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  1. #1

    Why is Motown so big in the UK?

    With an acknowledgement to mistercarter2u who asked this question on another thread, I hope that it is acceptable to give an answer by beginning a new thread.

    I don’t know if there is a definitive answer, so I can only offer my personal thoughts. I feel lucky and privileged to have grown up during the sixties which were my formative musical years, and perhaps that is why those memories have stayed with me as they are far clearer and stronger than those from later years.

    Musical styles seem to have changed every few years, the Americans had the “British Invasion”, but we also had invasions of American music, which led me to spend my hard-earned pocket money on “Baby Love” on the Stateside label. This was followed later by listening to pirate radio stations, broadcast from ships off the coast just a few miles from where I lived. This was a time of change in so many different ways. The sound of Motown was different, a change from the three guitars and a drum kit sound. For me, it sounded fresh and exciting, and perhaps even exotic compared to what we had grown used to.

    On Sunday afternoons one of the pirate stations would play the US Top 50, giving us a chance to hear what was happening in the States. I’ve always remembered the superb series of hits by the Four Tops around the mid-sixties, including my favourite “Bernadette”. Even now, over 50 years later, that track still sends shivers down my spine. I always thought that there was so much more emotion put into this music, raising it above the rest.

    Those experiences and memories have stayed with me throughout my life, and at long last I can say that “Baby Love” is far from the only example of Motown in my collection.

    Just my humble opinion…

  2. #2
    And the Motown sounds that the UK went for weren’t always the same as in the USA.

    We failed to significantly chart a number of massive US smashes, but charted obscure Jimmy Ruffin, The Isley Brothers and Martha Reeves And The Vandellas B-sides.

    This says something about the sheer quality of Motown’s output. Something for every demographic?

  3. #3
    It probably also has to do with the popularity of Northern soul (a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England in the late 1960s from the British mod scene, based on a particular style of black American soul music, especially from the mid-1960s, with a heavy beat and fast tempo (100 bpm and above).

  4. #4
    In some cases the Northern Soul crowd latched on to the likes of R Dean Taylor's 'There a Ghost in my House' which years later then crossed over to mainstream and became a huge hit. However the same cannot be said for NS anthem 'I'll Keep Holding On' by the Marvelettes! Jimmy Ruffin's UK success had nothing to do with NS. The Four Tops were bigger in the UK from 'Loving You is Sweeter than Ever' but the Temptations were minor league by comparison. Martha had very little success and the Marvelettes & Mary only had one hit! Up until 'You Can't Hurry Love' the Supremes were very hit and miss! I don't think that Motown was bigger in the UK back in the day at all but I do believe that the UK holds classic Motown in higher regard than the US. That's the difference as I see it.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by copley View Post
    In some cases the Northern Soul crowd latched on to the likes of R Dean Taylor's 'There a Ghost in my House' which years later then crossed over to mainstream and became a huge hit. However the same cannot be said for NS anthem 'I'll Keep Holding On' by the Marvelettes! Jimmy Ruffin's UK success had nothing to do with NS. The Four Tops were bigger in the UK from 'Loving You is Sweeter than Ever' but the Temptations were minor league by comparison. Martha had very little success and the Marvelettes & Mary only had one hit! Up until 'You Can't Hurry Love' the Supremes were very hit and miss! I don't think that Motown was bigger in the UK back in the day at all but I do believe that the UK holds classic Motown in higher regard than the US. That's the difference as I see it.
    What you describe was probably the case until late 1968. Hence British Motown Chartbusters Volume 2, released in autumn 1968, had barely any real hits on it.

    Volume 3, released a year later, however, was crammed with hits, starting with Marvin's version of "Grapevine" and wrapping up with the reissued "Tracks Of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.

    Volume 4 from autumn 1970 was also full of hits, and Motown UK was so successful that they issued two volumes of Chartbusters in 1971. Volume 7 in 1972 also had a load of hits on it.

    It was only with Volume 8 in 1973 that things started to slip.

  6. #6
    Main Motown's artists number of top 10 hits. First number pertains to the UK, second is US. Includes only solo Motown recordings.

    Four Tops 9 5

    Supremes (60’s) 7 17

    Supremes (70’s) 5 2

    Martha 1 6

    Gladys 0 3

    Temptations 4 14

    Stevie 16 26

    Marvin 4 13

    Commodores 5 10

    Lionel 8 12

    Diana 10 7

    As you will see the Four Tops were the most successful Motown group with 9 top 10 singles. The Supremes (60's) only had 7 compared to 17 in the US. Stevie was the most successful male artist leaving Marvin way behind. It's a misperception that Motown was bigger in the UK as chart statistics show that it was not.

    Over the years it appears that the UK's love and appreciation of classic Motown has grown whilst in the US it's waned. Demand for and sales of Motown product is still buoyant. A recent Motown compilation made the top 5 of the UK compilation chart. The last Brenda Holloway release sold exceptionally well. The NS scene helps to keep the Motown fire burning and groups like this and Motown Treasures all add to the mix. Long live Motown!

  7. #7
    Well the U.S. has Motown 60 coming up on national television which is pretty remarkable!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by copley View Post
    Main Motown's artists number of top 10 hits. First number pertains to the UK, second is US. Includes only solo Motown recordings.

    Four Tops 9 5

    Supremes (60’s) 7 17

    Supremes (70’s) 5 2

    Martha 1 6

    Gladys 0 3

    Temptations 4 14

    Stevie 16 26

    Marvin 4 13

    Commodores 5 10

    Lionel 8 12

    Diana 10 7

    As you will see the Four Tops were the most successful Motown group with 9 top 10 singles. The Supremes (60's) only had 7 compared to 17 in the US. Stevie was the most successful male artist leaving Marvin way behind. It's a misperception that Motown was bigger in the UK as chart statistics show that it was not.

    Over the years it appears that the UK's love and appreciation of classic Motown has grown whilst in the US it's waned. Demand for and sales of Motown product is still buoyant. A recent Motown compilation made the top 5 of the UK compilation chart. The last Brenda Holloway release sold exceptionally well. The NS scene helps to keep the Motown fire burning and groups like this and Motown Treasures all add to the mix. Long live Motown!
    Big, not bigger.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by jack020 View Post
    It probably also has to do with the popularity of Northern soul (a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England in the late 1960s from the British mod scene, based on a particular style of black American soul music, especially from the mid-1960s, with a heavy beat and fast tempo (100 bpm and above).
    Thank you jack020, that's something I hadn't considered. Being a "southerner", Northern Soul swept past me without me even noticing! According to Wikipedia, this began in the mid-60s, by that time, Motown had had about 15 chart entries up to the end of 1965.

    During the latter part of the 60s, my ears were more tuned to US pyschedelia and other than liking the music coming from Motown, I didn't pay that much attention to why it was so consistently good and continually entering the charts. I suppose that I had imagined that it just continued to grow based on more people becoming exposed to it, but perhaps, as you point out, the Northern Soul scene could have either provided a boost or perpetuated its popularity into the late-60s, and the decades that followed.

    Yesterday I was pondering what it was that I particularly liked about the music, and came to a conclusion that maybe it had something to do with me being tuned into a certain vibration or frequency - or as you helpfully put it, bpm!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    And the Motown sounds that the UK went for weren’t always the same as in the USA.

    We failed to significantly chart a number of massive US smashes, but charted obscure Jimmy Ruffin, The Isley Brothers and Martha Reeves And The Vandellas B-sides.

