The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas and so many more
May 6, 2024 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Motown Junkies is a blog where Steve Devereux is reviewing the entire Motown singles discography in sequential order from the beginning. You can also browse tracks by songwriter, label and artist. He’s currently up to 1966, though he’s been on hiatus for a few years. He also used to present Discovering Motown on Radio Cardiff, and the archive is on Mixcloud.
posted by Kattullus (23 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Adding to favorites, sight unseen.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:10 AM on May 6 [10 favorites]

This Will take up so much of my time.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:03 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]

this is brilliant, there are 80+ episodes on mixcloud! words fail to express the depth of my thanks, but that sh*t is deep. Thank you
posted by owalt1 at 10:32 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]

Ohhhhhhh, deLIGHT
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:07 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for sharing this - it looks fascinating!

Last year, I picked up used copies of two Motown box sets: Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959–1971 and Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection Volume 2 1972–1992. The first one is an incredible collection of music - it's monster hit after monster hit and it makes it clear just how good the songwriters, musicians, and engineers of that label were during that time. The second box set is much more variable in its quality, at least to my taste, especially as it moves into the late 70s and 80s (but even there is still has many gems!).
posted by ElKevbo at 11:15 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]

Adding to favorites, sight unseen.

Yep me too.

Huge thanks, Kattullus! This is fabulous.
posted by kristi at 11:47 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

A true labor of love
posted by DJZouke at 11:52 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

The best Motown music is so underrated. To pick one group at random, the Supremes put out the following singles in less than one year:

Where Did Our Love Go - June 1964
Baby Love - September 1964
Come See About Me - October 1964
Stop! In the Name of Love - February 1965
Back In My Arms Again - April 1965

And that is in between all the other classic tunes being cranked out by other groups at the same time. I don't think there's a single flaw in any one of those five songs. What an embarrassment of pop genius!

My personal favorite Motown song? I think I'll have to go with Reach Out (I'll Be There). It's like an entire Romantic opera compressed down into a pop song.
posted by fortitude25 at 12:44 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

The only minor gripe that I have with early Motown and Tamla recordings is that the sound quality is not great. That said, the music is what is most important.
posted by DJZouke at 2:17 PM on May 6

I don't know that I have a single favorite Motown song--there's just too much to choose from. Stevie Wonder, from child prodigy to adult genius, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye duets, that's not even scratching the surface.

(The Complete Motown Singles is a series of fourteen compilations that takes us from, not inappropriately, Barrett Strong's 1959 'Money' all the way to, not inappropriately, Gladys Knight and the Pips' 'Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye.')
posted by box at 2:29 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

It's not really relevant to the material in the write-up, but since this post seems to be attracting Motown fans I'm just going to say: if you should find yourself in or near Detroit, the tour of the Motown studios is well worth the short amount of time it takes.

I lived within striking distance of it for a long time and blew it off as something I wouldn't be interested in, until a local convinced me otherwise. There's a good bit of interesting historical information one can get from the tour but the part that I personally found most interesting was the explanation of how attributes of the building itself contributed to the familiar Motown sound. We live now in an era where sound engineers can apply pretty much any effect or transformation they can imagine to a digital audio waveform but the Motown singles were recorded in an analog audio age without the benefit of tools such as we have today. However, they were made by dedicated and resourceful people who figured out that they could get, just to choose one example, a distinctive echo effect from an echo chamber cut into a ceiling - listen to the classic Motown songs and you'll hear the effect very clearly on finger snaps and hand claps in the recording. It's not there because of fancy processing, it's literally there because they tinkered with the building to get the sound they wanted and you can stand underneath it and clap your hands and hear the same echo you hear on a classic recording made 60 years ago.

That and a few other things explained on the tour gave me a new level of appreciation for the inventiveness and creativity behind songs that it's all too easy to assume simply sprang into creation through the strength of their own perfection.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:55 PM on May 6 [10 favorites]

if you should find yourself in or near Detroit, the tour of the Motown studios is well worth the short amount of time it takes.


I actually heard of this collection before.

Adam White did a nice piece on devereux and his ingenious catalog .

modern jive dancer also wrote a nice piece.

I remember 25 years ago having a beer with my friend after work I said put in a Motown song Something 3:10
my one friend said why
anotjer friend said:
that's how long it takes a man to cry.
posted by clavdivs at 4:02 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

The Supremes were the best ‘60s musical group, and, when I stood in my cowboy boots on his coffee table to tell him that, Paul McCartney agreed with me.
posted by box at 4:35 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

posted by clavdivs at 6:40 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis is also well worth visiting if you're in the area and have an interest in music. For those who are not familiar with soul music, Stax Records was another music label that recorded and distributed soul music at about the same time as Motown. Stax artists included Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs (the label's house band who supported most of the artists signed to the label when they recorded in the studio), and Isaac Hayes.
posted by ElKevbo at 8:11 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

The Supremes were the best ‘60s musical group, and, when I stood in my cowboy boots on his coffee table to tell him that, Paul McCartney agreed with me.
The first time I visited the Motown Studio was a week or two after Paul McCartney had played a tour date at one of the large venues in Detroit. The guides at the museum had a number of fresh anecdotes concerning McCartney's visit to tour the studio while he was in the area and his enthusiasm for the items on display, to some of which, since he was Paul McCartney, he had been given special access.

That visit must have been in 2011, because McCartney thereafter partnered with Steinway & Sons to fund and perform restoration of the piano from Motown Studio A.

From the stories shared by the guides it sounded like McCartney was very excitedly in touch with his inner music fan while visiting the Motown Studio. That's an accolade on a pretty rarefied level.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:19 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

I make no secret of my love for the Grateful Dead and to a lesser extent classic rock. By the time I graduated from HS circa 1979 I had been to two dozen Dead shows, 5 or 6 Allman Brothers, a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, etc. What my friends never got was my love for Motown. My favorite album of all time is the Four Tops Live and in Concert. The Spinners, the Tops, The Supremes and so many more are just amazing music.

What many people don't know is that the Grateful Dead play about 50% covers. One of their best covers is Dancing in the Streets.

I have been reading through the links. This is gold. I sent a link to the post to my kids. They need to learn about what came before their music and how much modern music owes to Motown.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:38 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

Aww yeah. Thanks for this!
posted by freethefeet at 10:38 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]

The Complete Stax/Volt Singles, 1959-1968 (AllMusic review) is an excellent box set. The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2: 1968-1971, the second box set, has some good stuff.

I have separate playlists for '60s Soul and '70s Soul, including Motown, Stax, Northern Soul. The dividing line is fuzzy, somewhere around 1968-1971. Compare the straight-up '60s sound of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's version (1967) of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Diana Ross' more '70s version (1970), which almost sounds like a different song. And of course the Funk Brothers play on both versions.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:42 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

(You might enjoy Numero's series of Eccentric Soul compilations.)
posted by box at 4:28 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]

I'm actually afraid to start listening for fear that I will never be able to do anything else. This is all gold.
posted by ceejaytee at 1:14 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Nerd of the North: “if you should find yourself in or near Detroit, the tour of the Motown studios is well worth the short amount of time it takes.”
By coincidence one of my people was in Detroit today. I told them you said to visit the Motown museum, so they did. They had a great time and got emotional getting a moment alone in Studio A. Sincere thanks for the suggestion.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:06 PM on May 8 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This post really has a hold on us, so we've added it to the sidebar and Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:50 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

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