Category Archives: Supremes

Meme of Solace

I’m sure the title refers to a James Bond film; I’m swiping this from SamauraiFrog.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

There is something to be said for following the instructions in this case.

1. The Beatles
2. The Beach Boys
3. David Bowie
4. The Rascals
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Linda Ronstadt
7. The Supremes
8. The Temptations
9. Talking Heads
10. The Police

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

Something early, probably “Different Drum”.

What is your favorite song of 8?

“I Can’t Get Next To You”. From the rowdy opening to the Sly Stone-inspired shared vocals.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

Massive. I have a ton of their albums, both as a group and as solo artists. I know arcane things about their album releases. People say to me, “What album is X song on?” and far more often than not, I’ll say “American or British album?” And then peg both of them. There’s a picture of Lennon in my office and a photo of the Imagine imagine from NYC in my house.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

Probably the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” From Let It Bleed, probably my favorite Stones album. The organ noodling of this song during the early funeral sequence of The Big Chill cracked me up, while others in the audience wondered why.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

Never, though I’ve seen them live on TV once or twice.

What is your favorite song by 7?

“Love Is Like An Itchin’ In My Heart”. What an insistent bass line. there’s a version that’s about 30 seconds longer than the single I particularly enjoy.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

Ashes to Ashes
Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again

What is your favorite song by 9?

“Making Flippy Floppy”, probably because I saw the Talking Heads during the Speaking in Tongues tour in 1983 or 1984 at SPAC in Saratoga.

When did you first get into 2?

It’s really odd, actually. I had a compilation album with I Get Around and Don’t Worry Baby in 1965, and the Pet Sounds album in 1966, both of which I liked. But I never considered myself a real Beach Boys fan until I got Surf’s Up, which was a mainstay of my freshman year in college, 1971-72. THEN I went back and got into the earlier music, and bought the retrospective albums that came out in the mid-1970s.

How did you get into 3?

I was in my dorm room in my freshman year and somehow won Hunky Dory from my college radio station, WNPC on a radio call-in contest. I liked almost all of it; my roommate Ron only liked Changes.

What is your favorite song by 4?

“It’s Love”, the last song on the Groovin’ album, featuring flute by Hubert Laws, plus a great bass line. When I got a new turntable in 1987, the track ran so close to the label that the album would reject before the song would end; drove me nuts. Actually bought the CD five years ago largely for this one song.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, but it was one of the two greatest shows of my life, along with the Temptations in 1980 or 1981.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

A mixed memory actually. I had this friend named Donna George, and I bought her the Beach Boys box set. Before she died of brain cancer a few years ago, she assigned another friend of hers and me to divvy up her music. I took the Beach Boys box, and I always remember her when I play it.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

The Temptations with a Lot o’ Soul is full of melancholy songs, but I’ll pick No More Water in the Well.

What is your favorite song of 1?

A truly impossible question. Seriously. It’s dependent on mood, what I’ve listened to recently. I’ll say Got to Get You Into My Life, but reserve the right to change that.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Almost certainly listening to WQBK-FM, Q-104 in Albany, NY, a truly great station that also turned me onto the Talking Heads, the Clash and a lot of other music of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
ROG

Songs That Move Me, 70-61

70. The Love You Save – Jackson 5
It’s true; I could sing every part of this song except Michael’s, and often did sing along, especially Jermaine’s part.
Feeling: Joyous.
(starts at 3:05, after some other J5 music)

69. The Supremes – Remove This Doubt.
Back in the bad old days of romance, there would be songs that I would play that reflected my state of mind. This was one. Great strings. Later covered by Elvis Costello.
Feeling: melancholy.

68. Levon-Elton John
I love it, pretty much for reasons noted here.
Feeling: What’s it all about?

67. I Got a Line on You – Spirit
A song from college that I have on vinyl that someone put on a mixed CD for me this century. Loved the doubled guitar line.
Feeling; Joyous.

66. Summer Days – Bob Dylan
The live versions I found, and there are several, don’t quite provide the same sensation as the studio recording..
Feeling: Like dancing.

A truncated album version.

65. Do What You Want to – Billy Preston.
I saw the late Billy Preston at a concert in college. The song starts slowly then speeds up considerably by the end. Great vocal and organ throughout. From the That’s The Way God Planned It album, produced by the late George Harrison.
Feeling: I will you love you anyway.

64. Spencer Davis Group – Keep on Running
This song lives on the bottom. When I used to ride my bike to work, I had this song in mind when taking an incline. Ah, when Steve Winwood was young.
Feeling: Energized.