    This says something about the sheer quality of Motown’s output. Something for every demographic?
    I totally agree with you Sotosound, it wasn't just the sheer quality, but also the immense quantity that was being recorded, if not actually released at the time. It is only in the last few years that I have built up my collection of Motown recordings and realised how much was buried in the vaults which could just as easily have been substituted for those that were released.

    So the question then arises as to how or why this happened? Was it us, as the general public, deciding that we liked a different style to that in America? Or was it the powers behind the scene knowing more about our tastes than we did ourselves and placing an emphasis on releasing and promoting lesser known tracks?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by copley View Post
    In some cases the Northern Soul crowd latched on to the likes of R Dean Taylor's 'There a Ghost in my House' which years later then crossed over to mainstream and became a huge hit. However the same cannot be said for NS anthem 'I'll Keep Holding On' by the Marvelettes! Jimmy Ruffin's UK success had nothing to do with NS. The Four Tops were bigger in the UK from 'Loving You is Sweeter than Ever' but the Temptations were minor league by comparison. Martha had very little success and the Marvelettes & Mary only had one hit! Up until 'You Can't Hurry Love' the Supremes were very hit and miss! I don't think that Motown was bigger in the UK back in the day at all but I do believe that the UK holds classic Motown in higher regard than the US. That's the difference as I see it.
    Originally I thought that there may have been a simple explanation to this query, although everyone would probably have a different solution! Now I feel that it is not that simple. the similarity between the US and the UK is that both have record-buying public. At the time (i.e. the 60s in particular) maybe there was a difference in tastes between us, as demonstrated in the statistics you kindly provided in a subsequent post. Maybe there is a question as to whether this occurred through natural choice or through promotion/advertising I'm not sure.

    In hindsight, I now feel that the words used in the original query could be modified in line with your thoughts that the love affair with Motown has lasted longer in the UK than in the US.

    Yesterday I was working my way through the Four Tops "50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection" and I came across this comment by Keith Hughes (in relation to Simple Game) - "...but its lack of stateside success demonstrated the widening gulf between British and American Motown tastes."

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by reachoutuk View Post
    I totally agree with you Sotosound, it wasn't just the sheer quality, but also the immense quantity that was being recorded, if not actually released at the time. It is only in the last few years that I have built up my collection of Motown recordings and realised how much was buried in the vaults which could just as easily have been substituted for those that were released.

    So the question then arises as to how or why this happened? Was it us, as the general public, deciding that we liked a different style to that in America? Or was it the powers behind the scene knowing more about our tastes than we did ourselves and placing an emphasis on releasing and promoting lesser known tracks?
    My impression is that the UK Motown office knew what it was doing and I suspect that, additionally for some reason, it became easier to secure airplay for Motown singles from late 1968 onwards.

    By 1970 Motown UK occasionally even led the USA with, for instance, “Tears Of A Clown”.

    Strangely or, perhaps even, understandably, the A-sides for some of the tracks wherein the UK charted the B-sides didn’t hit in the USA. So the only sales for either side were garnered in the UK.

  13. #13
    Most of the British Invasion artists, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Animals, on and on...were heavily influenced by Motown, and individually admitted as much. It was a sound that heavily resonated in the UK...initially known as the "Tamla" sound...It's really that simple...

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by StuBass1 View Post
    Most of the British Invasion artists, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Animals, on and on...were heavily influenced by Motown, and individually admitted as much. It was a sound that heavily resonated in the UK...initially known as the "Tamla" sound...It's really that simple...
    I'd forgotten that!

    These days it's Motown but back then it was Tamla.

    Geez, that was a long time ago, but it seems like yesterday. Cue Freda Payne......

  15. #15
    The question was "Why Was Motown So Big In The UK?"

    Way back in 1964 /1965, truthfully the only music you heard on the radio was white pop and to my ears, bland music. Indeed, I remember wondering why anybody would spend their hard earned cash on records. Not only was the white music bland, so were the performances. They were all very polite and restrained. I listened to an offshore radio called Radio Luxembourg. This was to me, living a long way from London, the only exposure I had to innovative ( black) music. BBC did not play black music. This was not a BBC bias alone, it was because the new soul movement was not recognised, understood nor given airplay.
    When I heard those new sounds by Motown, Stax and Chess, they were electrifying, yet beautiful. The vocals were unrestrained and sincere, the accompaniments creative, sometimes lots of strings and sweetenings, the underlying bass and drums providing a rich backdrop, and most importantly of all the sounds and lyrics really touched your emotions.

    The initial following for Motown was tiny, but we felt the company was special and we in turn felt special in supporting them. We had the mindset of trainspotters! We got to know the composers, the producers, the coloured labels as well as the artists...at a distance.... for they all had a mystique. We didn't even know what the artists looked like...maybe we might get to see a monochrome picture in the specialist Blues and Soul magazine. When we bought records like "This Old Heart Of Mine" for the A-side, we discovered to our delight that B-Sides were equally rewarding..."There's No Love Left". We also recognised the consistency and the promise of Motown records, we could even buy records blind, unheard, and be guaranteed that we would be hearing captivating, thrilling sounds. I never bought into the notion that Motown all sounded the same, that it was a factory line. How could I compare the harmonies of " We Got a Way Out Love' by The Originals with "L.O.V.E. Love " by Jimmy Ruffin, "The Further You Look The Less You See" by The Temptations or "Forever" by Marvin Gaye. They were all so different, yet all so wonderfully classy and heartfelt.

    Clusters of like minded people started to follow and support Motown, then the Mod movement really got behind soul music. Discos, clubs etc started to play Motown and Northern Soul was born. And whilst a lot of Northern Soul favourites were popular on the dance floor, and only on the dance floor, Motown migrated into mainstream and commercial success, hence the tours by Motown artists. Motown was heavily promoted by BBC DJ's like Tony Blackburn and moved onto the national stage, supported by the efforts of UK artists like Dusty Springfield and The Beatles. The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Junior Walker etc, were not only recognised as exciting artists, they were also recognised as being exceedingly physically attractive, fashionable and engaging artists at the top of their game. And the more we learnt about these artists, the musicians, The Funk Brothers, their composers, producers etc, the more captivating they became. Motown became in our eyes the fountain of musical excellence, of innovation, sincerity, positivity, civil rights advancement, and the foremost organisation promoting black excellence and artistry. And that has endured over the years. In a nutshell, Motown offered a rich, intelligent, energetic and authentic contrast to the bland, insipid and weak sounds we were being offered by our fellow citizens in our own country. I have loved Motown my whole life and it has brought me immense pleasure and joy.
    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 04-17-2019 at 05:14 PM.

  16. #16
    Before the Beatles set off the British Invasion...The Shadows, led by Cliff Richard were the hottest pop music entry out of England... They topped the UK charts for some time. The invasion was heavily Motown influenced, and the fact that so many Motown songs were covered by the invasion artists tells much of the story. Ironically, Cliff went on to a pretty successful solo career, sans The Shadows...I'd also say...without The Beatles, we'd still recognize The Shadows as the most successful band out of the UK and the "invasion" as we know it would never have happened, changing culture forever...

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by StuBass1 View Post
    Most of the British Invasion artists, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Animals, on and on...were heavily influenced by Motown, and individually admitted as much. It was a sound that heavily resonated in the UK...initially known as the "Tamla" sound...It's really that simple...
    I found of the Motown artists they covered, Marvin was getting most of the covers in those early years at the time... least that's how I'm looking at it from a biased angle. Motown was more than UK chart success. It definitely played a huge impact on the UK rockers.

