Another Great New Year’s Eve Party Night

New Year’s Eve saw another great party night with Ceroc Heaven at The Freisland School, Sandiacre on the outskirts of Nottingham.  Just as before this was a great night of dancing and celebrations, but as I’ve reviewed the New Years Eve Party before, I thought I’d do things a little differently.

A great way to use the second room

The Ceroc Heaven New Years Eve bash is a two room affair going on until two in the morning.  That means there’s twelve hours of dance music to be found.  Hence the decision to use the second room for a Motown and Soul fix.

It’s something that Ceroc Heaven tried at their Summer Prom and it proved very popular – so why not do it again.  I’m pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint, and come nine o’clock the room had filled up nicely with a lovely atmosphere on the dance floor.

Can you spot the ageing Soul Boy loving the Motown tracks?

A Motown and Soul Fix

The blog gets a lot of visitors who appreciate the articles about Motown and Soul music, so I thought I’d give all my Soul Boy and Soul Girl readers a Motown and Soul fix, based around DJ Mark O’Reilly’s fabulous playlist.  As well as mentioning many of the great tracks I’ll be giving a lot of background info, which I hope you will find interesting.

The Tamla Motown record label tells a story

Those of us that bought dance records in the late ’60s and early ’70s, will remember with affection the Tamla Motown record label (see the featured image above of Little Darling (I need you).  This was a purely British record label.

Berry Gordy the founder of Motown had many different US record labels to distribute the songs he created in his Detroit Hitsville studios.  These included Motown, Tamla, V.I.P., Soul and the self named Gordy.

When EMI initially got the rights to distribute these records in Britain they were often sold under the Stateside label.  In 1965 a new British record label was created by amalgamating two of Gordy’s labels to create the Tamla Motown logo.  The redesigned Motown label was eventually used in Britain from 1976.

Motown reawakens in the new Millennium

The heyday of Tamla Motown was the late ’60s and early ’70s, but since the new Millennium there has developed a growing Retro Motown scene.  Check out Gold Soul’s Motown and Soul nights that are run around the Midlands and Northern England.  These nights have given life to Motown tracks that actually passed us by when they were first released.

Everyone who was dancing in the late ’60s knows The Isley Brothers This old heart of mine, but Marvin Gaye’s Little Darling (I need you) some how passed most of us by, and we owe its popularity to the resurgence of these retro Motown nights.  It’s now even become a bit of a Modern Jive favourite, and  thankfully DJ Mark gave it a spin.  I’ve embedded an extended version for you.

Great Motown tracks that aren’t Motown

Edwin Starr is considered to be one of the great stars of Motown, but most of the tracks we dance to weren’t actually produced at Motown.  Starr originally recorded for the rival Ric-Tic label (released on Polydor in England).  At Ric-Tic, Starr recorded one of my favourite dance tracks ever SOS (Stop her on Sight).  I was so pleased that Mark gave it a play.

Gordy got so fed up that Ric-Tic kept taking some of the best talent, that he bought the company out, and subsequently Starr recorded for Motown.

Two other Edwin Starr tracks have become very popular on the Modern Jive circuit – H.A.P.P.Y Radio and Contact.  Interestingly both these tracks were produced in 1979 after Starr had left Motown.  Starr then moved to England and actually lived in Bramcote, Nottingham.

Motown’s greatest writers: Holland – Dozier – Holland

Little Darling (I need you) was written by the writing team of brothers Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier (hereafter known as Holland-Dozier-Holland). They were the most successful of the Motown song writing teams creating 25 No 1 hit singles.  Their hits include The Isley’s This old heart of mine, The Supreme’s Baby love and the modern jive classic Get Ready by the Temptations.  It wasn’t long before Mark played one their best.

Mark plays one of my top 5 Motown tracks

One of my all time favourite Motown tracks is another that passed me by first time round.  It’s Barbara Randolf’s I got a feeling and to his great credit Mark gave it a spin.  Holland-Dozier-Holland originally wrote this song for the Four Tops, but this version by Barbara Randolph is the better known.

It’s a cracking dance tune, and one that I’m pleased to say, I have now heard at a main room Modern Jive freestyle.  I’d like to think that we’ll get more opportunities to dance to it in the future, and one day it might even get a spin in The Thunderball Room at Southport.

Let’s hear it for Levi Stubbs

We all know the great acts of Motown, particularly the groups – The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Supremes, but other than Diana Ross of The Supremes, do we know the voices that fronted these great groups.   The Temptations were fronted by some great voices – David Ruffin (My Girl), Eddie Kendricks (Just my imagination) and Dennis Edwards (Papa was a rollin’ stone).

For me the greatest of these voices was Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops.  Mark played the song that will probably live forever as a testament to Levis great voice – I can’t help myself with its immortal lyric Sugar Pie Honey Bunch (yet another classic from writers Holland-Dozier-Holland).