63. A Hard Day’s Night – the Beatles.
Love that first chord, the shared vocals, the guitar bridge. Indeed, I have a fondness for the two-minute jazz version on the HDN soundtrack.
Feeling: joyous.

62. Lucky Man-Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Last song on the first album. I used to do a credible simulation of the synth at the end.
Feeling: not so lucky.

61. Pete Townshend – Let My Love Open the Door
I’ve read that Pete said that this isn’t a romantic love song, but a song of religious love. Whatever it is, I’m fond of the instrumentation in the beginning and the harmony vocals as much as anything. Also like the remix he did.
Feeling: loving.

ROG

Music by the Decade QUESTION

Groundhog’s Day is for recollecting: It’s not THAT neat and tidy, but it seems that each decade of my music collecting life was dominated by a few groups or solo artists.
1960s: The Beatles, the Supremes. Sure, I could add the Rascals, the Rolling Stones, the Temptations, Simon & Garfunkel, and undoubtedly others.
1970s: Clearly Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. I have every album each one put out (yes, even Stevie’s Secret Life of Plants). Other contenders: Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Beach Boys, Elton John, Neil Young.
1980s: Talking Heads, the Police. I also considered Bruce Springsteen, Prince, REM, Neil Young.
1990s: Johnny Cash and Nirvana. Also Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, U2, Beatles.
2000s: There hasn’t been an overriding group, but I’ll suggest that compilations by Fred Hembeck and Lefty Brown (along with Lefty’s fellow travelers) has definitely shaped my music the most this century.

So what music has dominated your life at various points? You don’t have to break it down in 10-year periods, as I did, but whatever bite-sized time frame you wish. ROG

The Kennedy Center Honors, Part 2

More on the Kennedy Center Honors that took place on December 2 and is airing on CBS on Wednesday, December 26 at 9 pm EST.

I was afraid the Kennedy Center might treat Brian Wilson as some has-been of the 1960s, but it appears not to be so, as they cite his more recent works as well as his classic Beach Boys songs.

It’s odd that I never owned a Beach Boys album until Pet Sounds, which is my favorite . But once I got into the group, I did so in as major way. I’ve probably repurchased more Beach Boys music (vinyl to CD) than any group save for the Beatles. I now own, in one form or another:
Beach Boys Concert (32:03) (r. 19th October 1964)
Christmas Album (27:32) (r. November 1964)
Pet Sounds (35:39) (r. 16th May 1966)
Smiley Smile (27:00) (r. 5th September 1967)
Wild Honey (23:55) (r. 4th December 1967)
Friends (24:57) (c. 6th July 1968)
20/20 (29:33) (c. 1st March 1969)
Sunflower (36:10) (r. 31st August 1970)
Surf’s Up (32:59) (r. August 1971) – my second-favorite album
Carl and The Passions – So Tough (33:47) (r. 14th May 1972)
Holland (35:49+11:57=47:46) (r. 8th January 1973) this I have on vinyl with the story on a separate disc.
15 Big Ones (37:51) (r. June 1976)
Love You (33:40) (r. March 1977)
This doesn’t count a number of compilations, from a pair of double LPs in the early 1970s to the box set in the 1990s. The fifth CD in the box set has a 9-minute, “in process” version of “God Only Knows”, the last three minutes of which begs to be released as a single. The box set was actually a present to a friend, which I got back after she died.

Of Brian’s solo discography, I have:
Brian Wilson, 1988
Imagination, 1998
Gettin’ In Over My Head, 2004
SMiLE, 2004
What I Really Want For Christmas, 2005

The final artist to be honored is Diana Ross, or as the announcer puts it on a box set called The Motown Story, “Miss Diana Ross.”

There were LOTS of Supremes albums at my house when I grew up. Of this list, we had all of them in the 1962-1967 section except the Christmas album. When the group became Diana Ross and the Supremes, I still got a number of the albums; from that section, all except Funny Girl, Cream of the Crop, Greatest Hits 3 and Farewell.

But after her first two solo albums, I was disinclined to buy any more. I think, like many of the Motown artists, I resented how Berry Gordy pushed her to the fore. According to the December 5 Wall Street Journal, the main character in the new movie Juno wants people to know that her name came not from the capital of Alaska but from Zeus’s wife. (“She was supposed to be really beautiful but really mean, like Diana Ross.”)

Not that I was unaware of Miss Ross. Her version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough was the backdrop to some Black History Month assembly in 1971. Certainly I heard the hits such as Love Hangover and Upside Down. I heard Endless Love endlessly. I still have a visual of her singing in a thunder storm in Central Park.

