Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking column (JULY)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking (JULY 2011)
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking (JULY 2011)

Motown music is blaring out in my office to drown the horrendous thunder storm which is scaring the s#*t out of me. When I lived in London, I’d close the windows, shut the blinds, grab the cat and together we’d quake and shake in the darkness. That is until I discovered brandy! The best I could do was breathe on my pussy cat, but she minded not at all. Anyway, let’s TCB with some of the best music around….


“I’ve been entertaining for years and it’s sustained me. It has helped me support my family…and it’s something I love to do. But I believe your attitude with people in the business has a great deal to do with your longevity. The way you sing isn’t the only thing involved. Your association with those around you has a great deal to do with whatever success you have” so sayeth Marv Johnson during our interview in 1990. He also added that he felt he played a major part in the history of Motown but didn’t feel he was given the type of respect he felt he should have. Now he has - by way of Kent’s release I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose – The Complete Motown Recordings 1964 – 1971. How well I recall that dreadful album sleeve - the lady sniffing the flower – urgh! Why not a lovely picture of Marv? Or was it a case of nobody expected that lovely, almost innocuous, song to become a British hit, which it did in 1969, peaking at number ten. Wow! The Brits did what the Americans couldn’t!! It was his biggest hit since You’ve Got What It Takes some nine years earlier. To promote the single, Marv performed on Top Of The Pops for the first time and was re-acquainted with his British fans. A minor hit followed titled I Miss You (Oh How I Miss You), and during 1970 So Glad You Chose Me was his last UK single. It seems strange that – although nothing further was issued on Mr Johnson - he continued to record and, according to this new cd’s booklet, 12 new tracks were started between February 1968 and 1972 when Motown relocated to Los Angeles. Six were finished: two were featured on A Cellarful Of Motown and A Cellarful Of Motown Vol 4 (Save My Love For A Rainy Day and She’s All I Need In This World respectively), while the remaining four debut here.

So, here we have the full I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose album – not a brilliant album by any means, if I’m honest – which didn’t get the attention it deserved being squashed between heavyweight releases like TCB (Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations), Cloud Nine (The Temptations), Four Tops Now”, Behind The Painted Smile (Isley Brothers), and Greetings! We’re The Monitors, which we’ll get to in a minute…. Nonetheless, listening to it now, the release does have a certain quality which, if nothing else, reminds us of the man who gave so much to music through the likes of United Artists, Motown, Motorcity – and who was also a bloody nice bloke to boot! Of the bonus tracks here, there’s Farewell Is A Lonely Sound, There Goes A Lonely Man, Understanding and Just Look Through Your Window At The World. A trio of mono single mixes are also included. Why Do You Want To Let Me Go/I’m Not A Plaything from 1965 is one. Yep, love it all. A compilation Marv Johnson would be proud of.


Hah, now The Monitors. Do you know, in my collection I’ve got a white label of the UK album Greetings!...We’re The Monitors. It’s precious, of course, and I thought the release was one of Motown’s best – in case you think I’m telling porkies, you’ll find somewhere here a scan of the original album’s back sleeve. It’s actually celebrating its 42nd birthday this month as well. Anyway, I digress. In all the world, never thought I’d see this release again - then having said/written that, never expected to see The Contours or Marv Johnson either – and it’s with much gratitude to Kent that I’m listening to them now. To the album which is, I see from the blurb, taken from the same tape used in the manufacture of the original UK vinyl release. Kicking off with the brilliant Bring Back The Love, we’re instantly thrown into pure Motown, and that runs throughout the entire album. Sometimes like the Four Tops/Isley Brothers perhaps, but hey, that ain’t a complaint for sure. Non-stop excellence. Included is Say You, The Monitors’ first – yep recorded before The Temptations got hold of it – but when issued Stateside in late-1965 on the VIP label, it was credited to The Majestics. The single was quickly withdrawn because there was already a working group by that name. So, The Majestics became The Monitors to enjoy a top 40 R&B US hit, not a bad feat for a new outfit. It was also sufficient to ensure a return trip to the studio but what resulted was a strange choice indeed. The song in question though had been written and recorded by The Valadiers in 1961 when, to all intents and purposes, America was at peace with the world. Five years later, when it was in all kinds of trouble, The Monitors released Greetings! (This Is Uncle Sam) to become one of the first anti-war songs. It elevated them into the public spotlight, was a high-selling R&B hit and kissed the top one hundred mainstream chart. Then nine months later, Since I Lost You Girl followed, with Bring Back The Love in April 1968. Both singles bombed. Behind scenes, however, it had become obvious that VIP was being wound down, with acts of note being transferred to other labels. So, The Monitors ended up on Soul to release their last single Step By Step (Hand In Hand). Then came the album! I know, how weird is that? And if that wasn’t strange enough, its released marked the end of the group’s career with Motown.

