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  1. #1

    Supremes Battle of the Bands Discussion

    Supremes fans, what did y'all think of the girls' 1964 Battle of the Bands vs the Velvelettes performance? (Supremes performance was included on Meet the Supremes expanded, Velvelettes on their Anthology.) Your fandom aside, who would you have voted for? I'm obviously a huge Supremes fan, and I'm nothing more than a casual fan of the Velvelettes, but I like to think I can be objective. On a normal singing day, I personally don't think Carolyn was really any "better" of a singer than Diana was. During the performance Diana sounds hoarse to me, but even with that Carolyn doesn't really sound any better to my ears. The Velvelettes background comes across as a better blend, but I have to wonder how much of the fact that they have, what, three or four background singers to the Supremes two, how much that plays a factor in the two sounds.

    But ultimately I think I might have voted for the Velvelettes over the Supremes also if for only one reason: the Velvelettes performed better material. The Supremes mostly did their own songs, but aside from maybe "Lovelight" I'm not sure it served them well when they were up against the Velvelettes covering big hits of the day like "Nitty Gritty" and "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face". Although the Supremes do get points for at least attempting "Anyone Who Had a Heart", a song I think they should've recorded and maybe kept in the act awhile longer. I would've loved to hear Diana in her natural voice singing the song. But there was no way the Supremes were going to win over a crowd at the Graystone doing "Make Someone Happy".

    There's a funny anecdote about how after the Supremes lost, a Velvelette walked into a restroom and found Diana kicking the door of a stall. She should've been kicking herself, Flo, Mary and whoever helped them come up with that set list. There was no winning with that.

  2. #2
    yeah i think it's not a major shock that the V's won. my understanding is that the audience at these events would have been more teens and young people. the Sup set list is much more sophisticated and therefore not really a great fit for the audience.

    The Velvelettes sang:
    *The Nitty Gritty
    *There He Goes
    *The Monkey Time
    *I Can't wait
    *ain't that good news

    The Sups sang:
    *Run Run Run
    *Standing at the Crossroads
    *Anyone who had a heart
    *Time changes things
    *make someone happy
    *let me go the right way
    *lovelight

    the V's just had a more upbeat setlist and songs that the audience would have known. The songs that the audience probably knew that the Sups sang were ballads and therefore not as exciting.

  3. #3
    I’m 100% with you - every word. I’d give a kidney to Donald Trump for a video of Ross afterwards.

  4. #4
    Shoot, I bet in those days if they went into battle with the Marvelettes AND Martha and the Vandellas, both groups would've smoked them too.

    The Supremes weren't The Supremes yet when they faced all those bands. Same with non-Motown acts like the Crystals, the Shirelles, Shangri-Las, Ronettes and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, etc. Of course between 1961 and around late July 1964, they would've got smoked.

    No offense to Diana, Mary & Flo of course but it's no shock the Velvelettes beat them...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    the V's just had a more upbeat setlist and songs that the audience would have known. The songs that the audience probably knew that the Sups sang were ballads and therefore not as exciting.
    Another way of saying that- at least for me anyway- is to say the Supremes' set was boring. Look at the Velvelettes' list. There's no comparing on which set of songs would resonate more with the audience. I'm assuming "Run" was their latest single, so that makes sense (promotion). "Lovelight" also makes sense since it was not only the Supremes' biggest hit up until that time, but was also a big r&b hit (#2). But everything else should've been scrapped. Might keep "Right Way". And maybe switch up the leads. Maybe give a go at one ballad and have Mary do it. I wonder what she might have sounded like on "Anyone Who Had a Heart". What if they did the Ronettes' "Be My Baby"? Or the Cookies "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby"?

    I'm sure no one left the ballroom that night thinking to themselves "Those Supremes can't sing" or "they're just not that good". But I'm sure most folks left feeling like they had a better time while the Velvelettes were on stage.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    Shoot, I bet in those days if they went into battle with the Marvelettes AND Martha and the Vandellas, both groups would've smoked them too.

    The Supremes weren't The Supremes yet when they faced all those bands. Same with non-Motown acts like the Crystals, the Shirelles, Shangri-Las, Ronettes and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, etc. Of course between 1961 and around late July 1964, they would've got smoked.

    No offense to Diana, Mary & Flo of course but it's no shock the Velvelettes beat them...
    In Martha's book she says in the early days of the Del Phis and Primettes they would "battle" each other and sometimes the Del Phis won, sometimes the Primettes. So it wasn't a vocal thing IMO. But aside from maybe the Bluebelles (who I think mostly swayed back and forth like the Supremes did), most of those other groups were just much more energetic on stage. And again, song selection is everything.

    Even when the Supremes became the force they would eventually become, their act really was built for the supper club circuit. Except for when doing their own hits, most of the concerts we have audio for are pretty tame. Great vocals, but tame where the energy is concerned.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    In Martha's book she says in the early days of the Del Phis and Primettes they would "battle" each other and sometimes the Del Phis won, sometimes the Primettes. So it wasn't a vocal thing IMO. But aside from maybe the Bluebelles (who I think mostly swayed back and forth like the Supremes did), most of those other groups were just much more energetic on stage. And again, song selection is everything.

    Even when the Supremes became the force they would eventually become, their act really was built for the supper club circuit. Except for when doing their own hits, most of the concerts we have audio for are pretty tame. Great vocals, but tame where the energy is concerned.
    Yeah. They weren't too energetic.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    There's a funny anecdote about how after the Supremes lost, a Velvelette walked into a restroom and found Diana kicking the door of a stall. She should've been kicking herself, Flo, Mary and whoever helped them come up with that set list. There was no winning with that.
    That Velvelette who got hurt was Norma. As Diana rushed into the restroom, the door caught Norma's knee. It wasn't deliberate. It was an accident but as Norma says..it still hurt! The Velvelettes could hear all 3 Supremes arguing in their dressing room - if it wasn't bad enough that the crowd had chosen the Supremes as second best, what was even worse was that the selection process had been made in front of the 2 main men at the company....Mr Gordy and Smokey Robinson.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by theboyfromxtown View Post
    That Velvelette who got hurt was Norma. As Diana rushed into the restroom, the door caught Norma's knee. It wasn't deliberate. It was an accident but as Norma says..it still hurt! The Velvelettes could hear all 3 Supremes arguing in their dressing room - if it wasn't bad enough that the crowd had chosen the Supremes as second best, what was even worse was that the selection process had been made in front of the 2 main men at the company....Mr Gordy and Smokey Robinson.
    Thanks for the additional information. I never knew the part of the story about a Velvelette being hurt in the process.

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