But the bulk of her solo work eluded me. So, while I was (allegedly) doing Christmas shopping for others a couple weeks ago, I was compelled to buy The Definitive Collection Somehow, I managed to miss the anthemic “I’m Coming Out” and a number of other songs. As it’s likely my only DR on CD, matching my Supremes CD greatest hits compilation as the lone digital representation in my collection, I’m actually glad to have it.

ROG

Underplayed Vinyl: The Supremes

It’s the 63rd birthday of original Supreme Mary Wilson.

The Supremes, of course, were THE #1 female group in the Unites States. You can argue for Destiny’s Child or someone else, but by the calculations of the Joel Whitburn book reflecting the Billboard singles charts through 2002, they were #25, behind Madonna (#4), Janet Jackson (#9), Aretha Franklin (#10), and Mariah Carey (#14) among female artists; Destiny’s Child was #181. On the Billboard album charts through 2006, they were #29, behind only Babs (#5) and Aretha (#18); Destiny’s Child was #451. (The Whitburn books balances off the fact that there are more people today than 40 years ago, and gives points to longevity.)

But it wasn’t always the case. They were known as the “no-hit Supremes” when they came out with Meet the Supremes, which didn’t enhance their commercial reputation. This was in a period (1962) that the others besides Diana Ross actually sang leads. The late Florence Ballard sings on my favorite song on the album, the energetic pop of “Buttered Popcorn”, while Mary Wilson is featured on the soul ballad “Baby Don’t Go”, written by Berry Gordy. There were actually two album covers. My original album cover was the “soft focus” one, which was actually the second version, done in 1965, after they made it big. The “chairs” cover was the first cover, which was still being used when I repurchased the album subsequent to the Great Album Theft of 1972. You can’t even find this album on Amazon, except at an outrageous price from individuals. Too bad, because it’s a charming collection, showing a lot of promise for what was to come.

That theft wiped out a lot of albums I never replaced, notably the “theme” albums: A Little Bit of Liverpool (featuring a terrible version of A Hard Day’s Night); The Supremes Sing Country, Western, and Pop; and We Remember Sam Cooke, all coming out after the breakthrough album Where Did Our Love Go, and before More Hits by the Supremes.
After a couple specialty discs and the more popular fare of I Hear A Symphony and Supremes A’ Go Go, the group came out with what I thought was a peculiarly named 1967 album: The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland, odd because most of their pop fare was already written by Brian, Lamont and Eddie, and produced by the former two. As was often the case at Motown at that time, the album featured songs previously recorded by other Motown artists such as the Four Tops (“I’ll Turn to Stone”, “It’s the Same Old Song”) and Martha and the Vandellas (“Love is Like a) Heat Wave”), which, while not matching the originals, were enjoyable. Of course, it had the hits (“You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Love is Here and Now You’re Gone”), but my favorite song is a tune I always thought my sister or my eldest niece, singers both, ought to try, “Remove This Doubt”, complete with strings. Elvis Costello did this song on Kojak Variety, which is not bad, but pales to the original, to my ears.

1967 was a real transitional year. Florence Ballard left the group after the Rogers and Hart album, replaced by Cindy Birdsong of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Also, Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown over a dispute with Berry Gordy. The group, now Diana Ross and the Supremes, did one pop album, Reflections, a really transitional album with the last H-D-H pieces (and the last Flo Ballard work), and too many uninspired covers (Ode to Billie Joe?). Then they did three specialty albums, including one with the Temptations, before releasing Love Child.

Love Child is the last very good Supremes album, as opposed to a couple singles and a bunch of filler. The first side is more soulful, the second, more pop. The group and the producers seem reinvigorated here, but the subsequent albums were far inferior to this one.