My favour Four Tops dance track though is Loco in Acapulco.  The Four Tops had actually left Motown, when they recorded this Phil Collins penned number, which was the theme song for the film Buster.  Mark gave it a spin and I loved it.

We shouldn’t forget the producers too

The other people who get few mentions are the producers who created the songs in the studios.  One of my favourites is Norman Whitfield who worked with The Temptations through their early ’70s Funk Era.  His creations include Cloud Nine and Papa was a rollin’ stone.  He was later to leave Motown and form his own record label, and famously created hits for Rose Royce like Car Wash and Love don’t live here any more.

Let’s pay homage to The Funk Brothers

The greatest of all the unsung heroes though of Motown are The Funk Brothers.  These were the Motown house band who created the infectious dance rhythms that conquered the globe.  They have recently been given some belated credit, but sadly many of them have died including their leader, keyboard player, Earl Van Dyke.

The greatest of these back room musicians was bass player James Jamerson.  Just listen to the opening bass rife to The Temptations My girl and you’ll hear the beauty of Jamerson’s bass playing.  Having read about him I now find myself listening out for his base lines.  Sadly he is gone, but his legacy will last forever.

Another unsung hero is the man who played the saxophone solos on many of the Motown hits.  He’s featured on another of DJ Marks plays, There’s no stopping us now by the Supremes.  It’s considered to be one of the best of the Supremes dance tracks, though it only ever appeared as a B-side.

Again written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, it has a fabulous sax solo.  I’m sure its the same guy who does the sax solo on This old heart of mine.  I think it’s Thomas ‘Beans’ Bowles, but I need to do a little more research first to confirm it.

We all know this great bass line from The ’60s

There is one bass line that will forever be associated with ’60s Soul music, and I’m sure that when the intro to this song started up on New year’s Eve everyone in the room recognised it.  One day I found myself researching the song on Wikipedia,and was interested to learn about the man that created it’s iconic bass line.  His name is Louis Satterville.

Having gained mortality for his bass playing on this song, he later switched to the trombone, and became a member of The Earth Wind & Fire brass section.  He would later go on to form the Phenix Horns who featured on several Phil Collins albums.  Here’s Fontella Bass and Rescue Me, the track Mark played with its timeless bass intro.

Holland-Dozier-Holland leave Motown

Sadly Holland-Dozier-Holland had a big fall out with Berry Gordy and left the company.  Initially they continued to roll out new hits on their own record label Invictus.  Their greatest success was Freda Payne’s Band of gold, but Mark gave a spin to their second most recognised post-Motown track Give me just a little more time from The Chairmen of The Board.

The track sounds very much like a Motown recording and one of the reasons is that members of The Funk Brothers actually played on this track, including I think Jamerson.

The Sound of Philadelphia picks up The Motown baton

Nothing stays the same forever.  It was always going to be hard for Motown to maintain it’s reputation as ‘The Sound of The Dance Floor’, and while it gained further glory from the innovative albums from Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, it soon lost its No 1 position as a dance music producer to The Sound of Philadelphia.

Mark played two of the most famous tracks from this genre of music – Love Train by the O’Jays and Aint no stopping us now by McFadden and Whitehead, and also gave a spin to another great Philly dance track – Billy Paul’s Only the strong survive.

McFadden and Whitehead had been discovered by Otis Redding, and had been signed to his own Stax record label.  They found their biggest success when they moved to Philly International Records and wrote the O’Jays break through song Backstabbers.

They will always be remembered for Ain’t no stopping us now the disco anthem that lights up dance floors when ever it’s played.  Mark played it as the finale. The dance floor was very busy, and you could sense the joy in the room as everyone sang along to the chorus.

The birth of Northern Soul

In the early ’70s, when Motown moved on with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, there was to be no more dance anthems like The Four Tops I can’t help myself or Junior Walkers Road Runner. No more Heaven must have sent you by the Elgins or Just a little misunderstanding by The Contours.  Funk was the new order and James Brown was the new Godfather of the dance floor.

In northern dance halls they weren’t yet ready to give up their Motown anthems, and so DJs crossed the Atlantic to search through record catalogues to find long forgotten Motown sound-a-likes.  The result was the dance genre that became Northern Soul, a working class sub culture that would keep the simple four-four dance beat going for another five years.

Just like Motown Northern Soul has also had something of a renaissance and these old tacks have been introduced to a whole new generation.  Just as we Modern Jivers make a pilgrimage to Southport, so old Soul Boys are packing their dance bags to attend all night weekenders.  Being old was never so much fun.

Mark plays a well loved Northern Soul classic

It was during one of these trips to find fresh new ‘old style’ tracks that someone came across a Motown track that Berry Gordy had refused to release.  It has become the most loved of the Northern Soul anthems, and go to any retro Motown and Soul night and you can guarantee it will be played at least twice.

