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  1. #1

    Why wasn’t this Four Tops song a big hit?

    I’ve been listening to the alternate (strings) version of “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” It’s a great song, in my opinion, especially in this mix. But the recording didn’t do too well on the charts: Billboard Pop #45; R&B, #12. What do you think accounts for its relatively poor showing, especially since it was preceded by four big hits, including a #1?
    Possible factors:
    1. It’s a ballad, not a dance number like its predecessors.
    2. The released version sounds too “stripped down” without a) the strings
    and/or b) The Andantes.
    3. It’s not really that good of a song.
    Thanks for your input.

  2. #2
    My take on Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever" is that it's good song but it just doesn't have the 'mass appeal' that their other big hits have. And we'll never know how well the song would've done on the charts if it came out with the 'strings mix' that was released in 2005.

  3. #3
    Blues singer Susan Tedeschi does a version of the song on her album “Hope And Desire.”

  4. #4
    I too have wondered why this gem wasn't bigger,one of their best but who can figure the record buying public????

  5. #5
    This record in particular always just sounded like any number of "Regional" records to me. I mean I heard it on the radio back then and never got excited enough by it to go buy it. It is a good record, but it sounds like much we were hearing on CKLW at the time.

  6. #6
    Paul Rodgers covered it with help from the Four Tops at their 50th Anniversary concert in 2005.


  7. #7
    I have asked myself that same question years ago. I happen to count it as one of my favorite Four Tops songs, and the "sparse" arrangement I like quite a bit. Not a fan of the alternate version, though.

  8. #8
    My guess is that it didn't hit the public like some other records. The market is and always has been unpredictable, but there's something for everyone. The people that liked the record enough bought it while some enjoyed it on the radio. To personal taste, the song was good, but lacked an edge. Then it's very "different" for a Motown record(an Ivy Jo attribute)and wasn't what most expected, but close enough to the signature sound to release.

    Letting Stevie play the drums on the track hurt it too. He's never been the greatest trapper, but I think this is what would explain the "clunky" feel that someone mentioned. There's no fluidity, his timing is off, he had a lead foot,he hits the snare with too much force and he didn't make the best decisions with his fills and pickups. Stevie made snap decisions as opposed to staying ahead of the song while playing it. Jamerson had to slow down a lot to accommodate him and if you listen close you can catch all that stuff. Ultimately it hurt the recording in my opinion.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    My guess is that it didn't hit the public like some other records. The market is and always has been unpredictable, but there's something for everyone. The people that liked the record enough bought it while some enjoyed it on the radio. To personal taste, the song was good, but lacked an edge. Then it's very "different" for a Motown record(an Ivy Jo attribute)and wasn't what most expected, but close enough to the signature sound to release.

    Letting Stevie play the drums on the track hurt it too. He's never been the greatest trapper, but I think this is what would explain the "clunky" feel that someone mentioned. There's no fluidity, his timing is off, he had a lead foot,he hits the snare with too much force and he didn't make the best decisions with his fills and pickups. Stevie made snap decisions as opposed to staying ahead of the song while playing it. Jamerson had to slow down a lot to accommodate him and if you listen close you can catch all that stuff. Ultimately it hurt the recording in my opinion.
    The drum playing is one of my favorite things about this song. I am not a musician, so what you pointed out never even entered my mind.

  10. #10
    It was a very different story in the UK, where it was the Four Tops' third entry in the national charts. "I Can't Help Myself" had reached #23 and "It's The Same Old Song" only #34. "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" peaked at #21, making it the group's biggest hit to date.

    It was remarkably popular in London. I can remember, when I was on a coach trip while holidaying in Majorca, Spain, in 1966, being taken by surprise when the British tourists spontaneously broke into song with a chorus of "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever", as this was unusual to happen to minor hits. It seemed that everybody knew it.

    Since the track, which is one of my favourites, was so accessible to us Brits, I have absolutely no idea why it was relatively unsuccessful in America.

  11. #11
    I like it, but it wasn't a song that I went back and revisited a lot. Same with "Shake Me, Wake Me". Great songs still however.

