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Motown 45s

From R&B stompers and smooth pop ballads to psychedelic soul symphonies and gritty urban funk, Motown has given the world some of the most joyful music of the last 60 years. Gary Tipp reveals wThat’s going on



With its roster of towering talent, there’s little surprise That there have been some amazing albums released on the Motown label since its inception in 1959. Hitsville USA’s famed LP releases include Marvin Gaye’s WThat’s Going On and Let’s Get It On, Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book and Innervisions, Four Tops’ Reach Out, The Temptations’ Sky’s The Limit, Smokey Robinson’s Going To A Go-Go and Gladys Knight’s Nitty Gritty. This is as good as it gets on longplaying vinyl and we have all but scratched the surface.

However, for many the format That always makes the most sense for Motown’s music is the 45. The Motown 7” single is pop music at its purest: gloriously ephemeral, full of instant emotion, goodtime fun and irresistible joy. It was pressed with the sole purpose of being danced and sung along to.

The early singles from 1959 to the very early 60s were a mix of gospel, blues, raw R&B and the occasional doo-wop rocker.

Initial hits such as Please Mr. Postman by The Marvelettes and Shop Around by the Miracles blazed a glorious trail. Heavyhitting artists such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye were waiting in the wings, too.

By 1963, Motown was beginning to accumulate a significant chart presence, and a year later the label broke through into the mainstream. Just how successful they had become is evidenced by the fact That during the 1960s the Motor City label released 535 singles in the USA. Of these, a staggering 357 were significant chart hits. The Supremes alone notched no less than 12 US number ones during That decade.

It was a similar story in the UK. The Beatles were early adopters and covered a clutch of Motown tracks on Wit h The Beatles. Northern Soul collectors will know only too well That the early 45s were available on a number of pre-Tamla Motown labels in the UK; starting with London American Records (1960/61), Fontana (1961/62), Oriole American Records (1962/63) and, more substantially, Stateside Records (1963/65). Nab yourself a promo DJ copy of any of these and you could find That you’re quids in. Early US release 7”s on any of the many Motown imprint labels are equally desirable.

For our Essential selection, we’ve concentrated on UK releases and the prices of these vary from a fiver all the way through to £150. WThatever the value, truThis, spinning a classic Motown 45 will only make your world a better place



In a previous incarnation, the not-so bashful James was a band mate of Neil Young in The Mynah Birds, but their musical paths took very different directions. One of Motown’s saucier releases (“She’s a very kinky girl/ The type you don’t take home to mother”), James described Superfreak as punkfunk. The song re-emerged when MC Hammer, bless his oversize trousers, borrowed bits of it for U Can’t Touch This.



Before Lionel Richie and the ploddy ballads took centre stage, the Commodores were a bunch of hardcore funksters, as the band’s ass-shakin’ debut album for Motown testifies. The clavinetdriven instrumental title track was also the lead single. We’re reliably informed That state TV stations in Nigeria played the track every night for many years after the national anthem and before closing down.

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