Three apologies but first a thanks
I’ll deal with the apologies a little later, but first a big thanks to Emma for putting me on to this wonderful evening of Motown music. Emma, who is a regular at Jive+ events, writes the wonderful blog What about dance. Emma knows I’m a bit of a Motown Junkie and got in touch to tell me about this event. I must admit that, without the heads up from Emma, it would have passed me by, and I would have missed a very special night.
Sorry for going on about Motown again
It’s only been a couple of weeks since I wrote about my last delicious fix of Motown at The Ceroc Heaven Summer Prom, so my first apology is to regular readers who might not share my addiction. The thing is, I couldn’t really miss out on this one as the Jive+ website promised four and a half hours of the stuff. What’s more I was fascinated to know if anything else would be mixed in – no mention of Soul or Disco as with other Motown Nights.
Two rooms added even more interest
Jive+ is a major player in the Oxford area and holds Saturday night ‘Megamix Freestyles’ on a regular monthly basis. These are slotted in between Jive+’s other freestyles formats – ‘Thank Friday it’s Freestyle’ and ‘Oxford Blues’. The MegaMix nights are two-room events with a mix of chilled out tracks in the second room suited to West Coast Swing and Blues dancing.
Now before I go any further I should make my second apology to DJ Paul O’Connell . I had every intention of spending some time in the Chill Out room and was looking forward to reviewing Paul’s music mix, but I just couldn’t pull myself away from the main room. I promise I’ll put things right next time.
DJ Jon Brett promises a night of Motown Magic
The DJ for the night was Jon Brett. Interestingly I’d danced to Jon’s music just three weeks before at Hove and had been very impressed, so I was interested to see how he would play it. Could he get away with playing just the classic Motown tracks from the late ’60s? Surely he would have to mix in something else to keep the dancing interesting.
A fabulous cover of Motown’s greatest hit
I consider the Isley Brothers This old heart of mine to be Motown’s greatest hit. Jon had taken to the microphone to announce that he would be mixing in some modern covers to add some interest. He pulled out a cover I’d long forgotten about and it was brilliant. Rod Stewart has done several covers of This old heart of mine. Jon played the upbeat one where Rod is joined by none other than Ronald Isley, the lead voice from the original 1966 recording. This fabulous track set the tone for an exceptional night.
Jon finds more covers I have to feature
Rod’s duet with Ronald Isley wasn’t the only interesting Motown cover that Jon served up. He also dug out some great tracks produced by Motown’s greatest after they had left the label.
So good was this selection of quasi-Motown tracks that I’ve decided to feature the best of these in my review, rather than fill it with the usual Motown classics. I’ve already mentioned these countless times in other reviews on the blog, but to appease any purists, I’ve made a list of Jon’s Motown picks at the bottom of the review.
My favourite Jimmy Ruffin track was written by a Bee Gee
Sadly many of Motown’s greatest acts found it necessary to leave the company. Jimmy Ruffin never really got the backing he deserved from the Motown hierarchy, and so by 1973 he had departed. By 1980 he found himself at The Bee Gees’ record label RSO. Here Robin Gibb co-wrote my favourite Jimmy Ruffin track – Hold on to my love.
I have heard this only once before on the modern jive dance floor. Having been reminded of just how good it is, I’m tempted to start a campaign to get it played more often. See if you agree that it’s a great modern jive track.
Everyone was lovin’ the Motown Magic
I always wonder if my love of Motown comes from the fact that I there, when it first brought joy to the dance halls of the late ’60s and early ’70s. But it seems that it is being enjoyed by an increasingly younger audience, and this was reflected by the wide age group on Saturday night.
At some point in the night Jon played Barbara Randolph’s I got a feeling – a track from my own Motown Top 10 Dance Hits. I was soon in the zone, and I sensed that my dance partner was too. I couldn’t help but ask, ‘Do you know this track?’ ‘Yes,’ and with an enthusiasm that matched my own she continued, ‘I just can’t believe I’m modern jiving to this fabulous music. Normally I’m dancing round my handbag with a group of girls to Motown.’
