Motown 50th Post: The Influence of the Soundalike


So to celebrate Motown’s 50th Anniversary I started thinking of the best of songs people seem to associate with Motown, but in fact have nothing at.all. to do with the label.

1)”Rescue Me”
Fontella Bass (1965)

So, a lot of people think 1) This is Aretha Franklin and 2) That she was signed to Motown. No. and. No. In fact this song was recorded in Chicago with none other than Minnie Riperton (Then of The Gems) on background vocals, and was released on Chess Records. Billy Davis (Co-writer of the song) however was one of Berry Gordy’s early writing partners for Jackie Wilson (“Lonely Teardrops”) and Etta James (“All I Could Do Was Cry”) It’s also one of the biggest Motown Soundalikes.

2)”A Lovers Concerto”
The Toys (1965)

“Oh Shit, They stole our style” Supremes rip off from the Fall of 1965 that borrows it’s base melody from “Minuet in G” by Bach. Holland-Dozier-Holland borrowed some melody that no one recognized(s) and came up with “I Hear A Symphony” As a response. The Toys recorded more unique (well “Attack” is like the female equivalent of The Four Seasons “Working My Way Back To You”) material, to lesser degrees of success through 1969.

3)”Just Like Romeo & Juliet”
The Reflections (1964)

The Four Seasons “Walk Like A Man” meets The Temptations “The Way You Do The Things You Do” Recorded on Golden World, one of the few credible competitors to Motown in Detroit (and eventually bought out by Motown in 1967). Most likely has quite a few of Motown’s legendary funk brothers actually recording it (Golden World did employ most of them for Edwin Starr’s “Double O Soul” and “Stop Her On Sight”) and a #6 hit at the height of the british invasion.

4)”Right Now & Not Later”
The Shangri-Las (1965)

The Myirmidons of Melodrama actually attempted with this “Back In My Arms Again” rip to have a hit after the orchestral masterpiece “Out In The Streets” didn’t do all that well outside of the northeast (as if, like, people didn’t have hoodlums outside of the Bronx). Sadly this nice piece of camp didn’t make it further than #99pop, and most attention these days is given to the (admittedly great) “Train From Kansas City”

5)”The 81″
Candy & The Kisses (1964)

Picks up *exactly* where Martha & The Vandellas “In My Lonely Room” picks off (including the same opening guitar figure, but on meth). It’s about a dance from Philly that nobody seems to remember, and considering that of all things “In My Lonely Room” wasn’t all that big of a hit, of all songs, why did they want to choose this one to do a rip off of? “The 81″ peaked not at #81, but at #51 as 1964 became 1965.

6)”1-2-3”
Len Barry (1965)

Apparently this song is a note for note re-write of The Supremes “Ask Any Girl” (the flipside to “Baby Love” Motown was too shy to flip over and reduce the A sides chances of going #1). All these years later I don’t hear it.

7) “Build Me Up, Buttercup”
The Foundations (1968)

eh…this song has become such a cliche, just as much as “Stop! In The Name of Love” or “My Girl” do I really need to write anything more about it? Whenever I hear it these days I think of Cameron Diaz with Jizz in her hair.

8) “You Made Me So Very Happy”
Blood Sweat & Tears (1969)

Nobody seems to know that this is a Motown Song. But It is. Originally it was done by Brenda Holloway in 1967. it eeked into the Top 40, but while it was in the charts Brenda Holloway walked out of the Motown studios recording follow-up material and asked for a release from her contract. 2 years later Blood, Sweat & Tears did a cover version in that whiteboy lounge soul mode that was all the rage for middle class people in their late 20s and had a massive hit with it. Brenda Holloway makes close to $70,000 a year out of royalty payments on this song *alone* because she’s a co-writer. I want to write a song that makes me $70,000 a year (sad face).

9) “The Real Thing”
The Chiffons/Tina Britt (1964/1965)

Both versions are Martha & The Vandellas soundalikes. The Chiffons version leaning more towards “Dancing In The Streets” the Tina Britt Version leans to sounding a bit like an update on “Heatwave” Both are awesome, and The Chiffons version was pulled in courtesy to allow Tina Britt to have a hit. It was also covered by Betty Everett and Cilla Black, and often sung by Dusty Springfield in her live shows and on her television shows. It’s probably been covered (to lesser success) as often as “Heatwave” itself

10) “Mine Exclusively”
The Olympics (1966)

Just awesome, and a perfect way to round up this list of the lasting influence of the little label from Detroit. I could list Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where I Started From” (1975) or Luther Vandross’s “Bad Boy (Having a Party)” (1982) or Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop(That Thang)” But then this list would never end….and I need to go do something more productive….

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