  18. #18
    Whilst The Shadows were big in the UK both with without Cliff Richard, their success was primarily tied to the UK and Europe. I would say groups such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues were much, much bigger globally. ( Here's a quirky fact: Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and the Shadows shared the same manager. Hank Marvin, lead guitar of The Shadows, continues to release an album every year or so).

    As for the majority of bands launched in the UK and spearheading the so called invasion, they were primarily influenced by pure blues / delta blues artists and rhythms and blues artists. For example, the early discographies of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds (including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page), and The Animals are full of copies of music written by Afro-American blues / rhythm and blues artists. Bo Diddley, Arthur Alexander, Johnny Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters are heavily represented and whilst The Rolling Stones did release a very few copies of Motown songs, The Beatles and Dusty where responsible not only for recording some Motown tunes but, much more significantly, heavily promoting awareness and acceptance of Motown.

    Ultimately, it was the sophistication of Motown's lyrics, melodies, arrangements, musicianship, studio technology and creativity which set the sound apart from the sparser British music of the time. Motown had that signature sound where all the above elements were fused together and that is why Motown endures in the UK.
    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 04-18-2019 at 11:52 AM.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by MIKEW-UK View Post
    The question was "Why Was Motown So Big In The UK?"

    Way back in 1964 /1965, truthfully the only music you heard on the radio was white pop and to my ears, bland music. ... I listened to an offshore radio called Radio Luxembourg. This was to me, living a long way from London, the only exposure I had to innovative ( black) music. ..... I have loved Motown my whole life and it has brought me immense pleasure and joy.
    I had a similar experience with Radio Luxenberg. I was in Germany in 1964/65. I listened to AFN (Armed Forces Radio Network) Their music was also kind of bland for a young guy's taste. Thankfully, I was able to listen to Radio Luxemburg, where I got to hear the latest Motown and soul releases. Thankfully, the jukeboxes on our post had lots of Motown stuff.

  20. #20
    I too used to listen to Radio Luxembourg, and have been to Luxembourg many times over the years. I remember when 'The Motown Story' was released, and they were a number of these given as prizes, if listeners wrote down every track that the station played on one particular night (every track was Motown). I cant' remember what time the station opened up - but I seem to think it was about 8pm, and closed down about 2am - but I'm happy if you'll correct this.

    When I was older, I listened to AFN, although my work colleagues hated it - as they didn't understand English. Every morning they demanded it be turned off. I loved listening to the American Top 40, by Casey Casem. My local record stores didn't stock the US Top 40, but I did learn about other acts, such as Change, Luther Vandross, Evelyn King, Grace Jones, as these were played in clubs. Strangely, those very same clubs became twice the size (extra rooms were opened up) at the weekends, when US service people flooded into the city. Such happy memories of life in Stuttgart.

  21. #21
    Yes Mike...I never even HEARD of the Shadows here in the U.S. in their heyday, and I was pretty heavily involved in music....mostly Jazz, U.S. Pop, and R&B as a yongster. My interest in British musical artists, pre-invasion was pretty much limited to Anthony Newley and Matt Monro...Both quite talented BTW
    Last edited by StuBass1; 04-19-2019 at 03:06 PM.

  22. #22
    I think another factor in the early adoption of Tamla Motown in the UK was the cultural aspect. The fact that it was almost overwhelmingly black people making the music and running the company was very appealing to young people. What we saw were highly attractive talented people making music and with rivetting stagecraft far superior to the usual homegrown stuff. The imagery was as distinctive and important as the music. Not only did we embrace the music, we loved the fabulous choreography, and wanted to look like the artists we admired (even though we were primarily white!!!) Tightly cut mohair suits were the rage, we wanted to look as Edwin described in Agent Double O Soul and tried in vain to master the steps and harmonise.....honest!

    And when February 1969 came around, how we so much wanted to be the winner of the Motown Mini!!!!!

    https://classic.motown.com/story/story-behind-image-2/

    On another note, in the UK, disc jockey Tony Blackburn of pirate radio, subsequently BBC, was the single most important enthusiast and promoter of soul in general and Tamla Motown in particular. He deserves huge credit and recognition for leading the airplay of Tamla on pirate radio when it was never played on the BBC, and immediately heavily featured it when he subsequently moved to the BBC. Furthermore he has, as we say, kept the faith and continues to play Motown and soul several hours a week on his four radio shows, at the age of 78, as youthful as ever!!!

  23. #23
    Just to add, Tony Blackburn also tours with his 'Sounds Of The Sixties' show.

    He is currently playing in medium sized theatres to sell-out audiences, often with added dates, due to demand.

    His shows heavily feature TM songs. Of course.
    Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 04-20-2019 at 05:33 AM.

  24. #24
    This includes a massive generalisation, but a lot depends on your background , culture, education, lifestyle.
    My teenage years were associated with club and discotheque attendance. My group of friends would have, in the main, been similar.
    If you went into higher education (6th form, college, University) you gravitated towards rock music.(soul music was laughed at).
    You didn't attend clubs as such.
    So soul music generally took hold in 'blue collar' environments.
    The Northern Soul (Mods early days) would draw MOST of their following from this area.
    So Motown was popular...to a certain crowd of teenagers and young people. NOT all UK at all.
    As I say a generalisation but a rule of thumb.

  25. #25
    snakepit, I'd agree with your rule of thumb. Living in the West country at the time, I was very much in the minority and had to order each record as TM wasn't generally stocked. When I moved to the midlands, it opened up a whole new world.

    An example of the enduring appeal of Motown, half a century later. I did a transatlantic cruise on a Royal Caribbean massive vessel a couple of years ago, populated mainly by Brits of a certain vintage. Of all things, they had a Motown Records quiz in a large venue which to my amazement was a full house!

    Four second intros of Motown records were played and you had to write down two answers, the performer and the accurate title. Some of the records were not the usual stuff, and included records such as Leaving Here by Eddie Holland. You'll forgive me stating that I won with 59 out of 60. They were kind enough to give me all six prizes LOL!
    Last edited by MIKEW-UK; 04-20-2019 at 08:26 AM.

  26. #26
    My original hometown from my youth is on the central southern coast of UK.

    A ferry route to the Isle Of Wight, and a place which I would describe as a country town, found on the coast.

    In the 1960s, there were few if any clubs in that area. I would have needed to have gone to a city or large town about 35 miles round trip in either direction, and still would not have heard any TM records. Had I lived in London, or one of the big cities like Liverpool and Manchester, the chances of doing so would have been increased.

    My introduction to Tamla Motown music was initially through the music press each week, and via Radio Luxembourg, albeit with an infuriatingly bad reception at times, and some programmes of dubious entertainment value!

    Pat Campbell (?) would play the best selling American 45's of the week. I was aware of Motown acts, but I particularly remember hearing Doris Troy's 'Just One Look' in the Top 10, and being mesmerised by that piano led intro and moody vocal. Even the name conjured up a powerful image. It all just spoke to me.

    The Hollies had a big hit here with their cover version, very narrowly missing the top spot. While I didn't like it anywhere near as much, I could well understand why people would go out and buy it.

    I started making a mental note of all the UK cover versions of American records, either being played as new releases on Radio Luxembourg, and also on BBC radio, if they sold well enough to make the top end of the charts. I would match the titles with those listed on the American charts, which then gave me insight into the original versions, and want to know more about the artists.