The retro Motown scene is growing
There is a growing retro Motown and Soul scene out there, but it is characterised by groups of girls dancing together while the guys watch on from the side lines. Here then is Barbara Randolph – dance round your handbag if you must, but next time you’re at a modern jive freestyle please ask the DJ to play it for you.
A well loved and vibrant dance organisation
Jive+ is a very vibrant modern jive organisation. Not only does it run very well attended freestyles, it is also doing its best to help sustain this wonderful dance community, by running three modern jive classes and one for West Coast Swing. More importantly I quickly sensed that this is a well loved and very friendly organisation.
Remember once again I was dancing well away from my local patch, and so knew none of the ladies, yet I was made to feel very welcome. I suspect the reason I was made to feel comfortable from the word go, was due to the lady who runs Jive+, Coralie Green, and her very friendly team.
Coralie was looking after everything
Coralie was everywhere ensuring that things were running smoothly. When we walked in, to what is a large foyer, she was there to direct us to the desk. Everybody wanted to chat with her, and at the very end of the night there was a lovely moment when a couple, who I suspect were West Coast Swingers, came to congratulate her on DJ Paul’s great music in the second room.
Coralie found time to chat with me and I was struck by her passion for modern jive and her great enthusiasm for the events she runs. Coralie was particularly keen to tell me all about the ‘Thank Friday it’s Freestyle’ nights, and I’ve promised to try to fit one in to my diary.
DJ Jon spins another great cover
Baby I need your loving was The Four Tops breakthrough song back in 1964, but DJ Jon found a cracking version sung by Lisa Stansfield. The song was recorded for the soundtrack of the film Swing, which explains the jazzy feel that Lisa brings to the song.
Amongst the dancers was a wonderful sight
Early on in the evening I became aware of a guy in a wheel chair, in the middle of the dance floor dancing with a lady. I couldn’t help but be impressed as he turned his chair to the rhythm of the music, while leading the lady through her moves.
What made this sight even more pleasing was to see his partner fully engaged with both him and the music. I did ask the gentleman in question if I could mention his dancing in my review, and he was happy for me to do so.
Giving wheelchair users access to leisure activities is often problematic, and so to see someone able to access both rooms with ease, and then have space on the dance floor to express themselves was very heart warming.
Sorry for being a Motown Nerd
Time for the third apology, but first some background. Jon played probably my favourite quasi-Motown track, You’ve got me dangling on a string by The Chairman of the Board. This fabulous track has Motown’s DNA running all the way through it and I couldn’t miss out on dancing to it, so I quickly asked a lady to dance. As the dance progressed, very nicely as I remember, I got more and more in to the groove. Suddenly I had an urge to explain the origins of this song to my dance partner, so in the middle of the song I spouted forth like a Motown Nerd.
My mid-song music history tutorial
My explanation went something like this. The most famous song writing team at Motown were Holland-Dozier-Holland. They wrote No1 Hits for The Supremes, The Four Tops and The Temptations amongst others. However they eventually fell out with Motown owner Berry Gordy, and left to form their own record label. Their most famous acts were Freda Payne (Band of gold), and Chairman of The Board who sing this track. So apologies to my dance partner and note to self: Perhaps better not to give music history tutorials in the middle of a fabulous dance.
Jon completes a Chairman of The Board trilogy
Jon served up another Chairman of The Board track that I’d never heard before. I love it when DJs treat me to new tracks and On the beach is an interesting find. Chairman of The Board’s best known track is undoubtedly Give me just a little more time, and Jon completed his trilogy of their tracks with Kylie Minogue’s 1992 cover that turns out to be a better modern jive dance track than the original.
So were people lovin’ Jon’s Motown mix?
Of course I was, and the lady who knew Barbara Randolph’s I got a feeling obviously was too. When ever I do my reviews I try to gauge the reaction in the room, and I have no doubt that Jon’s playlist was enjoyed by everyone in the room, so much so that the dance floor was still busy as midnight passed.
More positive comments
I mentioned earlier that I knew none of the ladies, however I did recognised one guy. He told me that he had made a two hour journey so he could dance here. ‘So was it worth the drive?’ I asked. His answer was an emphatic yes. He’d had a great time, and he had also been struck by the high standard of dancing amongst the ladies.
