Tag Archives: Martha Reeves

15 Best Girl Group Songs

On Monday night along with Tom Waits, Alice Cooper and Dr. John, Darlene Love (finally!) got inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Her most famous song is the Holiday Classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, but Love added her vocal talents to other groups of the time as well including The Crystals, The Blossoms, and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans.

So in honor of her induction, I present my list of the 15 Best Girl Group songs.

1.) The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”

Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” at its best.  The drum intro is probably responsible for a lot of drummers’ careers.

2.) The Shirelles – “A Thing of the Past”

The original female group.

3.) The Crystals – “Da Doo Ron Ron”

According to Darlene Love, she originally sang lead vocals for this track with her own band The Blossoms, only to have Phil Spector erase them and rerecord the lead with The Crystals’ Dolores “Lala” Brooks instead.  Love still ended up singing background vocals.

4.) The Dixie Cups – “I’m Gonna Get You Yet”

Slightly sinister (?) B-side of “Gee, The Moon Is Shining Bright”

5.) Martha & The Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street”

Forget the craptacular Bowie & Jagger version.  Brilliant song about how something as dancing in fire hydrants can be a rallying cry.  Co-written by Marvin Gaye.

6.) The Shangri-La’s:  “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”

The obvious choice would be “Leader of the Pack”, but I prefer this one.

7.) The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?”

Best use of Footstomps ever in a song, which actually consisted of one person, a teenager named Mike Valvano, to create illusion that it was a group of footstomps.

8.) Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – “Heatwave”

Listen for Martha Reeves belting out “Yeah, yeah!” at the 2 minute mark.  Killer stuff.

9.) Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans – “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da”

Disney, who?  With Darlene Love taking over, this is the definitive version of the song.

10.) The Ronettes – “The Best Part of Breaking Up”

11.) The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman”

Probably the first song that I ever recognized as an “oldie”, so as such I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

12.) The Crystals – “He’s A Rebel

13.) Chantals – “Maybe”

14.) Shirelles – “Stop the Music”

15.) The Crystals -“Then He Kissed Me”

I always thought that the narrator was pretty forward in this song telling her potential beau that she loves him.  Luckily it all worked out.

 

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Bowie Collaborations: “Dancing in the Street”

Yesterday, I wrote about “Under Pressure”.  Today’s close-up is going to be David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s version of Martha & The Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street”.

The original version of “Dancing in the Street” is one of the defining songs of Motown.  And it’s also listed as #40 on Rolling Stones’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  While it originated as a party song and dance-single, it later took on greater meaning when many protesters cited the song as an anthem for civil rights.

What probably started off as a good idea, David Bowie and Mick Jagger decided to record a version of the song as a charity single for Live-Aid in 1985.  Two of the greatest singers getting together for a charity single, and covering one of Motown’s greatest songs?  What could possibly go wrong?

What could have been a great one -off single, turned into something completely different.  (I’ll mention the infamous video later, don’t worry.) Even before the song actually begins, you know it’s going to be the musical equivalent of something like Denny’s Fried Cheese sandwich as Mick Jagger shouts, “Ok!” (followed by something incomprehensible) and Bowie adding, “South America!”  Then there’s the horns.  And then it’s pure 80’s dance-pop – leaving any shred of the original version’s gusto behind.

It’s not like either Bowie or Jagger didn’t know how to record a soul song.  The Rolling Stones covered numerous soul singles before this (including a great version of “Just My Imagination”) and many of the songs on Exile on Main Street found the Stones dabbling in soul among other genres.  And many of Jagger’s signature dances movies were ripped off soul-singers (most notably taking cues from James Brown).  As for Bowie, he put his stamp on “plastic soul” with “Changes”, “Young Americans” & Golden Years”.

Throughout their career, both Jagger and Bowie took cues from musical genres that preceded them and reinvented them in their own image creating some of the best rock and roll in the process.  This was probably their intention when they made “Dancing in the Street”.  (I’m hoping.)

Without the video, the song would still be ridiculous.  (Especially when Jagger ad-libs, “Back in the USSR!” ).  But then there’s the video.  Believe what you want to about Jagger & Bowie sleeping together, but there’s no denying the chemistry that they have in this video.  (There’s a pretty long article about the “affair” between the two here.) Jagger’s outfit is pretty awful, and what’s up with Bowie wearing what appears to be a  lab-coat?

Yet, all the same, as bad as the song and video are, I still find them both extremely hilarious.  It makes me laugh every time, and I would definitely rank “Dancing in the Street” as one of the greatest videos ever.  Perhaps that was their idea along.

Incidentally, when I was in New York City last year I saw someone with a shirt with Jagger’s face on it that said, “I fucked David Bowie”.  I really wanted to get it.

Dancing in the Street:

 

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Song of the Day: “Heat Wave”

I don’t know about anyone else, but it is has been scorching here in Baltimore lately.  Today I’m showcasing two different versions of “Heat Wave” by Holland-Dozier-Holland and popularized by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.  For my money, it’s one of the best Motown singles.  The “Yeahs!” at the end of the song are the stuff of legend.

The Who also did a cover of “Heat Wave”.  It’s not a bad cover, but it loses some of its appeal I think.  In The Who’s hands, a class R&B song becomes a standard cover that becomes unmemorable.   Even though Keith Moon might have been rock’s best drummer, I prefer the drums on the original Motown single.

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