Love Child (Henry Cosby, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deke Richards, R. Dean Taylor) -yes, the R. Dean Taylor of “Indiana Wants Me” fame. Motown session singers The Andantes sing the backup vocals on this song.
Keep an Eye (Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson)- a great song of warranted paranoia; “There used to be three of us seen all over town. Now there’s only two. Someone’s missing. Guess who?”
How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone (Sawyer, Wilson) – an Amazon critic says: “a late 60’s soul masterpiece, features a killer (and much studied) James Jamerson bass line, and lyrically, tells a compelling story.”
Does Your Mama Know About Me (Tom Baird, Tommy Chong) – a cover of the Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers song about interracial love. Yes, that’s the Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong on the songwriting credits.
Honey Bee (Keep on Stinging Me) (Janie Bradford, Debbie Dean, Richards) – straight ahead infectious pop. My favorite song because of the bass and background vocals
Some Things You Never Get Used To (Ashford, Simpson) The first single, which only went to #30, oddly. The Andantes sing backup here.
He’s My Sunny Boy (Smokey Robinson)- the horns punch up this tune.
You’ve Been So Wonderful to Me (Anna Gordy Gaye, George Gordy, Allen Story) – lilting pop.
(Don’t Break These) Chains of Love (George Beauchamp, Harvey Fuqua, Johnny Bristol) – more towards the MOR Motown was aiming Diana towards.
You Ain’t Livin’ Till You’re Lovin ‘ (Ashford, Simpson) – a cover of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s original that I was not familiar with at the time.
I’ll Set You Free (Gwen Fuqua, B. Gordy, Ivy Jo Hunter, Renee Tener) – my favorite song from Side 2, with the classic Supremes background vocals.
Can’t Shake It Loose (Sidney Barnes, George Clinton, Joanne Jackson, Rose Marie McCoy) Yes, THAT George Clinton, and I don’t mean the former governor of New York.
***
Greg Burgas sent me a mixed disc featuring Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine, the title track of an apparently not very good 1965 movie. And though I own FOUR Supremes collections (two on vinyl, two on CD), I never owned this song, which is on The Supremes Box Set (2000). Thanks., Greg!

What's in a (Band) Name 2

Still in a music groove. (The pun wasn’t intended, and might have been missed had I not noted it.) I’ve been musing again about whether bands can legitimately use their name after members leave and years go by.

The Lovin’ SpoonfulThe current group features Joe Butler (father of actress Yancy Butler) and Steve Boone from the original group, plus Jerry Yester, who replaced Zal Yanovsky in 1967. So the group has the historic right to lay claim to the name. Still, it’s hard to recognize them as such without John Sebastian. Not so incidentally, the group is playing tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

The Temptations– I’ll make the point up front: when Otis Williams, the last original Temp retires or dies, I believe this will STILL be a legitimately named group. You started with Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin, Paul williams, Otis, and Elbridge Bryant. David Ruffin replaces Elbridge, Dennis Edwards replaces David, Richard Street replaces Paul, Ricky Owens replaces Eddie. And on and on. Think Mormon Tabernacle Choir; people come and go, but it’s still the MTC. (An odd analogy sure, but it makes the point.)
The 1980-1 lineup was Otis, Melvin, Dennis, Richard, and Glenn Leonard, augmented by the briefly returning David and Eddie. I saw this septet perform; one of the two or three best concerts I ever saw. They performed as seven, but also as various permutations of the five that were on that particular recording that they were singing (Richard took the Paul parts, Paul having commited suicide in 1973.)

One of the things I liked about the Jefferson Airplane is that when they changed musically, they changed their name, to Jefferson Starship, then Starship. As a consumer, I always appreciated that. (I have no Starship.)

The Who – I really love the music of the Who. When Keith Moon died in 1978, and was replaced by Kenny Jones, there were people who wondered if they were still the Who. But when John Entwhistle died in 2002, and Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry performed a few days later, it was clear the SURVIVORS thought they were still the Who. I just don’t think so, though the Townsend website refers to Who activities in 2004.
Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in 1980, and LZ broke up. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have since performed together, but as Page/Plant, which I consider a good model. Here’s an Onion piece about the Who and commercials.

The Dave Clark Five got together, decided to call a day in 1971 (although Mike Smith and Dave played with others as “Dave Clark & Friends” for a time for contractual obligation reasons.)

The Supremes – a tricky case. The Supremes (nee the Primettes) were Diane (later Diana) Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Barbara Martin, who left before fame struck. Flo left in 1967 (and died in 1976), replaced by Cindy Birdsong, as the group became Diana Ross and the Supremes. Diana left in 1969 for a solo career and was replaced by boxer Ernie Terrell’s sister Jean. To the surprise of many, the group continued to have hits. Cindy left in 1972, replaced by Lynda Lawrence. Eventually, the group consists of Mary, Cindy and Freda Payne’s sister Scherrie. In 1978, after the hits stopped, Mary toured with two other women. In 2000, Diana toured with Scherrie and Lynda, Mary’s old cohorts! Reportedly, there’s still bad blood between Mary (who had, but lost the rights to the “Supremes” name) and Diana. Oy! When Mary came to Albany last month, there was no pretense that it was the Supremes, only a Supreme. It’s likely that there never will be a Supremes again.