[I originally ran two pieces somewhat similar to this one back in 2007, when this blog and the world were young. I have almost totally swapped out the song choices and re-written the whole fershlugginer mess, just to demonstrate that I'm not the slacker you all probably, and with justification, think I am. In any case, enjoy. -- S.S.]
Okay, so here's a hopefully entertaining project for us all:
BEST PERFORMANCES OF SONGS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND RECORDED BY THE GOOD FOLKS AT MOTOWN AS REINTERPRETED BY ROCK, POP, AND SOUL ARTISTS OF THE NON-AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSUASION!!!
Self-explanatory, I think and thus no arbitrary rules. But if you nominate either Linda Ronstadt's "Heatwave" or Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," I will come to your house and smack you silly.
Okay, and my totally top of my head Top Ten is/are:
10. The Rolling Stones -- Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
In the immortal words of (Holy) Greil Marcus, the Stones cover of this will be breaking hearts for as long as people are still listening to rock-and-roll. I should add that as much as I adore the Temptations original version, it's major league urbane; you can almost hear the tuxedos while they're singing it. The Stones reading, by way of contrast, is about as pure a musical representation of desperate romantic longing as can be imagined.
9. The Beatles -- Money (That's What I Want) (Barrett Strong)
Fun fact: The original of this was the very first Motown record. It also still boggles my mind that a jazz and classical guy like George Martin totally nails the piano part.
8. God -- One More Heartache (Marvin Gaye)
From 1969, my college band essaying what I think is a very convincing garage rock assault on Marvin's classic (that dual guitar solo was decidely avant-garde at the time). Yes, that's some asshole whose name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels on bass in the first half of the track and on piano throughout.
7. Joan Osborne -- What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (Jimmy Ruffin)
From the astounding documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Which, if you haven't seen it, means your life is the poorer for it.
6. Fleetwood Mac -- I'm a Roadrunner (Jr. Walker and the All-Stars)
Anybody else noticing that a lot of the pre-Buckingham/Nicks Mac albums are a lot better than legend tells us?
5. Steve Martin -- Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
Okay, it's not technically a cover, but it's the best version of the song ever.
4. The J. Geils Band -- Where Did Our Love Go (The Supremes)
This was actually a single at the beginning of the punk era, which may explain why it wasn't a radio hit. Which it clearly deserved to be. Damn, I love the rhythm guitar in the solo section at the end.
3. Bruce Springsteen -- War (Edwin Starr)
I was surprised to find, in a Google search, that Springsteen has covered surprisingly few Motown songs. In any event, this is pretty great. Especially in the historical context of when it was performed.
2. The Small Faces -- Every Little Bit Hurts (Brenda Holloway)
A definitive performance of the definitive Motown torch song ballad. Fun fact: The song was written by the same guy who wrote The Standells' garage punk classic "Dirty Water."
And the number one Caucasian performance of a Motown hit, it's not even a contest, is clearly --
Graham Parker and The Rumour -- I Want You Back (The Jackson Five)
This is simply terrific, but it also gets extra points for chutzpah -- I mean, what are the odds that a bunch of Brits, as white as the whale, could do a credible job on this?
Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?
And have a great weekend, everybody.