As part of a feature we ran celebrating 50 years of Motown, we asked a panel of pop stars to name their favourite Tamla tracks.
The results were mixed. Caleb Followill managed to select two artists – Sam Cooke and Otis Redding – who never recorded for Motown. Many of the other picks were boringly predictable: Yannis from Foals chose ‘Baby Love’, Ladyhawke went for ‘I Want You Back’.
Truth is, there’s only so many times you can celebrate the genius of Motown’s greatest hits, many of which have lost their impact through endless repetition. Here, then, are 10 phenomenal tracks you might not be so familiar with…
Mary Wells – Two Lovers (1962)
Shuffling, sexy soul – an early track from the artist who ‘broke’ Motown in the UK with ‘My Guy’ but was later largely airbrushed out of the story. Features one of Smokey Robinson’s best lyrics of all.
Barbara Randolph – I Got A Feeling (1967)
An anthemic Northern Soul stomper par excellence.
Yvonne Fair – It Should Have Been Me (1975)
A tortured, climactic, vengeful rant – very untypical Motown. Weirdly, the song was aired on a ‘Vicar Of Dibley’ Christmas special in 2006.
Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers – Does Your Mama Know About Me (1968)
Delfonics-y sweet soul but with an interesting social message about mixed-race relationships.
Edwin Starr – SOS (Stop Her On Sight)(1966)
Electrifying stomper, originally cut for a rival Detroit label which Motown bought up.
Commodores – Brick House (1977)
Pioneering, sledgehammer 70s funk – and yes, Lionel Richie is in there somewhere. A “brick house”, incidentally, is slang for a voluptuous woman.
Smokey Robinson – Just My Soul Responding (1973)
Astonishing solo Smokey track, sinuous and hypnotic, telling the tale of a downtrodden Native American driven to violence.
Mary Wells – You Beat Me To The Punch (1962)
Another early, Smokey Robinson-penned track. Just three years later, already weakened by tuberculosis, a dispute over royalties forced Wells’s departure from Motown.
David Ruffin – Walk Away From Love (1975)
Produced by orchestral disco pioneer Van McCoy (‘The Hustle’), this marked Ruffin’s comeback five years on from quitting The Temptations.
The Monitors – Number One In Your Heart
A coruscating rocker (actually only a B-side) from a lesser-known Motown act. One of them, Richard Street, supplemented his income by working in the label’s Quality Control department.