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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where Did Our Love Go?

I hope that you're all prepared to time travel, because for this edition of the Sunday Jukebox, we're going back in time a whole half-century!

Now, I don't remember the year 1964, for obvious reasons.  It was, after all, a good seventeen years before my birth.  I don't even know if my parents had even met each other yet.  They didn't get married until August 1965.  But 1964 was one of those years in which there was a lot of good music on the radio.  As someone who is a huge fan of 1960s era music, I find that 1964 was one of the better years of the decade.  I would rank it third on my list.

(Personally, I always saw 1967 and 1969 as being slightly better, but 1964 ranks right up there.)

And just what was it about 1964 that was so special?  Well, it kind of links to another kind of music that I love listening to.

I don't know what it is about classic Motown music, but I can't get enough of it.  From The Temptations and The Spinners to Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, and Mary Wells, there's very few examples of Motown music that I don't like.  You know how in that Rod Stewart song from a few years back talked about bringing over some of your old Motown records and putting the speakers in the window?  Well, I'll admit to doing exactly that - only I was born a little too late for the record era.  I mean, yes, records still existed in the 1980s, but cassette tapes were more common at that time.  Regardless, Motown music is awesome.  And even though many of the artists who were the stars of Motown are now deceased, I still find the music coming out of that record company to be some of the best pop music ever recorded.  I can't get enough of it.

So, when I discovered that the #1 song on the Billboard Charts fifty years ago was recorded by a group who epitomized the Motown charm, I simply couldn't resist talking about it.  And to make this even sweeter, this song is considered one of this all girl group's biggest and most remembered hits.

So, what was the #1 song some fifty years ago?  Why, it would be this one, of course!

ARTIST:  The Supremes
SONG:  Where Did Our Love Go
ALBUM:  Where Did Our Love Go
DATE RELEASED:  June 17, 1964

So, where did the love go?  Actually, when it comes to The Supremes, it didn't quite leave right away.  If anything, this song marked only the beginning for this Detroit, Michigan based group, as it was the first single of theirs to top the Billboard charts.

Of course, you all know that The Supremes at that time were made up of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.  But what you probably didn't know was that the song was one that the group wasn't initially enthused to sing.

Of course, that could also be because the song wasn't initially given to The Supremes to sing.

According to Mary Wilson, the song was originally offered to The Marvelettes (the group behind the single "Please, Mr. Postman").  But Motown's main production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, refuted this claim.  The Marvelettes also denied that this was the case, although Marvelettes member Katherine Anderson-Schnaffer would later state that the song wouldn't have fit the group anyway.  They were more used to upbeat, fast songs, and "Where Did Our Love Go" was considerably a lot slower.

And, well...considering that "Where Did Our Love Go" is considered to be a song that one might listen to when their relationships go on the rocks, I doubt that I would classify this song as being upbeat.

So, whether you believe Mary Wilson's tale or not, regardless, when The Supremes were handed the song "Where Did Our Love Go", they recorded the single, albeit begrudgingly.  The group had hoped for a stronger single that would have gotten them noticed, and they didn't believe that the song had the hook necessary to get people interested in the single.

Little did they know that the single would become so popular that it would be the group's first major success!

Coincidentally, there is an interesting story behind the actual recording of the single itself.  And this story surrounds the actual choice of who would record the lead vocals.  The song's background music was arranged in such a way that it fit Mary Wilson's vocals almost perfectly.  However, Motown president Berry Gordy seemed to recognize the fact that Diana Ross was slowly becoming the leader of the group, and he decided to have Ross sing the lead vocal, while Ballard and Wilson sang the word "baby" at periodic intervals. 

Poor Ballard and Wilson.

Now this lead to some problems.  Because Diana Ross' vocals were at least a couple of registers higher than the song called for, when the first recording was completed, she was told to sing it at a lower register.  Ross did so, and when the group listened to the song's playback, they were all very pleased with how it came out.  Diana Ross reportedly ran down to Berry Gordy's office in excitement and anticipation to hear his thoughts on the song.  His thoughts?   It had the potential to be a Top 10 hit!

And it was.  It became the group's first #1!

Released in June 1964, the single debuted at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It only took six weeks for the song to reach the top of the charts - an impressive feat!  What was interesting about the timing of the song release was that during this period, The Supremes were on tour with Dick Clark's "American Bandstand Cavalcade of Stars" as one of the groups.  At the beginning of their tour commitment, they were one of the lesser-known groups on the tour.  By the time the tour wrapped, they were considered the best of the bunch!

What a difference a month and a half makes!

The Supremes would later go on to make a German language version of the single (as Germany proved itself to be a huge Supremes supporter), and the song also seemed to be released at exactly the right time in the United States.  The song reached #1 just as the American Civil Rights movement was beginning to pick up steam and as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Over the years, the song has continued to make an impact in the world of pop culture, and in the last 50 years, quite a few artists have covered or sampled the single for their own works.  Perhaps the most famous version of this comes from the British New Wave band Soft Cell, whose 1981 single "Tainted Love" (itself a cover version of the original performed by Gloria Jones) contains a version of "Where Did Our Love Go" after the initial song played.  As well, the Pussycat Dolls redid the single in 2005 for their "PCD" album.  Other artists who have sang the song include The J. Geils Band, Ringo Starr, The Spice Girls, Sinitta, and Declan Galbraith. 

Believe it or not, it was even re-recorded by the fictional group Kidd Video for their NBC Saturday Morning cartoon of the same name!

Oh, and one final piece of trivia?  The footstomps that you hear in the song?  They weren't done by the Supremes.  They were performed by Mike Valvano.  And, yes, he did get credited for it!

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