Tag Archives: 1965

Motown Summer of ’65 #2: The Four Tops On Top!

For the next 4 or 5 posts I’m going to write about what is widely acknowledged as the peak of the Motown Sound: The Summer of 1965. By this point the label had formulated all of the stylistic elements that it would be classically defined by, and produced it’s most memorable material

45 years ago this week, Motown scored one of the most impossible torch passings in pop music. The Supremes fifth #1 hit, “Back In My Arms Again” passed the #1 pop torch to The Four Tops for their first #1 hit “I Can’t Help Myself” Both songs were also from the same pen and production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and both we’re on their way to becoming million selling singles and chesnut (albeit “Back In My Arms Again” tends to rest in the shadows of the 4 other #1s The Supremes had between August 1964 and June 1965).

And because of this torch passing, the pop criticism that The Motown Sound was indeed that, just a sound, began in earnest from “legit” music critics and from African Americans thinking that Motown had genuinely sold out by this point. Where I think weirdly you just need to take a listen to these songs back to back to tell the immediate difference.

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“Back In My Arms Again” is set to a strutting tempo versus “I Can’t Help Myself” having a vaguely uptempo swing tempo. Mike Terry doesn’t bless The Supremes number with one of his brilliantly ironic sax solos (other than to punctuate certain lines) and there isn’t those strings in The Supremes song either. No Supremes hit single would feature a string section until “I Hear Symphony”

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Perhaps as a tongue in cheek parody of the criticism, over the 4th of July weekend 1965 Holland-Dozier-Holland came up with the coyly titled “It’s The Same Old Song.” It peaked at #5 pop before the summer was out.

I’ve always had more of a fondness to “The Same Old Song” over the massive hit preceding it. But that’s just me.

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Nonetheless all of this great material made it’s way to The Four Tops Second Album Which, I was going to write about as a Summer of ’65 post all it’s own, but 1) It wasn’t released until Veterans Day 1965 (Oops) and contains the excellent “Something About You” which was released in September.

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Album review of that, like it’s Supremes Counterpart, coming soon.

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Motown Summer ’65 #1: More Hits By The Supremes

For the next 4 or 5 posts I’m going to write about what is widely acknowledged as the peak of the Motown Sound: The Summer of 1965. By this point the label had formulated all of the stylistic elements that it would be classically defined by, and produced it’s most memorable material

First up is the reigning queens of Motown at that point, and their LP (which to me always plays as their absolute best of original material)

More Hits By The Supremes (released July, 23rd, 1965).

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This LP was the first album of original material released in nearly 11 months by the group (The intervening LPs, such as We Remember Sam Cooke were tribute albums, although The Supremes Sing Country, Western & Pop had a few originals), and included chesnuts such as the now well worn “Stop! In The Name of Love” and “Back In My Arms Again” (which actually 45 years ago this week was spending it’s time at the top of the Pop and R&B Charts).

At the same time the finishing touches were being put on this LP, The Supremes made their absolute mainstream breakthrough into Middle of The Road American pop culture: on June 29th, 1965 they debuted at the Copacabana, filling their live act with Tin Pan Alley standards and shunning the R&B roots and condensing their hit song performances into medleys and advertisements for their latest singles.

the supremes 1965 Pictures, Images and Photos

The material included here was as old as a reusage of “Ask Any Girl” (recorded in April, 1964) as the opening track, to “Mother Dear” which was finished just a month before the LP was released, and represented a time in The Supremes where the group would last be presented as a full group before it became obvious to all that Diana Ross was being spotlighted as the star in the group.

Never again would you hear the pure, tart and moody harmonies that rang so true on tracks like “The Only Time I’m Happy” or “Honey Boy” and soon after you wouldn’t see them perform as a cohesive unit on stage.

Starting with “I Hear A Symphony” (The Song and the LP) Diana was always seemingly to the right:

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In the right channel of the Stereo Mix, in the right of your TV screen to capture her close-ups.

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It’s a magically bittersweet snapshot of Three early twenty something women making beautiful music. From the leftover Mary Wells material, notably “Whisper You Love Me Boy” to the aforementioned “Mother Dear” dueling with “Nothing But Heartaches” for the chance to be that elusive 6th #1 hit in a row (which was destined to not happen).

There’s something extremely fleeting in quality about the complete listen of this LP. It represent a continuation of where Where Did Our Love Go left off, but in listens to songs that were recorded afterwards it was becoming obvious that the studio magic was fading. It’s a quality that is shared by the next three LPs I’ll spotlight: The Four Tops Second Album, The Temptin’ Temptations and Martha & The Vandellas Dance Party.

It wasn’t unique to The Supremes that the wick on the candle was already halfway burned as summer turned into fall 1965, as pop music goes you might be hot and cold just as much as the seasons changes, but the problems (save the Four Tops) were remarkably the same:

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the pressures of fame and ego took enormous tolls on group members, along with the pressure to stay at the top, would make the results less carefree and fun in later works.

Everyone behold, by ear why The Supremes became legendary.

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