    The music papers then began drawing readers' attention to the original American versions which, by comparing the currently known versions to the originals, then created a curiosity, a demand. An excitement, in anticipation of the next records by these artists, which began to show on the American Top 50 (I don't think we saw Top 100 charts here?).

    In that respect, although the original Tamla Motown and other R&B/soul records did not sell as well in the UK (at least, on first release), the fact of them being covered by white British artists did give indirect awareness of their existence, and so an exposure to the general, predominantly white UK record buying public.

    Along came 'Ready, Steady, Go!' (televised on Friday evening in the London area, I believe - but on Sunday afternoons in my southern region), and we then actually got to see these original artists, performing to their records. Miming, as we called it then!

    Those 'name' acts which would read so well in the music magazines (Supremes, Vandellas, Marvelettes, Velvelettes, Tops, Temptations, Miracles), and with records which sounded so good on radio, would then both look and sound good on our TV screens at home. A double knockout.

    I only had to hear the intro of a Motown record on the transistor radio, or hear a record introduced, to have a shot of adrenaline race through me, and leap for the volume switch. To this day, if it doesn't have that Hitsville Snakepit sound, then to me it isn't quite 'Motown', despite what the label may say.

    The same effect would happen to me when the acts would appear on the TV screen. They all seemed so impossibly glamorous, assured, polished and mature. The welcoming presence of these entertainers, with their wide smiles, expansive gestures and heartfelt songs, seemed to give young people, growing perhaps with some uncertainty from childhood into maturity, something to which they could relate, and in which they could believe. It's as if we all belonged together in spirit.

    There was the strong element of gospel to the music (far more 'get happy' than the more staid religious education which was my own experience), together with the publicised 'family' nature of the Motown acts, which increased the attraction.

    The fact that these artists were in fact black, and therefore 'different', further enhanced their appeal, not simply because they were different, but different as in 'great', and not different as in 'bad', and so were to be completely and wholeheartedly admired.

    The 'ghost tour' of the country in 1965, when the TM label was launched and nationally publicised the product, may not have been a commercial success, but I still think it was, in broader terms, about the right timing for it. Just a pity that it was not possible to have broadcast the 'RSG!' special with Dusty before the tour commenced.

    Tamla Motown music was initially a very slow burn success in the UK, more in appreciation than in commercial terms, but the love of it continues, having endured now for nearly 60 years.
    Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 04-20-2019 at 03:51 PM.

  27. #27
    Westgrand, you summed it up beautifully.
    Even recalls the infuriating swelling then fading of the distorted signal reception of Radio Luxembourg, usually in the midst of that special new record, prompting urgent twiddling of the tuning knob on the AEG Telefunken 'wireless set'. All too often too late to know who the name of the record and who it was by. Without the internet to resort to, what a trial trying to figure out what that record was!!!!!! So frustrating.

  28. #28
    I agree. Westgrand summed it up perfectly!

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    This includes a massive generalisation, but a lot depends on your background , culture, education, lifestyle.
    My teenage years were associated with club and discotheque attendance. My group of friends would have, in the main, been similar.
    If you went into higher education (6th form, college, University) you gravitated towards rock music.(soul music was laughed at).
    You didn't attend clubs as such.
    So soul music generally took hold in 'blue collar' environments.
    The Northern Soul (Mods early days) would draw MOST of their following from this area.
    So Motown was popular...to a certain crowd of teenagers and young people. NOT all UK at all.
    As I say a generalisation but a rule of thumb.
    I found that at Lancaster University, in the north west of England, in 1973-6 soul wasn’t accepted except “Nutbush City Limits”, but, before that, it was widely accepted at my very middle class grammar school in North London. So there were possibly different differences all over.

    I had one school friend who openly dug Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, but who privately dug Motown.

    Wind the clock forward to 1978, and university students in London were digging “Galaxy” by War. So times change.

    I suspect that Motown’s many fans were simply those who liked it, irrespective of social or geographical considerations. From my perspective, it’s appeal was that wide.

    Admitting that one liked Motown might, however, have been a different matter!

  30. #30
    Asking why is Motown popular in the UK is probably like asking why is Ice Hockey popular in the US.
    A lot of people will follow the sport devotedly... But an awful lot probably couldn't care less.

  31. #31
    Thank you, MikeW-UK and Midnightman, for your kind words.

    While it crosses my mind (because one recollection does tend to lead to another), I have sometimes wondered if the distinctive 'brand new beat' signature sound of earlier 60's Motown records (with pronounced drum beat and percussion, underscored by heavy bass), actually baffled many listeners here in the UK.

    While their ears and hearts were moved by the joyous tones and message of Motown records, their feet and bodies couldn't respond as spontaneously, because they had never been accustomed to doing so.

    Here in the UK, I suspect that if anyone had, for example, played 'My Guy' to a 1960s audience, and asked them to mark time to the band track, they would have responded by clapping their hands to match the lyrics shown in bold type:

    "Nothing you can say can turn me away from my guy".

    I instinctively went for the drum beat :

    "Nothing you can say can turn me away from my guy".

    To me, it just felt far more 'upbeat' and positive. It matched the rhythm of the record, and drove the lyrics forward.

    To me, it strongly contributed to 'the Motown Sound'.

    Did anyone else feel the same?

    Again, I suspect that the sound of classic Motown has always had greatest appeal to people with a more pronounced natural sense of rhythm, in contrast to those who do not. This probably included the majority of people here in the UK, especially in those more restrained, inhibited days.

    Whenever I started to play my records at home, responding to the rhythm, my Mum and Dad would always say they wanted to tap to a different beat from mine. Not so long afterwards, my Mum 'got it'.

    Is it my imagination, or has '60s Motown changed people's artistic appreciation of music, and that modern audiences now go for the drum beat when they hear rhythmic popular music which they know as 'Motown'?
    Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 04-20-2019 at 05:34 PM.

  32. #32
    I always knew I had a more pronounced natural sense of rhythm!!! I can thank Motown now.

    Fascinating thread and excellent posts guys!

  33. #33
    Why did Motown become so big in the UK? Seems to me the main reasons are social and economic.

    During the 1960s black Americans enjoyed massive social advancement and equality, thanks mainly to civil rights. But, much of this progress wasn’t just social, it was economic too, thanks demand for manual labour in the Detroit car industry.

    The sound of Motown reflected this new economic security and affluence. Now, black music wasn’t blue; it wasn’t about sex, drugs and marginalisation, or dancing to stop crying… it was about romance, dressing up, having fun, dancing with pride and moving on and up… And it was sung not just by glamorous men, but women too, who made themselves more appealing to white audience by lightening their skin and straightening their hair.

    In short, with Motown black American music became aspirational, and at the same time it became more acceptable to white America, particularly with the smooth sounds, looks and moves, the smart suits, the straightening of hair, the lightening of skin...

    All this didn’t pass unnoticed by the British working class (which back then was then overwhelmingly white); initially by the mods (a white, aspirational subculture), and later a broader, more mainstream swathe, who were particularly concentrated in the heavy industries of the midlands and north of England – coal, steel, shipbuilding, cars, engineering and factories of all kinds. Think Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Stoke, Nottingham, Birmingham….

    I grew up in such a place, and Motown / soul was massive, eclipsing pretty much all other kinds of music. The sentiments of Tamla, and indeed its sentimentality, romance and aspiration, were exactly those understood and shared by the white working class of the 1970s, who in terms of pay, conditions and security, had, in the words of a former prime minister, ‘never had it so good’. All they wanted to do was drink, dance and shop. And that was just the men!