  12. #12
    I had no clue Stevie was playing drums on this track. They do sound a bit clunky at times and do drag the song a bit.

    I always liked this track by them until I heard Marvin's version and then the Vandellas' version and it was then I realized the Four Tops' version was the weakest of the three. There's something about the Four Tops' arrangement that doesn't grab you nor does it push the song. Maybe if the Four Tops had the track that Marvin or the Vandellas got it it would have done better. The Funks do a far better job on those versions. The Four Tops' version feels a bit raw, almost too raw. It needs the strings and the Andantes. Ivy and Stevie pulled it back a little too much on this. It definitely needed the sweetening. It might have helped it chart a little higher, but then again it goes back to the track itself. A better track would have made the song chart higher.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by bradsupremes View Post
    I had no clue Stevie was playing drums on this track. They do sound a bit clunky at times and do drag the song a bit.

    I always liked this track by them until I heard Marvin's version and then the Vandellas' version and it was then I realized the Four Tops' version was the weakest of the three. There's something about the Four Tops' arrangement that doesn't grab you nor does it push the song. Maybe if the Four Tops had the track that Marvin or the Vandellas got it it would have done better. The Funks do a far better job on those versions. The Four Tops' version feels a bit raw, almost too raw. It needs the strings and the Andantes. Ivy and Stevie pulled it back a little too much on this. It definitely needed the sweetening. It might have helped it chart a little higher, but then again it goes back to the track itself. A better track would have made the song chart higher.
    Very good observation Brad. I think the Tops version could've benefitted from a re-cut as far as the track is concerned. Maybe Quality Control suggested one, but didn't want to fight with Ivy & Stevie and just sent it out. Levi wouldn't sound right singing on his cohorts tracks because to my ears they were produced specifically for those acts. The strings were muted by Brian Holland,who mixed the track. Ivy says as you did that Brian cut things back too far and that it didn't have that "oomph". Given Brian's mixing style and his tendency to mix tracks "hot", I can see why he'd deem the orchestration a distraction. Overall, I can agree with your statement though.

  14. #14
    I can't remember. What year did this record come out?

  15. #15
    For me, Martha & The Vandellas version is the best. How in the world did it remain unreleased for so long? I played it to a friend who isn't particularly into Motown music and he assumed it was a hit single!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    I can't remember. What year did this record come out?
    The song was released in 1966; it entered the Billboard Pop chart on May 28.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by lakedistrictlad1 View Post
    For me, Martha & The Vandellas version is the best. How in the world did it remain unreleased for so long? I played it to a friend who isn't particularly into Motown music and he assumed it was a hit single!
    I’ll have to go back and listen to this version. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    I’ll have to go back and listen to this version. I appreciate everyone’s comments.
    Report back after listening and give us your review mowest!

  19. #19
    If it hadn't been for "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" paving the way, "Reach Out I'll Be There" mightn't have had such an instant success. "LYISTE" really was the start of the UK's love affair with the Four Tops.

  20. #20
    This song was such a departure from the Tops’ familiar style that it sort of knocked listeners a little off-balance. I got the same feeling from Martha/Vandellas’ “What Am I Going to Do Without Your Love.” While the songs bore no substantive resemblance to each other, both were well out of the performers’ familiar styles. Both have verses, choruses, bridges and tempos which are so vastly different one from the other that the juxtapositions (for me) didn’t work well together, creating something of a mish-mash. However, both grew on me the more I listened to them, and I came to really like them for their uniqueness, but it didn’t surprise me that neither charted well.
    Last edited by BigAl; 07-03-2019 at 07:47 AM.

  21. #21
    ^ Maybe it was different in the UK then because we didn't have any preconceptions of what the Tops should sound like.

  22. #22
    Same as "A Simple Game" was a massive hit for the Tops in the UK.

    On "loving you is sweeter".. was never a fan of it... much prefer Marvin Gaye's version. .... it was so a UK top 20 hit for Nick Kamen in 1987.

