Wednesday, 30 May 2018

So Much Honey, the Bees Envy Me.

I'm regularly drawn back to Sixties-era Motown and more specifically to songs like this.

I know my chosen example’s hardly obscure but it’s still worth another listen to remind you how note-for-note perfect it is. It’s not just the song; it’s the performance and production, which manages to capture the sentiment of head-over-heels love in a vivid snapshot. There’s something about the sound the Motown studio committed to tape back then that’s so different to what the UK produced - it probably helps that it’s almost always the same backing band, though that’s not just it - and while the mics and engineers were partially responsible, I think it's largely due to the musicality of the lead vocalists and backing singers that blend so perfectly.

This song brings back memories of the first time I toured the Netherlands in 2004 as the bassist on a Sixties compilation show. We were staying in the Dutch equivalent to a Center Parcs with the band spread across four or five log cabins, and while everyone else had a room to themselves, I drew the seemingly short straw and had to share with another member of the cast, the actor & musician Jon Trenchard.

A primitive mobile photo of me in my backstage somewhere in the Netherlands (2004)

While we were initially frustrated to not have our own rooms, we got on so well as roommates and as a household that we decided to stay sharing when a spare one eventually came up, and what should have been a pretty grueling tour (which was easily the longest I'd worked away from home as well as the most time spent out of the UK) was one of the most fun jobs I worked on.

Another backstage shot; "listen to the flower people..." (2004)

(But what’s the link to My Girl, damn it?)

The setlist for the tour featured some of the best music of the period, with an a cappella version of My Girl sung by Jon being a particular highlight. I think it stood out partly due to the fact the band was boosted by a click track for much of the show, with the guitar, bass and drums as the solely live nucleolus, so this was one of the few moments when we had to survive on our own talent without the soulless rigidity of a metronome-lead backing to accompany us. The other reason was Jon’s lovely performance. These two things combined make for the defining memory of a tour that's already strangely long ago, though hearing the song takes me back in an instant.

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