    Meanwhile the middle-class kids were more into heavy rock and didn’t really get the appeal of Motown. Their music was more about rebelling and ‘dropping out’ of mainstream society, rather than celebrating the benefits of being a bona-fide member of it.

    So, with hindsight, it's no surprise that the music took off when and where it did in England. The British working class had, for so many generations had so much in common with America’s blacks. They just didn’t know it.

  34. #34
    Not so sure about the class distinctions. Motown and soul were very popular in the late 60s and early 70s in my suburban North London secondary school which, if we're having to talk about class, could have been described as middle class.

    Probably the whole country listened to BBC Radio 1 back then since there wasn't any other station for younger people to listen to. So we all listened to the Tony Blackburn Breakfast Show, and we all heard him play the latest and greatest Motown and soul. And we all went out and bought those records that we heard and liked.

    I believe that this is why so many Motown records charted in the UK during that golden period. They were great records with broad appeal, and the most popular radio show in the country was plugging them every morning as kids got ready for school.

    "Tears Of A Clown", for instance, went to number 1 because it was great record, with a great rhythm track, great melody, arrangement and lyrics, all topped off by a soulful and believable performance from the Smokey And The Miracles, complemented by a great mix with the drums front and centre. In fact much of the Motown that we bought back then had a similar rich mixture of appealing attributes. And the British record buying public loved this stuff.

    That's why Motown Charbusters Volume 3 was a number 1 album in the UK, with volumes 4 and 5 also peaking at number 1. Tony Blackburn even wrote the sleeve notes for volumes 2 and 4. That's how tightly he was linked to Motown's success in the UK.

    In short, great music supported by the most widely heard radio DJ in the UK.

    I don't think that I'd analyse it any further than that.
    Last edited by Sotosound; 02-03-2020 at 04:42 AM.

  35. #35
    Like reachoutuk, I bought Baby Love with my pocket money having seen The Supremes, on Ready, Steady Go, sing Where Did Our Love Go and then Baby Love whilst smothering a seated Keith Fordyce with lipstick covered kisses (I'd love to see that clip again)

    This was the start of my lifelong appreciation of the Motown Sound. Even now, if I'm at an office Christmas party, wedding reception/party, walking in shops and watching TV adverts, Motown music is always played. It may have originated in the USA but it has become embedded in the fabric of the UK.

    I take a different view to that of Tailspinner above, perhaps because I did not originate from those areas, Motown, for me, had nothing to do with colour, race etc. It was just fantastic music from attractive and talented artists.

    I can still remember the rush to my college dancefloor when Stoned Love was being played. Friends who liked heavy metal etc. would join in and enjoy the positive and uplifting vibe.

    My children have grown up with Motown music and know the words of many songs. One has her eye on my box sets when the time comes

    Long may the UK's appreciation of Motown music continue.

  36. #36
    QUOTE=Sotosound;561023]
    Probably the whole country listened to BBC Radio 1 back then since there wasn't any other station for younger people to listen to. So we all listened to the Tony Blackburn Breakfast Show, and we all heard him play the latest and greatest Motown and soul. And we all went out and bought those records that we heard and liked.

    In short, great music supported by the most widely heard radio DJ in the UK.

    [/QUOTE]

    Hi and thanks for the comments.

    True, they were great records, and I have to say (regrettably) it's only with hindsight that I began to appreciate them and understand their story.

    Re. BBC Radio 1 in the UK, it was massive in breaking records back then, but we should remember this was a station with a huge national audience, and a playlist which was essentially popular and populist. That was part of its mandate, which the public paid for through the tv licence (as it still does) and expected.

    Radio 1’s core appeal was with teenage working-class audiences who were mainly interested in dance singles and LP compilations of singles. Its public mandate meant its playlist had to reflect their taste.

    Consequently, the station wouldn’t play anything which could be considered dangerous, subversive or challenging in content/style. We should add that the exception to the Beeb's conservatism was the John Peel show, which was shunted off in a late evening slot, and specialised in the new, marginal and leftfield for a minority audience.

    Back then the main single-buying public was aged around 14-21, urbanised, and mainly working or lower-middle class. The most popular records were usually those you could dance to on a Friday/Saturday night, dressed up in mod/smooth finery, while eyeing up the girls dancing around their handbags to the sound of the Supremes or similar. Race / class /colour weren't issues back then, so this didn't affect Motown's popularity, indeed it seemed more exotic because it was American, black, cool and aspirational, all qualities which the British working class of the 60s and 70s were seduced by (and which we could add, eventually led to Thatcherism, but that's another story!).

    The BBC reflected and reinforced Motown's popularity among this mass working class audience. Yes, there were exceptions, but when it came to dance music, soul and Motown swept the board.

    In contrast, youthful middle-class listeners (e.g. from professional families, boarders in private schools, university students, etc.) tended to dismiss Radio 1 as crappy and commercial, and gravitated towards Peel, the pirate stations, and tv shows like the Old Grey Whistle Test, which played the kind of material the BBC and commercial FM stations would not touch, such as concept albums, heavy and acid rock, etc.

    Of course, the same kids were aware of Radio 1 – its playlist was impossible to escape, and was largely repeated in pub juke boxes, local FM radio stations, youth clubs, night clubs and so on. But Motown didn’t have the same kind of appeal to middle class kids, its sentiments and its image just didn’t fit, and just weren’t to their taste.

    So, that’s why I think Motown’s appeal was class-based in the UK.

    Indeed, if it had been due to the quality of the music alone, how to explain its lack of appeal among middle-class youth back then, or its lack of coverage in the music press of the time (mainly Melody Maker, New Musical Express, and Sounds), which covered mainly what they saw as ‘serious’ music, ie rock, blues, jazz, reggae etc?

    PS… thinking back, around 1974 I believe MM ran a weekly feature called 'weird scenes', one of which covered a northern soul club (can't remember which one - maybe Wigan). I remember it because it seemed so odd to call it ‘weird’, when for kids in my area (Yorkshire) it was such a normal thing...
    Last edited by Tailspinner; 02-03-2020 at 01:56 PM.

  37. #37
    When Motown was at its peak, pirate radio was all but dead, and by the time that we had commercial radio, Motown's popularity had largely faded away and been replaced by Philadelphia International, plus Barry White, The Detroit Spinners and The Stylistics.

    So, when Motown was really commercially on top (1969 - 72, i.e. Chartbusters volumes 3 through 7), there was only Radio 1 plus, for some keen listeners, Radio Luxembourg. (BBC local radio was allowed to play about three records a week.)

    As someone who was viewed by some of his fellow students at a northern university as "middle class" and "a bl**dy southerner", I have to say that I don't believe that Motown's appeal was class-based in the UK. People just liked what they liked, and my fellow classmates at school were quite capable of embracing both Motown and Status Quo at the same time.

    Really, however, I think that class is often something that people label themselves with. I've never liked to label people. I just take people for how they are. And I've found that some people like Motown while others don't. Similarly some people like rock while others don't. This even happens within single households, so where does class really come into it?

    By the way, MM, Sounds and NME belonged to a rock-orientated sub-culture and not a class. Many of my fellow uni students (often from poor Northern backgrounds) also belonged to that rock-orientated sub-culture and sneered at Motown and soul. I, however, came from a less poor southern background, and read Record Mirror, Black Music and Blues and Soul.