Many Modern Jive and Ceroc DJs now give this track occasional outings.  I remember dancing to it in The Thunderball Room at Southport, and seeing the great reaction from the other dancers around me, I remember thinking that it was worthy of its greatness.

The track is of course Frank Wilson’s Do I love you (Indeed I do) with its infectious chorus, and Mark paid homage to its place in dance music culture by giving it a spin.  Sadly I was changing my shirt at the time, but as I came back in to the hall it was great to see a full dance floor lovin’ it.  It’s worth remembering that the music that drives this dance anthem along was created by Earl Van Dyke and The Funk Brothers.

Motown stars go Northern Soul

Ian Levine is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Northern Soul, being one of the first DJs to go to The States to find old deleted Motown sounding records that would become Northern Soul classics back in Britain.

In the ’90s Levine brought together two Motown acts – The Supremes, or rather the then current line up of The Supremes, and The Originals a little known original Motown act.

The song he produced with these two groups has been picked up by the revitalised Northern Soul scene, and has slowly found its way on to a few Modern Jive DJ’s playlists.  I consider it to be one of the best Motown tracks not to have come out of Motown, and I wish it would get more plays.

The glory days of Disco

As the sound of late ’60s Motown faded way so the age of Disco took hold, as other artists followed the lead of The Sound of Philadelphia.  Two of the most recognisable Disco anthems are The Hustle by Van McCoy and Candi Staton’s Young Hearts run free.  Mark featured them both to my delight.

Young Hearts Run Free was written and produced by David Crawford.   According to Staton, the song’s lyric came from a conversation her and Crawford had over lunch, where she discussed a very abusive relationship she was struggling to get out of.  At the end of the conversation Crawford is reported to have said, ‘I’m gonna write you a song that will last forever.’

Quite a boast, but the song has done just that.  While its lyric has a rather dark heritage, it is in fact one of the most uplifting songs I have ever danced to, and its little wonder that everyone on the dance floor loves singing along to it.  It was the same on New Years Eve, and along with McFadden and Whiteheads Ain’t no stopping us now, was a perfect song to set the tone for an evening that is all about the optimism of a new year.

Mark spins more great Disco classics

As the ’70s ended two of the greatest disco hits ever were recorded by Chic, the group formed by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bass player Bernard Edwards.  Despite their great success Freak out and Good times have never been modern jive favourites, but two tracks that Rodgers and Edwards produced with another group do get occasional outings.

In 1979 Rodgers and Edwards were asked to produce the We are family album for Sister Sledge.  This album spawned two disco greats that Mark mixed in to his playlist – We are family and Lost in music.

They are both tracks that will be played where ever people want to dance.  Like Young Hearts they have a timeless message and infectious rhythm.  Both were written by Rodgers and Edwards and were slotted seamlessly in to Mark’s playlist.  Here’s Lost in music – it’s what I do every time I hear Rodgers guitar licks and Edwards wonderful bass lines.

Niles Rodgers finishes what Berry Gordy started

Its worth appreciating Nile Rodgers contribution to dance music.  After the demise of Chic he went on to produce Madonna’s ground breaking I’m a virgin album.  He worked with Duran Duran and helped create David Bowie’s Let’s dance.  More recently he worked with Daft Punk to create Get lucky and you can hear his distinctive guitar licks on Sigala’s Give me your love.

I doubt we can really compare Nile Rodgers to Berry Gordy, but his place in dance music history is assured rather like The Funk Brothers.  It’s interesting to realise that James Jamerson’s bass lines were there when this wonderful genre of music burst forth from a house in suburban Detroit, and it ended with the bass lines of the man I consider to be the second best dance music bassist – Bernard Edwards.

Mark inspires a nostalgic trip through dance music history

I doubt that Mark realised that in putting together his Motown and Soul playlist, he would inspire someone to write a brief history of dance music from 1964 – 1979.  That’s the power of music sometimes, and I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to fill in a few gaps for you.

I suspect that the people, who enjoyed Mark’s two hour playlist on New Year’s Eve, did so because it was just lovely music to dance to.  You don’t really need to know about the history behind this wonderful music to enjoy it.  People love it because its just so easy to dance to.

Mark’s playlist seemed to go down really well, and I hope it will be come a regular feature of Ceroc Heavens two room freestyles.  Perhaps other dance organisations could follow suit, when they need to kick start a two room event.

One last dip in to the Motown archives

I am constantly researching the history of dance music and it was pure co-incidence that I was reading Berry Gordy’s autobiography around New Year.  It took me on a journey that saw me discover the Funk Brothers and James Jamerson.

In doing my research on YouTube I came across this extended version of a Supremes track – Love is like an itching in my heart.  It showcases the work of The Funk Brothers.  Please listen to it – after all we owe so much to these guys.