  23. Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    ^ Maybe it was different in the UK then because we didn't have any preconceptions of what the Tops should sound like.
    There was an old fan magazine from the U.K. I had and there was a section where teens could rant or rave about their fave artists. I think this was after "Shake Me, Wake Me" had been released and a few of the rants were that the Tops needed to change their sound, all the songs were sounding alike. Maybe that's why "Loving You" was better received there than here.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    The song was released in 1966; it entered the Billboard Pop chart on May 28.
    Thanks Mowest.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by alexstassi View Post
    Same as "A Simple Game" was a massive hit for the Tops in the UK.

    On "loving you is sweeter".. was never a fan of it... much prefer Marvin Gaye's version. .... it was so a UK top 20 hit for Nick Kamen in 1987.
    "A Simple Game" should have been a big hit here too in the States. It is a great song with a good message for everyone.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    There was an old fan magazine from the U.K. I had and there was a section where teens could rant or rave about their fave artists. I think this was after "Shake Me, Wake Me" had been released and a few of the rants were that the Tops needed to change their sound, all the songs were sounding alike. Maybe that's why "Loving You" was better received there than here.
    I had always liked "Shake Me, Wake Me". Listening to it in recent years, I hear things I didn't pay attention to long ago. There are some very creative things happening with the rhythm on that record.

  27. #27
    Hey marv,my favorite from the tops,that piano riff at the start is a killer and levi sings like his heart is breaking..as the tears creep down my face i can't believe i've been replaced-an absolute killer!!

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    Hey marv,my favorite from the tops,that piano riff at the start is a killer and levi sings like his heart is breaking..as the tears creep down my face i can't believe i've been replaced-an absolute killer!!
    Yep! and if you listen closely to the backing rhythm track it sounds a bit like a rapid heartbeat. Also, you hear where it was used as a sample in Chubb Rock's 1990 rap hit "Treat 'Em Right".

    On yeah and listen to how the Tops sound like they are feigning crying when they go "ahhh, ahhhhhh, ahhhh" and Levi using is very unique skill of crying with his vocal on the lead "As the tears stream down my face......." he makes it believable by the way he uses his voice to convey the meaning of the lyrics.

  29. Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    I had always liked "Shake Me, Wake Me". Listening to it in recent years, I hear things I didn't pay attention to long ago. There are some very creative things happening with the rhythm on that record.
    That's another one that baffles me: why that one isn't regarded as much a classic as something like "Reach Out". As much as I love "I Can't Help Myself", years of constant play on "oldies" stations have worn me out on it. "Shake Me" is so much more advanced and exciting, it's one of those songs I don't dare play in the car; otherwise, I'll be sure to get a speeding ticket. No Joke.

    BTW, Marv, have you heard a song by Kim Weston, "I'm Going To Make It Up To You"? It's eerily similar to "Shake Me, Wake Me."

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by lakedistrictlad1 View Post
    Report back after listening [to Martha’s version] and give us your review mowest!
    Very good vocals by Martha. This recording, however, sounds to me like a Martha solo effort rather than a Martha & The Vandellas or even a Martha & The Andantes work. The instrumentation barely sounds like a Motown track and the backing vocals are way back in the mix.
    All this aside, it’s #2 of all the versions of the song I’ve listened to (everyone it seems has recorded it!), but the Tops alternate mix is still #1, imo.

  31. #31
    I`ve always loved "LYISTE" it was my favourite Tops song back in the day.I have never liked "A Simple Game" it`s not Motown.

  32. #32
    Motown was awful at promoting the actual great songs. They promoted the awful overrated songs

  33. #33
    I was shocked and delighted when I first heard "Simple Game."

    I already knew the song as "A Simple Game". I had it on the B-side of "Ride My Seesaw" by The Moody Blues and had listened to it a lot for a couple of years before the Tops released their version.

    For the Tops to record it in such a grand style was a revelation, so I went and bought it straight away.

    IMHO, the only mix that does it justice, however, is the UK single mix, with the portentous and ear-grabbing reverb on the horns in the intro. The drier sounding stereo and US single mixes seem to miss the point. With those versions you have to patiently wait for the chorus before you get picked up and carried away. By then a lot of radio listeners in search of a quick adrenalin fix will have tuned out.

    It certainly isn't classic Motown but it is classic Four Tops. And not one of The Andantes to be heard!