    Go figure.
    Last edited by Sotosound; 02-03-2020 at 06:21 PM.

  38. #38
    Hi sotosound,

    The thread is about why Motown became popular in the UK, and I think that if you accept that a particular kind of music is the product of a particular type of social/political/cultural environment, you have to ask what it was about that environment which produced a) Motown in the States with its distinctive image, sound and sentiments, and b) what it was in Britain which produced a widespread enthusiasm and commercial demand for that same image, sound and sentiment.

    If you do that, I think you’re left with the answer that there were many similarities between the social and economic environments of blacks in American cities, and those of white British manual workers.

    This was so particularly in the industrial strongholds of the north, who in the late 60s and early 70s were enjoying some of their most secure and prosperous years, thanks to low unemployment, relatively high wages, strong unions, a generous welfare state, a booming consumer society and of course gender equality. Let's not forget Motown was pretty much as popular with the girls as boys, and probably the first musical trend to be so.

    As you said, peak demand for Motown in the UK was between about 69-72, although it remained strong for the old records in clubs/pubs/jukeboxes nationwide until much, much later. These sources reflected (rather than shaped) public taste, as did the radio stations which continued to play the hits throughout – BBC Radio 1 from 1968 and commercial FM from 1973.

    Papers like NME, MM and Sounds were indeed more specialised, as you say, serving a rock-oriented subculture. But, I’d argue that was mainly a 6thform/college-kid sub-culture, and as such the papers’ core appeal lay with the middle class, and those with middle class aspirations.

    I also agree that if you ask people why they liked Motown, they just say they ‘liked what they liked’, as they did in the Yorkshire town where I grew up. But, asking individuals isn’t very useful because most of us don’t have that level of awareness. They don’t say ‘I like it because I’m working class and my social environment is just like the American blacks’, who’ve never had it so good, just like me’.

    Point is, that we’re often unaware of how our tastes, particularly with regard to music, fashion, etc. are shaped by our social environments.

    It was distinctive social and political conditions which gave birth to blues, reggae and Motown, etc. And no doubt their practitioners and fans said pretty much the same thing, i.e. that they just ‘liked what they liked’.

    Yes sure, as with any trend there are exceptions, yourself included. No trend ever has 100% conformity. So, despite my hometown being a Motown hotbed, I also had mates who listened to other stuff, particularly chart stuff, whether Status Quo or some crappy novelty record. I also had mates who didn’t label themselves in class terms, any more than I labelled myself, either then or now for that matter. Nobody did!

    Yet, there were still aspects of their attitudes, values, tastes and preferences etc. which were what we’d call ‘working class’. I shared some of them too, but they were mixed with what we’d now call middle class tastes and traits, no doubt reflecting my ‘mixed’ social background!

    It’s probably because of the decline in the UK of manufacturing and production in steel, ships, mines, cars, etc. etc. and the masses employed there, that we’ve had class fragmentation and the loss of the distinctive sub-cultures. But again, that’s another story.
    Last edited by Tailspinner; 02-05-2020 at 10:11 AM.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by westgrandboulevard View Post
    My original hometown from my youth is on the central southern coast of UK...a ferry route to the Isle Of Wight, and a place which I would describe as a country town, found on the coast...in the 1960s, there were few if any clubs in that area. I would have needed to have gone to a city or large town about 35 miles round trip in either direction, and still would not have heard any TM records.
    ...not quite sure where you exactly grew up Westgrand ...but I grew up in Portsmouth smack bang in the centre of the South Coast ...and we had many Mod clubs, dance halls and youth clubs playing reggae, soul, and of course...Tamla-Motown ...one such club was the legendary Birdcage that consistently played the latest TM sounds and enjoyed a host live acts in its short 3-year history ...here's a few that played there in 1965-67

    Alex Harvey Soul Band
    The Who
    Steam Packet
    Brian Auger Trinity
    Long John Baldry
    Champion Jack Dupree
    Charlie & Inez Foxx
    Zoot Money Band
    Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds
    Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers
    Georgie Fame & the Blueflames
    Goldie & the Gingerbreads
    The Action
    Herbie Goins & the Nightimers
    Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
    Lou Johnson
    The Moody Blues
    Rod Stewart
    Sugar Pie Desanto
    The Paramounts
    John Mayall's Bluesbreakers
    Ben E King & The Jimmy Brown Sound
    David Bowie & the The Lower Third
    Wilson Pickett
    Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band
    Major Lance
    Alan Price
    The Alan Bown Set
    The Birds
    The Drifters
    The Spencer Davis Group
    The Small Faces
    Arthur Alexander
    Dee Dee Warwick
    The Move
    Wynder K Frogg
    The Kinks
    The Hollies
    Graham Bond Organisation
    Ike & Tina Turner
    Little Richard
    Cream
    Eric Burdon & The Animals
    Pink Floyd
    Joyce Bond
    Prince Busters All Stars
    Amen Corner
    The Herd
    Procol Harum

    ...other clubs ...the Marina / Sound Barrier ...and the Mecca ...always played Motown ...I saw and danced with Jimmy Ruffin ...Edwin Starr ...and the Four Tops ...on stage at the Mecca c. 1970/71 ...and there's been Northern Soul clubs at various venues playing rarer dance soul and Motown in Portsmouth for at least 30 years now ...long may it continue...!!

    Last edited by grapevine; 02-05-2020 at 02:37 PM.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Tailspinner View Post
    Hi sotosound,

    The thread is about why Motown became popular in the UK, and I think that if you accept that a particular kind of music is the product of a particular type of social/political/cultural environment, you have to ask what it was about that environment which produced a) Motown in the States with its distinctive image, sound and sentiments, and b) what it was in Britain which produced a widespread enthusiasm and commercial demand for that same image, sound and sentiment.

    If you do that, I think you’re left with the answer that there were many similarities between the social and economic environments of blacks in American cities, and those of white British manual workers.

    This was so particularly in the industrial strongholds of the north, who in the late 60s and early 70s were enjoying some of their most secure and prosperous years, thanks to low unemployment, relatively high wages, strong unions, a generous welfare state, a booming consumer society and of course gender equality. Let's not forget Motown was pretty much as popular with the girls as boys, and probably the first musical trend to be so.

    As you said, peak demand for Motown in the UK was between about 69-72, although it remained strong for the old records in clubs/pubs/jukeboxes nationwide until much, much later. These sources reflected (rather than shaped) public taste, as did the radio stations which continued to play the hits throughout – BBC Radio 1 from 1968 and commercial FM from 1973.

    Papers like NME, MM and Sounds were indeed more specialised, as you say, serving a rock-oriented subculture. But, I’d argue that was mainly a 6thform/college-kid sub-culture, and as such the papers’ core appeal lay with the middle class, and those with middle class aspirations.

    I also agree that if you ask people why they liked Motown, they just say they ‘liked what they liked’, as they did in the Yorkshire town where I grew up. But, asking individuals isn’t very useful because most of us don’t have that level of awareness. They don’t say ‘I like it because I’m working class and my social environment is just like the American blacks’, who’ve never had it so good, just like me’.

    Point is, that we’re often unaware of how our tastes, particularly with regard to music, fashion, etc. are shaped by our social environments.

    It was distinctive social and political conditions which gave birth to blues, reggae and Motown, etc. And no doubt their practitioners and fans said pretty much the same thing, i.e. that they just ‘liked what they liked’.