On, in case you’re wondering, The Monitors were three guys and a gal, Richard Street (future Temptation), Warren Harris, Sandra and John (Maurice) Fagin, and the full group history can be read in the super cd booklet, which also features loads of fab visuals, masses of recording information and details that us fans just love. Plus an interview with Richard Street. Hah, just reading the album’s sleeve notes penned by Reggie Goodwin. “’Success’ some folks say, ‘is its own reward.’ This album, The Monitors’ first, is surely a sign of success; a remarkable tribute to hard work, diligence, perseverance and all the other stuff it takes to mold, well-groomed, professional entertainers.” It’s a pity then that Motown didn’t share this enthusiasm at the time. Hey ho!


Have also been playing Patrice Holloway’s Love & Desire which houses her complete Capitol singles and Motown tracks. There’s 16 in all, 10 of which are previously unreleased, being hidden away in the infamous vault that’s held musical secrets for more than fifty years. So many people have such love, admiration and praise for this lovely singer, sister of Brenda, and some have actually put their feelings to paper in the cd’s booklet. Frank Wilson is one – “Patrice was beautiful, she was sassy. She was extraordinarily creative and way ahead of her generation. I loved her very, very much.” As you’ve probably gathered, Patrice’s recording career at Motown was short lived to say the least. She was the first artist signed to the newly formed VIP label late in 1963, where Stevie was her song. Yep, about Mr Wonder with whom she was, let’s say, a little friendly. However, before the ink had dried on the record label, the single was withdrawn, marking her first and last Motown outing. However, as a composer she excelled. With Brenda she wrote You’ve Made Me So Very Happy – recorded by Ms H senior, and of course Blood, Sweat And Tears, among others. Oh, and Bah Bah Bah for The Supremes on their Reflections album in 1968. Such a quirky, haunting song that. As a backing singer, Patrice can be heard on Diana Ross’s debut solo outing Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand), and, I’m surprised to learn, on Someday We’ll Be Together, the last from The Supremes. There’s masses of information in the booklet – both professional and personal - but, to be honest, the music speaks for itself. The diversity of styles which Patrice handles with considerable ease; some driving rhythms complimented by weeping strings, almost hallowed music. Some songs are emotional experiences, others have throwaway lines, but all feature the warm, soulful and malleable voice of Patrice. The fact that she died too damned young in October 2006, at the age of 55 years, just isn’t fair. The release is a tribute to her contribution to soul music, and I think Gloria Jones (with whom she sang and composed) speaks for us all when she said – “…She was a genius at a very young age. She was always a giver and that’s why music flowed to her. She was ahead of her time. She had a lot of vision.”


As you know, these releases come hot on the heels of The Satintones Sing! – The Complete Tamla and Motown Singles Plus (Ace Records – Limited Edition) and Dance With The Contours featuring unissued Motown recordings 1963-64. Phew, am nearly music-ed out, so without more ado, let’s wind down this Tracking with -


Dreamgirls cd has been remixed…... two more Teena Marie albums spawned from the eighties – Lady Tee and Irons In The Fire – both of which I worked on whilst Motown’s pr, are due for release now. There’ll be some additional tracks of course, but as they stood, both releases were blinders ….Ledisi paid tribute to the late Teena Marie at the recent 2011 BET Awards with a stirring version of Out On A Limb….Smooth Radio DJ Dave Brown’s passion for Motown is reflected in his Motown Floor Fillers show which airs every Saturday evening at 6pm. He encourages fans to email him via with requests, so what are you waiting for?.....Eric Charge has told me about a recent Motown get-together in London. Fans enjoyed time swopping stories and memories, while exchanging memorabilia and listening to exclusive pre-released music from a selection of artists like Blinky, Ivy Jo Hunter and The Supremes, together with a trio of early previously unheard songs by Martha and the Vandellas. As if this wasn’t enough, Vandella Annette was an extra special guest star at the get-together and, Eric told me, she remembered the three songs despite them being nearly fifty years old……..Steve Weaver tells me he was recently in Amsterdam with the Former Ladies of The Supremes. And that Scherrie Payne, Joyce and Pam Vincent had worked with Lamont Dozier singing the support vocals for the forthcoming Cliff Richard project Soulicious. They’re are also booked to support him on his forthcoming tour of the same name. … Berry Gordy currently developing a new Broadway musical about his life. He’s hoping to involve Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson and is a project he’s been wanting to do for some time….Motown folding? Hmm, next time with that I think…..Boo. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas won’t be returning to the Concorde Club in Brighton this year, maybe next. Had an unbelievably great time last year, so a pity that……Am less than amused to see one of my personal email addresses included in an address book on the internet. The website indicates it’s published by Billy Wilson. I’m not going to tell you where, but it is MAA’s mailing list which is now available for all to see. Ggrr. Will talk more when I calm down …Hah, and my dearest editor keeps on at me “Sharon you must go on Facebook.” Ain’t I public property enough Mr Tyler!!! [ED: I feel a lobby coming on!:))] ...Check out DJ Keith McSherry’s Steppin’ Out soul programme on the Magic Network every Saturday night between 6-10pm. Keith email me again please, mine to you keep bouncing back…… my friend She, it’s bye for now….. Til next time….

Keep the faith,
Sharon Davis

Please feel free to contact Sharon with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

CLICK HERE to read Pete Lewis' 1992 interview with Marv Johnson

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