How about a 30 minute Guest Slot
I keep going on about wanting to dance to more Motown tracks at Modern Jive freestyles, but there comes a time when you have to put up or shut up. Think I might have to shut up! You see there is no way that I’d be confident a selection of Motown and Soul tracks would be able to satisfactorily fill a four hour freestyle playlist. Sure there are four hours of Motown tracks alone, but they are not all suitable for Modern Jive dancing. I suspect it might just get a bit tiresome and I would fall flat on my face. But before I shut up, I’ve come up with a face saving idea. How about I ask if anyone would be interested in me doing a Guest DJ slot for say 30 minutes.
My playlist is ready just in case
Now I’m a very positive person, and in my dreams at least, I might get the offer – best to be ready then. So here is my 30 Minute Motown and Soul Playlist. I hope it will help promote the campaign to get more Motown played at our freestyles. I’ve included tracks that are already enthusiastically received but also showcased some ones that still have to find their way on to DJs playlists. I’ve embedded the music for each track and written a few background notes too, meaning you’ll have to give up half your evening to get through it all. So for those of you with better things to do take a look at the Quick List below. Motown junkies scroll down a little further.
- This Old Heart of Mine The Isley Brothers
- Little darling (I need you) Marvin Gaye
- I got a feeling Barbara Randolf
- Get Ready The Temptations
- There’s no stopping us now The Supremes
- Wade in the water Ramsey Lewis
- Stop her on sight (SOS) Edwin Starr
- Ain’t no mountain high enough (Reflex Remix) Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
- Rescue Me Fontella Bass
- How Sweet it is (To be loved by you) Junior Walker and The All Stars
- You’ve got me dangling on a string Chairman of The Board
So for those of you prepared to give up a little more of your time, here’s a more in depth listing. I hope you enjoy the music and find the background stuff interesting.
This catchy Isley Brothers’ song is one of the most loved in Motown’s extensive back catalogue. It is already established as a favourite at modern jive freestyles, and is perhaps a safe bet to start off this wished for playlist. The picture I chose to head the post is a photograph of the actual record when it was first released in Britain. The name Tamla Motown was an amalgamation of the two main labels that Berry Gordy used to distribute recordings made at his Hitsville studio in Detroit USA. The name Motown is a short form of Motortown the nick name for Detroit. This old heart of mine was written and produced by the 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 and there are seven of their compositions in this playlist alone.
Second up is another from Holland-Dozier-Holland. Marvin Gaye’s Little darling (I need you) has had a few spins at freestyles and is possibly my favourite Motown track to modern jive to. In The UK the first we really heard of Marvin Gaye, was his duets with Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell – It takes two and You’re all I need to get by. This track proceeded both of those but failed to register in the UK Top 40, yet it is the most popular Marvin Gaye track at Motown Nights – played more regularly than his biggest hit I heard it through the grapevine.
Holland -Dozier-Holland (yes them again), originally wrote this song for the Four Tops but this version by Barbara Randolph is the better known. Again it failed to make the UK Charts but the DJ’s have established it as a firm favourite at Motown Nights. I’ve yet to hear it at a modern jive freestyle but after some consideration and a nudge from another Motown fan, I think it deserves a whirl on the decks. This track didn’t actually make it on to the first draft of the playlist but one of the readers of the blog suggested I include it – so credit to Anne for reminding me just what a great dance track this is. If anyone wants to suggest tracks for a future playlist then please leave a comment at the end of this post -its always great to hear from you.
My next choice is one of the best known Motown dance tracks of all time – Get Ready by The Temptations. What is less widely known is the fact it was written by Smokey Robinson. Everyone knows Smokey Robinson as a performer (Tears of a Clown and Tracks of my tears being just two of his greatest hits) but he was in fact one of Berry Gordy’s original associates and is Motown’s Vice President. He is perhaps understandably less known for his song writing talent but has written some of the greatest songs of all time, including My Girl again for the Temptations. Smokey’s song writing genius was suitably recognised by him being inducted in to The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Four tracks down and hopefully the floor is still rocking.