    Yes sure, as with any trend there are exceptions, yourself included. No trend ever has 100% conformity. So, despite my hometown being a Motown hotbed, I also had mates who listened to other stuff, particularly chart stuff, whether Status Quo or some crappy novelty record. I also had mates who didn’t label themselves in class terms, any more than I labelled myself, either then or now for that matter. Nobody did!

    Yet, there were still aspects of their attitudes, values, tastes and preferences etc. which were what we’d call ‘working class’. I shared some of them too, but they were mixed with what we’d now call middle class tastes and traits, no doubt reflecting my ‘mixed’ social background!

    It’s probably because of the decline in the UK of manufacturing and production in steel, ships, mines, cars, etc. etc. and the masses employed there, that we’ve had class fragmentation and the loss of the distinctive sub-cultures. But again, that’s another story.
    While I can't deny that we're all subject to environmental and socio-economic influences, I've never ever considered my musical tastes in that context.

    Perhaps I am an exception, however, or perhaps I'm not. I dunno. My mother was a musician and music teacher born and raised in Cambridge, and trained at the Royal College of Music in London. She had a very mixed opinion of pop music, so I had classical influences from her and pop influences from radio and TV. Hence I remember running along the beach when I was about 4 or 5 singing the main melody from the Light Cavalry Overture by Suppe, and then a year or two later singing "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard to our dog. (Sadly, it died not long after. Perhaps I caused it.)

    A few years later, after the Beatles had arrived, pop music kind of grew up and my mother took a greater interest in it. She really liked some of the West Coast harmonies employed by Mamas and Papas and The Association, plus Scott Walker. And she really loved "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, as well as a lot of George Benson.

    Pop music was also a means to get her pupils at school to engage in music lessons. Hence "Minuetto Allegretto" by The Wombles turned out to be very handy both in engaging her pupils and in teaching them a little bit about classical music.

    As for me, Motown really started to appeal as I hit my teenage years. I loved "Reflections" by DRATS, for instance. When I was 14, I bought my very first Tamla Motown single, "Don't Know Why I Love You" by Stevie Wonder, and it went from there while all the time Tony Blackburn was playing Motown to the whole nation.

    As I grew more mature, the emotional content of Motown really started to call to me, and I developed a great love for tracks such as "My Whole World Ended" by David Ruffin. And it wasn't just Motown. I also loved a lot of other soul music, as well as liking some Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin alongside pure pop such as "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies, "Space Oddity" by David Bowie and loads of other stuff across the spectrum. Plus I also liked some classical music.

    My sister, meanwhile, was into Stones and Zepp and Sabbath and Curved Air etc. My younger brother loved bands such as The Police, Rush and Duran Duran and became a (very good) drummer for a while.

    I never ever considered my musical taste in the context of where I lived or the environment in which I grew up, and I still wouldn't like to attribute my musical preferences to anything other than what floats my own personal boat.

    That's my experience. Yours is clearly different, so let's agree to hold different views and get back to the music itself.
    Last edited by Sotosound; 02-06-2020 at 04:28 AM. Reason: Typo

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    While I can't deny that we're all subject to environmental and socio-economic influences, I've never ever considered my musical tastes in that context.

    Perhaps I am an exception, however, or perhaps I'm not. I dunno. My mother was a musician and music teacher born and raised in Cambridge, and trained at the Royal College of Music in London. She had a very mixed opinion of pop music, so I had classical influences from her and pop influences from radio and TV. Hence I remember running along the beach when I was about 4 or 5 singing the main melody from the Light Cavalry Overture by Suppe, and then a year or two later singing "The Young Ones" by Cliff Richard to our dog. (Sadly, it died not long after. Perhaps I caused it.)

    A few years later, after the Beatles had arrived, pop music kind of grew up and my mother took a greater interest in it. She really liked some of the West Coast harmonies employed by Mamas and Papas and The Association, plus Scott Walker. And she really loved "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, as well as a lot of George Benson.

    Pop music was also a means to get her pupils at school to engage in music lessons. Hence "Minuetto Allegretto" by The Wombles turned out to be very handy both in engaging her pupils and in teaching them a little bit about classical music.

    As for me, Motown really started to appeal as I hit my teenage years. I loved "Reflections" by DRATS, for instance. When I was 14, I bought my very first Tamla Motown single, "Don't Know Why I Love You" by Stevie Wonder, and it went from there while all the time Tony Blackburn was playing Motown to the whole nation.

    As I grew more mature, the emotional content of Motown really started to call to me, and I developed a great love for tracks such as "My Whole World Ended" by David Ruffin. And it wasn't just Motown. I also loved a lot of other soul music, as well as liking some Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin alongside pure pop such as "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies, "Space Oddity" by David Bowie and loads of other stuff across the spectrum. Plus I also liked some classical music.

    My sister, meanwhile, was into Stones and Zepp and Sabbath and Curved Air etc. My younger brother loved bands such as The Police, Rush and Duran Duran and became a (very good) drummer for a while.

    I never ever considered my musical taste in the context of where I lived or the environment in which I grew up, and I still wouldn't like to attribute my musical preferences to anything other than what floats my own personal boat.

    That's my experience. Yours is clearly different, so let's agree to hold different views and get back to the music itself.
    Sure, variety is the spice…

    Yours is an interesting bio. I guess such a wide range if influences is quite rare. I wish I’d had a similarly broad education, musically speaking. My granddad played piano, first in an orchestra, then in cinemas for the silent movies, before the work dried up and he got steady job in the stores on the Scunthorpe steel works! I’d hear him play at his home whenever we visited as a family. But apart from that I never heard proper live music until I was a teenager, at the Top Rank in Doncaster... not at a Motown special, but to see Bowie on tour as Ziggy!

    My town was Goole (though we lived just outside). You’d say it was a working-class town, a bit like a pit town but with a port instead. A fairly prosperous hard-working, hard-drinking place, where most people had a connection with the docks or some light industry nearby.

    As a teenager, Northern soul and Motown were massive, and you heard the tunes everywhere you went. There was no real venue locally, so fans set up bus trips to the all-nighters on Wigan, Stoke and other places.

    Tho’ I was immersed in soul and Motown I couldn’t identify at all with its image or sentiments. I wore the clothes – high waistband bags, stax shoes / loafers, fred perry's, Ben Shermans, button down collars, rolled up sleeves…. but always found the heavy and progressive bands more exciting to listen to – they seemed subversive and dangerous, and just seemed to attract more like minded souls (no pun intended).

    But, it wasn’t until much later that I began to understand more about soul/Motown and their origins and appeal. I think it probably started in the mid-1980s, when, browsing in the York University library, I came across something about Berry Gordy (can’t remember the title) and I was amazed that a book had actually been written about Motown, and that it had been created in the way it was!

    Later on, and after so watching so many tv docs about pop in general - y'know BBC4 on Friday nights, I began thinking about the thread title - why it took off in the UK the way it did - and with a bit of sociological imagination, the pieces began to fall into place, particularly when you wonder why soul/Motown weren’t appropriated by the blacks in Britain of the 60s and 70s, who mostly preferred reggae, because it was the music of the marginalised which seemed to speak to their cultural present in Britain at the time, as well as reflecting their cultural past.

    I think to understand the production and consumption of culture and the arts in Britain, it’s important to understand the role played by class, something which has been long understood by marketing people as well as sociologists.

    It has got a lot harder now, given the fragmentation of class through the loss of traditional industry with its heavy reliance on manual labour, and the shared attitudes, values and so on of that labour. There’s also multiculturalism; immigration from around the world, and of course feminism, and the rise of social media and the internet, which has changed the ways we relate to one another and created a ‘supermarket’ of style, taste, and of course, of music.

