Monday, July 30, 2012
Some Things You Just Take For Granted
I had something planned for today, another list of sorts that I found interesting and thought you might, too. But it has to wait.
Yesterday, I found two records in a box marked "Various Artists." They were volumes one and two of a series called "Tamla Motown Presents 20 Mod Classics," each containing original mono mixes of all our favorite Motown hits. But this isn't another music geek "mono is better/vinyl rules" post." It's about "Heat Wave."
This Martha & The Vandellas track has become so ingrained in our lives, if we hear it on a car radio or TV commercial, it seems to just pass through us like the sound of planes flying overhead. But yesterday, as "Heat Wave" filled my living room, I was thwacked into a surprise state of euphoria.
We know all about Motown, the hit-making machine that was the Funk Brothers, and the songs that have become the soundtrack of our lives. But how many of us at this point, really pay attention to these hits and their structure, and the intricacies of the rhythm tracks or the percussion or the background vocals? We all know Martha. But damn, listen to those Vandellas! Miss Reeves is pretty damn smitten by this boy she's going on about, but he must really be something else, because Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard are egging her on, and its their vocals that push Martha and this song to a fever pitch. At one point, you could almost feel the Vandellas jealousy.
"GO AHEAD GIRL! WELL IT'S ALRIGHT GIRL! DON'T PASS UP THIS CHANCE!"
(Yeah, because if you don't go for it, one of us will!)
This song kicks off like a gun shot and never lets up. Every player in the opening 30 second intro can be heard--drums, guitars, handclaps, bass, baritone sax, piano--it's all so precise and all so very hot.
It's genius record-making.
It's very easy for me to slip into a rant about then versus now. I've done it many times before and I know I have it in me to do it again. (And I will, do not worry yourselves.) But I will hold back that urge and just say, don't take these 40 and 50 year old hits for granted. Many of these songs have lost their edge thanks to over-exposure in bad places, like romantic comedies starring Katherine Heigl. But these songs, like "Heat Wave," have so much happening in less than 3 minutes, I can't help but feel that "making a hit record" is a lost art.