Now for the Supremes and the fourth Holland-Dozier-Holland track. Go to a Motown night and they might only play one Supremes track, which I guarantee will be this one. Quite surprising really when you consider it was originally released as a B Side to Love is here and now you’re gone. Give credit to the DJs, who have searched through the Motown back catalogue to find the real gems to dance to. The song first appeared on the LP The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland along with You keep me hanging on and a version of the Four Tops It’s the same old song. This track has so many ingredients of a Motown production including a characteristic saxophone solo that I love.
If I ever get to do my dream ticket I’ll be in Music Heaven when I play this next track. If you want a little more understanding of why I think this is one of the greatest dance tracks of all time then click the link to the posting where I wrote exclusively about this wonderful piece of dance music. This track gets played a lot now at Modern Jive freestyles and it always provides me with one of the best dances of the night.
I’m a great fan of Edwin Starr and I remember buying his hit Twenty Five Miles as a young man. Sadly this track wouldn’t cut it on the modern jive dance floor and I wasn’t sure if any of his greatest hits would either. One of the freestyles I attended while thinking about the songs I’d like to include in this playlist, was at Kelham Hall. DJ Mark O’Reilly was spinning the tracks. Suddenly I heard a very distinctive piano intro, which immediately connected to my Soul Boy past. I was lucky to dance with a great partner and had the best dance of the night. The Edwin Starr track Mark had dug out of The Motown Vault was Stop her on Sight (SOS). If further confirmation was needed how danceable this track is, it was played again last week by another Mark – Mark Forster at his, Ceroc Beds & Bucks Addison Centre Freestyle. Again I had one of the best dances of the night. A safe bet then?
While this is not a Motown track it was on every DJs playlist in the discos of the late sixties and early seventies. I’d somehow forgotten about this great dance track with its catchy bass line and trumpet intro. I was dancing at the Motown and Soul themed class night at Peterborough when the bass riff hit my brain. I was instantly transported back to the Nottingham Palais. (for more info about that fabulous night at Peterborough click here.) The song has an interesting pedigree. The backing vocals were done by Minnie Riperton and the musicians included two of the future line up of Earth Wind and Fire – Maurice White, the founder of the group, on drums and Louis Satterfield who created that amazing bass line.
This next track was written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson (of Ain’t no stopping us now fame) for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell . The song is a Motown classic being later recorded by Diana Ross. Both these version, however, don’t quite have the pace for modern jive, which is a pity because it has a great sing-a-long lyric. Fortunately though, ‘Chad’ Bloomfield, the DJ at the Peterborough Motown Night found this great Reflex remix that makes this track perfect to modern Jive to. In recognition I’d like to nominate ‘Chad’ as the first DJ to be inducted into the Motown DJ Hall of Fame.
I wanted to feature a Junior Walker track in the playlist and first considered his greatest hit (I’m a) Road Runner. While I adore his saxophone solo on this track, the song is a little jerky, so I’ve chosen How Sweet it is (To be loved by you), which has a much smoother rhythm. This track is rightly already getting played at freestyles – more please! This song was originally written by Holland-Dozier-Holland for Marvin Gaye. It is testament to Berry Gordy’s genius that he would get several of his acts to record the same material. The resulting recordings added to the richness of the Motown Sound. The most famous example of this was when he had Marvin Gaye re-record Gladys Knight’s I heard it through the grapevine. Sadly no-one remembers the original.
Time for the last track, so here’s my favourite Motown and Soul track of all time, to hopefully go out with a bang! Eventually Holland-Dozier-Holland fell out with Berry Gordy and left to found their own record label – Invictus. Their first two hits were Freda Payne’s Band of Gold and Chairman of The Board’s Give me just a little more time. While they had moved their production techniques along, you can still hear the Motown groove in these tracks. You’ve got me dangling on a string Chairman of the Board’s later offering is pure dance joy (for more background to this track click here). I have a smile on my face the whole song and if I ever get to dance to it at a Modern Jive Freestyle I’ll be in Dance Heaven.
Now lets see if the phone rings. Probably not, but thanks for letting me indulge myself anyway by spotlighting these classic tracks. They keep the dance floors full at modern day Motown and Soul Nights. Hopefully they’ll keep the modern jive dance floor rocking too.