    Any road, rambling here, and I’ve got some chips on! Thanks for the chat, interesting stuff…
    Last edited by Tailspinner; 02-06-2020 at 08:20 AM.

  42. #42
    This is a brilliant thread, thanks reachoutuk. Everyone ismaking great, thoughtful points. My pennyworth is the factor that for us BritsMotown was from the US therefore had that magical exotic attraction. Just asBrit bands from Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle appeared exotic to ourAmerican friends. Of course, this is not to detract in the slightest from thesheer quality and excitement of the music. From the speaker of my transistorradio in the early 60s my life has been enriched beyond measure by all thosetalented people at Motown.

  43. #43
    this thread is providing good stateside reading , providing some insight from afar!

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Tailspinner View Post
    Sure, variety is the spice…

    Yours is an interesting bio. I guess such a wide range if influences is quite rare. I wish I’d had a similarly broad education, musically speaking. My granddad played piano, first in an orchestra, then in cinemas for the silent movies, before the work dried up and he got steady job in the stores on the Scunthorpe steel works! I’d hear him play at his home whenever we visited as a family. But apart from that I never heard proper live music until I was a teenager, at the Top Rank in Doncaster... not at a Motown special, but to see Bowie on tour as Ziggy!

    My town was Goole (though we lived just outside). You’d say it was a working-class town, a bit like a pit town but with a port instead. A fairly prosperous hard-working, hard-drinking place, where most people had a connection with the docks or some light industry nearby.

    As a teenager, Northern soul and Motown were massive, and you heard the tunes everywhere you went. There was no real venue locally, so fans set up bus trips to the all-nighters on Wigan, Stoke and other places.

    Tho’ I was immersed in soul and Motown I couldn’t identify at all with its image or sentiments. I wore the clothes – high waistband bags, stax shoes / loafers, fred perry's, Ben Shermans, button down collars, rolled up sleeves…. but always found the heavy and progressive bands more exciting to listen to – they seemed subversive and dangerous, and just seemed to attract more like minded souls (no pun intended).

    But, it wasn’t until much later that I began to understand more about soul/Motown and their origins and appeal. I think it probably started in the mid-1980s, when, browsing in the York University library, I came across something about Berry Gordy (can’t remember the title) and I was amazed that a book had actually been written about Motown, and that it had been created in the way it was!

    Later on, and after so watching so many tv docs about pop in general - y'know BBC4 on Friday nights, I began thinking about the thread title - why it took off in the UK the way it did - and with a bit of sociological imagination, the pieces began to fall into place, particularly when you wonder why soul/Motown weren’t appropriated by the blacks in Britain of the 60s and 70s, who mostly preferred reggae, because it was the music of the marginalised which seemed to speak to their cultural present in Britain at the time, as well as reflecting their cultural past.

    I think to understand the production and consumption of culture and the arts in Britain, it’s important to understand the role played by class, something which has been long understood by marketing people as well as sociologists.

    It has got a lot harder now, given the fragmentation of class through the loss of traditional industry with its heavy reliance on manual labour, and the shared attitudes, values and so on of that labour. There’s also multiculturalism; immigration from around the world, and of course feminism, and the rise of social media and the internet, which has changed the ways we relate to one another and created a ‘supermarket’ of style, taste, and of course, of music.

    Any road, rambling here, and I’ve got some chips on! Thanks for the chat, interesting stuff…
    So, from your biography, you were an exception too?

    Although you tried to conform, you couldn’t. You always knew what you really liked.

    Instead, you developed an understanding and liking for Motown at a later time, presumably at a point where you were more independent of thought and allowed yourself to just be you.

  45. #45
    The Brits had it right with the Four Tops, as much as I love the Tempts and all the other acts, the Four Tops were always the best, did not understand why they always seem to be in the Temps shadows , with Levi Stubbs voice who can compare. Brits glad you all saw the genius of the Four Tops .

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    So, from your biography, you were an exception too?

    Although you tried to conform, you couldn’t. You always knew what you really liked.

    Instead, you developed an understanding and liking for Motown at a later time, presumably at a point where you were more independent of thought and allowed yourself to just be you.
    Well, as a teenager I wasn’t bothered about what a poster above rightly called Motown's ‘blue collar’ appeal or credentials. Nor did I “want to conform but couldn’t”. I simply couldn’t identify with what I saw as its saccharine romance, mush, and the inauthenticity of it, especially the presentational aspects – the shiny suits, the unison choreography, the crooning and hair straightening… all far too camp!

    Later on it was mainly a nostalgia thing. Those records aren’t as commonly heard now, so when you do hear them, it’s like time travel - like with ‘Rock the Boat’ on the 10,000th episode of Coronation St. the other night! (OK not Motown, but a similar style and appeal).

    Having discovered more about Motown - its social origins, production, the skills evident in the songwriting, musicianship, etc. it now has a different kind of attraction, as do many other kinds of music I didn’t like back then – jazz for example.

    Basically, I came to relate to Motown and other kinds of music in a different way. Having said that, although there are lots of great singles, I think most would agree there’s also a lot of duff tracks and filler on many of those chartbuster LPs!

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by Tailspinner View Post
    Having said that, although there are lots of great singles, I think most would agree there’s also a lot of duff tracks and filler on many of those chartbuster LPs!
    Hmmm!

    Chacun à son goût.

  48. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    The Brits had it right with the Four Tops, as much as I love the Tempts and all the other acts, the Four Tops were always the best, did not understand why they always seem to be in the Temps shadows , with Levi Stubbs voice who can compare. Brits glad you all saw the genius of the Four Tops .
    Hi tmd,
    I'm more than happy to accept your compliment personally! If I had to choose a favourite artist, then in the early days, say up to 1967/8, it would be the Four Tops. Having said that, after 1967/8 I probably prefer the Temptations' later work to the Four Tops. It might be a little controversial, but I like the "psychedelic" albums that they issued.

  49. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by BritishTony View Post
    This is a brilliant thread, thanks reachoutuk. Everyone ismaking great, thoughtful points. My pennyworth is the factor that for us BritsMotown was from the US therefore had that magical exotic attraction. Just asBrit bands from Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle appeared exotic to ourAmerican friends. Of course, this is not to detract in the slightest from thesheer quality and excitement of the music. From the speaker of my transistorradio in the early 60s my life has been enriched beyond measure by all thosetalented people at Motown.
    Hi BritishTony,
    Thank you for your comment. I was surprised to see this thread come back to life after almost a year of silence! I think you and I are on the same airwave (please excuse the pun). I still have my tiny (and tinny-sounding) pocket transistor radio from the mid-sixties, sadly no longer working. Just as a car gave you freedom of the road, so a transistor radio gave you freedom to listen to what you wanted rather than what your parents preferred. In my case, it gave me the chance of sitting on the cliff-top above Walton-on-the-Naze listening to Radio Caroline broadcasting just off the coast at nearby Frinton. Happy days!

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    this thread is providing good stateside reading , providing some insight from afar!
    Hi Boogiedown,
    I'm pleased to hear that this thread has been of interest to those on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Although my initial query was focussed in the UK, it has been illuminating to hear how people have been affected in different ways as they grew up, whether culture, environment, colour and even class have played a part in our love of the music. In fact, are there real differences between those of us in the UK or the US? Or does it just come down to a simple question of personal taste?

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