    The great thing about the Tops is that they didn't need the classic Motown sound to sound great. With the great Levi Stubbs and their faultless harmonies they were able to transcend all of that.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Yep! and if you listen closely to the backing rhythm track it sounds a bit like a rapid heartbeat. Also, you hear where it was used as a sample in Chubb Rock's 1990 rap hit "Treat 'Em Right".

    On yeah and listen to how the Tops sound like they are feigning crying when they go "ahhh, ahhhhhh, ahhhh" and Levi using is very unique skill of crying with his vocal on the lead "As the tears stream down my face......." he makes it believable by the way he uses his voice to convey the meaning of the lyrics.
    You guys are boss! The same can be said of Still Water. One question, though - why is the song BARELY a verse long??? In my humble opinion, Levi can do no wrong in my ears. So why the tease in "Still"?

  35. #35
    I've always liked The Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever", but I've gotta say I much prefer the previously-unreleased version with strings. Motown was hotter than Hades in 1966. The public was in love with 'The Motown Sound'. Strings were an important element in that sound. To leave out that ingredient is like baking a new line of cakes and leaving out the sugar, and then wondering why they didn't sell. Just my take on it.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    I was shocked and delighted when I first heard "Simple Game."

    I already knew the song as "A Simple Game". I had it on the B-side of "Ride My Seesaw" by The Moody Blues and had listened to it a lot for a couple of years before the Tops released their version.

    For the Tops to record it in such a grand style was a revelation, so I went and bought it straight away.

    IMHO, the only mix that does it justice, however, is the UK single mix, with the portentous and ear-grabbing reverb on the horns in the intro. The drier sounding stereo and US single mixes seem to miss the point. With those versions you have to patiently wait for the chorus before you get picked up and carried away. By then a lot of radio listeners in search of a quick adrenalin fix will have tuned out.

    It certainly isn't classic Motown but it is classic Four Tops. And not one of The Andantes to be heard!

    The great thing about the Tops is that they didn't need the classic Motown sound to sound great. With the great Levi Stubbs and their faultless harmonies they were able to transcend all of that.
    Sotosound, I couldn't have put it any better. However, I'd add that the US mix seemed to remove the mellotron which is a shame as that is a key Moodies ingredient. I might be wrong but didn't Maggie May stop this song from the reaching the top of the chart? I was at college at the time and it was VERY popular with friends, even those who didn't normally care for Motown music.

    Linking this back to the OP, I think that the UK may be more tolerant of change in an artist's output, hence LYISTHE being more successful here. I can't imagine Diana's Dooobedoo... being a hit in the US!

  37. Quote Originally Posted by Philles/Motown Gary View Post
    I've always liked The Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever", but I've gotta say I much prefer the previously-unreleased version with strings. Motown was hotter than Hades in 1966. The public was in love with 'The Motown Sound'. Strings were an important element in that sound. To leave out that ingredient is like baking a new line of cakes and leaving out the sugar, and then wondering why they didn't sell. Just my take on it.
    Good point!

  38. Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    Linking this back to the OP, I think that the UK may be more tolerant of change in an artist's output, hence LYISTHE being more successful here. I can't imagine Diana's Dooobedoo... being a hit in the US!
    For what its worth, I get the feeling the fans in the UK were growing tired of what they heard as one sound-alike after another, all modeled off "I Can't Help Myself". I may be wrong as this is based on a few comments I read in a UK pop music magazine from the time, but LYISTE may have sounded like a breath of fresh air to the UK audience.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    For what its worth, I get the feeling the fans in the UK were growing tired of what they heard as one sound-alike after another, all modeled off "I Can't Help Myself". I may be wrong as this is based on a few comments I read in a UK pop music magazine from the time, but LYISTE may have sounded like a breath of fresh air to the UK audience.
    I suspect that it was.

    In 1967, on the sleeve of British Motown Chartbusters (which later became known as volume one), Mike Raven referred to a sameyness that occurred around 1965-66 but that had now passed.

    Probably true as HDH were stretching out, Stevie was stretching out ("I Was Made To Love Her"), and Norman Whitfield was getting a lot of traction.

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