One of the ladies left a lovely comment on Facebook which says it all. Just wanted to say how fantastic last night was, love, love, LOVED the music. Such a treat to dance to songs I knew. I had the best night I’ve had in years, thank you as always. What was even more impressive was that this posting was very quickly liked by a lot of other people.
More Motown Nights please
I have made it one of the crusades of my blog to ask that more Motown music is played at freestyles. After the success of last Saturday night I’ll dare to ask if other modern jive organisations would consider doing a similar themed night. I’ve always thought that a Motown and ’70s Disco night would work very well.
What did help on Saturday night was that there was a second room offering a musical contrast to the Jon’s Motown fest. I did see people wandering between the two rooms at times and why not. Two room events are very popular for this reason.
DJ Jon’s clever mix works very well
Coralie tells me that Jive+ has done a Motown night before, though several years back. I thought it quite brave of her to give four and a half hours to this genre, and it must have been quite a challenge for DJ Jon to put together the playlist. However by mixing in cover versions (Rod and Kylie), similar styled tracks from the same era (Fontella Bass’ Rescue Me) and more modern songs recorded by ex-Motown acts (Jimmy Ruffin and not forgetting Lady Soul from The Temptations) it worked very well.
A tribute to one of Motown’s Greatest voices
I’ll end my review by featuring one of Jon’s pics that showcases the fantastic voice of Levi Stubbs, better known as the lead singer of The Four Tops. Like many of Motown’s star attractions The Four Tops were dropped by the label, as the company moved with the times by developing new acts and fresh styles of music.
A film score gives Levi one more passionate performance
In 1988 we were given another opportunity to appreciate the wondrous vocal talent of Levi Stubbs. This year saw the release of the film Buster about the life of Train Robber Buster Edwards. The film starred Phil Collins and in association with Lamont Dozier (he of the musical tutorial about Holland-Dozier-Holland and Chairman of The Board above), he co-wrote Loco in Acapulco for the soundtrack, and asked The Four Tops to record it.
I consider this to be one of the best ever dance tracks recorded by an ex-Motown act, and it was great to be able to get a chance to dance to it on Saturday night. There’s so much to this track, but for now just concentrate on Levi’s passionate delivery of the vocal. R.I.P. Levi – don’t worry we won’t stop dancing to your music.
See below for links to other Motown related articles
DJ Jon’s Motown Playlist
Below are the original Motown tracks included in Jon’s playlist. It’s quite a comprehensive list and I struggled to think of any serious omissions, so Jon gets this month’s Soul Boy Award.
Baby love The Supremes (1964)
I heard it through the grapevine Marvin Gaye (1968)
Nowhere to run Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (1965)
Stop in the name of love The Supremes (1965)
The Same old song The Four Tops (1965)
This old heart of mine The Isley Brothers (1966)
Please Mr Postman The Marvelettes (1961)
Standing in the shadows of love The Four Tops (1966)
Superstition Stevie Wonder (1972)
He was really saying something The Velvelettes (1964)
Dancing in the street Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (1964)
Where did our love go The Supremes (1964)
Stop her on sight (SOS) Edwin Starr (1966)
I heard it through the grapevine Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1966)
My Guy Mary Wells (1964)
Reach out (I’ll be there) The Four Tops (1966)
Get Ready The Temptations (1966)
You keep me hanging on The Supremes (1966)
The way you do the things you do The Temptations (1964)
I can’t help myself The Four Tops (1965)
What becomes of the broken hearted Jimmy Ruffin (1966)
Signed, sealed, delivered Stevie Wonder (1970)
I got a feeling Barbara Randolph (1967)
I’ll turn to stone The Four Tops (1967)
Needle in a haystack The Velvelettes (1964)
Little Darling (I need you) Marvin Gaye (1966)
To read other Motown related articles please follow the links
Motown Second Room Success: Ceroc Heaven’s Summer Prom Motown & Soul 2 hour slot
Motown & Soul Class Night: Ceroc Beds & Bucks themed class night in Buckingham
Motown Guest DJ Slot: My playlist includes details on 11 of the best Motown dance tracks