it, fill in the bits that were missing from memory and imagination. That it was made by actual Americans, a real-life American white rock-pop act, is just baffling.
It’s weird because so much about Voodoo Plan seems to miss the point, much in the way that so many British groups’ stumbling efforts seemed to miss the point – but not nearly in so productive a fashion as those trans-Atlantic point-missings could be, not giving us something new and exciting in return. What we’ve got instead is not awful, not by any means – the recording sounds oddly muffled and echoey (of which more in a moment), but it adds to the garage atmosphere, while the playing and the harmonies are tighter than the A-side, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have me up and dancing at a couple of points. But it’s all somehow underpowered, mannered, in that weird way that Brian Poole and the Tremeloes’ cover of the Contours’ Do You Love Me is mannered – like they want to rock out, but it’s 1965 and nobody’s shown them how yet – and then not really knowing what to do instead. So while this should be sweaty and exuberant and silly and fun, it all sounds a bit restrained, a bit tentative, not fully committed.
The kicker, though, comes at the very end, when a hitherto-unheard audience suddenly bursts into polite applause and you realise this was a live recording. Almost enough to knock it up another mark – but then you remember the only reason the Headliners ever got to intersect with the Motown story at all was because of their supposedly explosive live set, and what’s in the grooves here doesn’t match up with the legend. Perhaps you just had to be there.
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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“We Call It Fun”
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