B-side of Something About You
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
B-side of Something About You
(Released in the UK under license through EMI/Tamla Motown)
A third and final airing for this old song here on Motown Junkies. An early effort from the Holland-Dozier-Holland team before they were famous, first recorded by Eddie Holland himself back in 1962, dusted off by Martha and the Vandellas a year later, its re-appearance here at the tail-end of ’65 is a surprise. Given its writers’ astonishing development since those early days, this is practically an artefact from the distant past.
In fact, this new version – not an archive cut, but a brand-new recording made for the Four Tops’ second album, the impeccably-titled Four Tops Second Album – plays up to its age, underpinned with a chugging, pounded tack piano that really lays bare the simple doo-wop skeleton of the song, marking out the 6/8 tempo and inviting comparisons to those long-gone days when Motown could only dream of radio play and sock hop spins, never mind Number One records.
Of course, this version isn’t irrevocably dated, the main reason being that it has Levi Stubbs on it. It’s one of the paradoxes of Motown that the Four Tops – who so often found themselves cutting middle-of-the-road material, who were fronted by a guy who genuinely had been singing lead since 1954 – often come out sounding so modern, as Levi’s trademark vocals, somewhere between a bark and a lullaby, float over the top of the tune. Already long-term fans of his work, Holland-Dozier-Holland knew what they could expect from Levi by now, and perhaps accordingly, Darling, I Hum Our Song ends up as a virtual solo vocal showcase until we’re almost a minute into the record. Do you hear me complaining? No. No, you don’t.
It was never a bad little song to start with – Martha Reeves had hinted at its potential, even as she struggled to hide her light under a bushel, yearning to really cut loose. Holland and Dozier, who produced all three Motown versions of this, must have recognised their mistake; two years down the line, Levi Stubbs is shackled with no such restrictions, and the result is unexpectedly pleasing. Also, this is the only version of this song where the ill-considered “humming” gimmick (the narrator literally starting to hum along to the tune instead of singing any lyrics) actually works, rather than sucking all the built-up energy right back out of the record. Also also, it’s got that heavenly blend of voices in the background, the Tops and Andantes again combining to work their magic, one of the loveliest sounds in the Motown catalogue.
But it’s still not quite right; Levi brings enough crackle and fizz to compensate for the song’s sapping effects, avoiding the pitfalls helpfully highlighted by Eddie’s underpowered original, but it doesn’t exactly click into place; I found myself waiting for it all to come together two and a bit minutes in, for all the ingredients to lock into each other (as happens on so many of the best Motown grooves), and it builds, and fades, and builds, and fades, and then instead of ramping up ready for a big show-stopping finish, it just sort of… ends.
I don’t know if anything further could be done to fix it; this third attempt at getting the song right and putting history straight is the best version of Darling, I Hum Our Song we’ve yet heard, but it’s still somehow unsatisfying (if not unsatisfactory) and perhaps wisely Holland-Dozier-Holland don’t seem to have gone for a fourth. A fine effort in its own right, and the vocals are lovely, but everyone involved had already moved on, and HDH were right to finally let it go.
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:
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“Something About You”
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“I’ve Been Cheated”
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