Britain

(“The UK Motown Connection”)

**This is a discography for British Motown releases, including the UK Tamla Motown label – the US Motown labels are listed here. If you’re looking for a full list of every Motown single, try the Master Index instead!**

Here’s a list of all the UK Motown singles covered on Motown Junkies so far.

To keep the main Master Index tidy, that list only includes British singles where at least one side hadn’t already been released in America. On this page, though, every UK Motown 45 is listed, including EPs.

If the UK got to a song “first”, then – as well as appearing in both lists – the release will be included below with a little British flag icon to indicate it was an exclusive, like this:

UK Only

British Motown singles will only appear here when they’ve been covered via the main site, which is bound to result in some anomalies where records were released out of order in the UK, and which is why this list often seems to be full of gaps, or running several months “ahead” of where we’ve got up to the main index; it’ll probably be a little confusing for a while until we’re actually finished. Sorry about that.

BRITISH MOTOWN SINGLES (London/Fontana/Oriole/Stateside 1959-1965)

TAMLA MOTOWN (UK) 45 DISCOGRAPHY

(Click a song title to read a full review of that side. NB: The coloured numbers after each title indicate the highly subjective mark out of ten I gave that song on the day I happened to write about it. They weren’t intended to be taken too seriously.)


The UK Motown Connection

I’m British, and so for me the Motown story has always had an extra dimension. There’s something about American R&B records that has always resonated with British fans far more than any “home-grown” efforts; as Dust On The Stylus put it, we can’t do what they do, and yet we pretty much instantly get it.

The ensuing British love for American soul artists often seems to outstrip whatever appreciation they got back home. In a supreme twist of irony, the Sixties “British Invasion” of America came about almost wholly through UK artists discovering, absorbing, appropriating and re-packaging US R&B records. They got it.

It’s no different with Motown. Jimmy Ruffin and Edwin Starr both ended up moving over here, amazed that they had somehow become genuinely-adored stars capable of packing houses every night when Motown in America seemed to have forgotten them. The post-Diana Ross Supremes racked up an impressive string of Top Ten hit singles that handily outperformed their American counterparts. Veritable cratefuls of US Motown records languishing in obscurity in their native country belatedly became big UK favourites, even high-charting hits, sometimes years after original release. Perhaps most importantly, once Motown’s British operations were consolidated under the new “Tamla Motown” imprint between 1965 and 1976, there were several occasions on which the UK led the way, breaking a big hit single and letting the American parent label follow suit later. Indeed, there were actually a whole bunch of Motown singles released in Britain which never appeared in America at all.

To that end, I thought it was about time that I added some coverage of the British Motown connection. So, first, here’s a bit of background. The history of Motown in the UK is a bit of a mess; no less than four different labels licensed Motown content for British releases before the parent company finally stepped in and set up a UK branch. In order, London Records (through their London American imprint), Fontana, Oriole (a small label distributed by CBS) and Stateside (an EMI subsidiary) between them put out 72 Motown singles in the UK between 1959 and 1965.

Some of these labels’ choices were a little strange, to say the least: all four licensees initially picked up records from a tiny pool of six Motown artists for most of their British releases (the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Eddie Holland, the Contours, Mary Wells and Martha and the Vandellas appeared very regularly), and even then some US singles from these acts were skipped over. Additionally, the licensees’ knack for picking future winners was similarly sketchy; only in the UK could Mike & the Modifiers, or the Valadiers, have been backed ahead of the Supremes.

The slate got fuller and more varied in 1964, when the UK media started to pay attention in earnest, and Motown records finally started to appear on the British charts. After that, at the urging of the legendary Dave Godin, Motown got more heavily involved in the European market. They put a proposal to EMI – which was accepted – that a new imprint, distributed and administered by EMI, be created solely to release Motown material. So it was that the “Tamla Motown” label was born in the spring of 1965; a licensing deal was struck whereby Motown would send over anything they released in the US, both singles and albums, and Tamla Motown UK would choose the stuff they thought would appeal to British radio, British listeners and British record buyers.

More often than not, the result was either a rejection (only a little over a quarter of US Motown singles came out in the UK), or simply a British pressing of an American single a few months later, but there were occasions on which the UK label led the way. It wasn’t unusual, for instance, for the British label to choose different B-sides than appeared on American releases, or to switch the A- and B-sides around. Sometimes, the EMI staff at Tamla Motown HQ in London would pick up on an album track that hadn’t been issued as a single in the US, and run with it as a new 45. If the single did well in Britain, the main Motown label would usually take note and release the track as a single in America. If it flopped, then the Americans wouldn’t bother, resulting in a significant number of UK-only singles, serving a fine purpose driving collectors crazy to this day.

The British Tamla Motown operation ceased to function in any meaningful sense in 1976, though the imprint remained nominally “active” and has released a number of records since then, mainly reissues of old material.

8 thoughts on “Britain”

  1. GEOFF ATHERTON said:

    Hi,

    I seem to remember that in about 1966/7 the track “I Want My Baby Back” which Stevie Wonder featured on his “Uptight” LP was released as a single, but I can’t remember by whom. Can you help?

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    • The Nixon Administration said:

      Hi Geoff,

      It was Edwin Starr, in 1967. In the US, it came out on Gordy G 7066; in Britain, it was released as Tamla Motown TMG 630. The B-side on both releases was Gonna Keep On Tryin’ Till I Win Your Love. It’ll be a while before I get to write about that one, though!

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  2. As Edwins debut for Motown, I thought this should have been far more succesful than it was. It booms along like a runaway train, and was always one of my favourite Edwin tracks.

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  3. JulianHicks said:

    With regard to early Motown records in the UK, I believe that technically, the “London American imprint” was a ‘Decca Records’ label.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In a nutshell, yes, though it’s rather more complicated than that. When Decca had some corporate fun and games in the 1940s which resulted in UK Decca and US Decca becoming two completely different companies, “London Records” was set up as the brand name for Decca UK product in North America, to avoid confusion with Decca US releases. There was no British “London Records” at the time, the records released in the USA in the 50s and 60s on London came out on Decca in Britain (as any Rolling Stones fan will tell you!) Decca UK launched the “London American” brand in Britain later for pretty much all the American records it had licensed from the USA for British release.

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  4. The Wilson Administration said:

    Great list (please carry on), but it would be even better to have a list of the ones that charted…

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  5. Trev Denman said:

    I think I might be able to help with that chart list but it will take a bit of time.

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  6. Just found this blog and the US list, look forward to seeing both lists progress. For research, check out the individual label discographies on 45 cat.
    John Derek Pitt.

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