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  1. "Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart" When the Supremes went "street"

    A song that often gets brought up whenever my older brother and I talk about music is "Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart." My brother isn't really much of a Motown fan, not that he isn't, but he's very much a Funk and Smooth Jazz guy. BUT, he is nuts about this Supremes song and often plays it and discusses the production on it. One day, it came to me that the reason this song didn't hit #1 on the pop chart is because this is one song that really has a decidedly R&B sound to it. It's not even really Soul, but pure, funky, R&B.

    It always struck me that "Itching" has got so much of a gritty, gutbucket sound that it's just about the gutsiest thing in the Supremes' cannon of hits. This is more "street" than anything the Supremes recorded after "Buttered Popcorn". This has always been one of my most favorite of the Supremes hits and it surprised me that my brother was so high on it as well. Then I heard a version done in the late 80s or 90s that was big on Urban radio. We talked about that too and it only cemented my opinion about "Itching" having a certain Street Cred to it.

    Certainly speaks volumes about the Supremes' versatility and anyone who thinks they couldn't get down, or had lost some essence of "Blackness" only needs to play this. And then shut your mouth!

  2. #2
    People like to dismiss the original Supremes for being "whitebread" but there was definitely a streetwise vibe to some of their records and this song is a perfect example.

  3. #3
    I think after I hear a Symphony and the more baroque pop sounding My world is empty it was a too big of a change. Maybe someone who was around then has some more insight about it. I always wonder what Martha would sound like singing it. I always dislike words like whitebread, black sounding or whatever other terms people liked to use for someone singing a song. The Supremes were good and it proved on the charts. The next 3 singles, in a row, were number 1's on both the billboard 100 and R&B charts. Not many solo, groups match that.

    Love is like an Itching is probably one of the few Supremes songs where I prefer a re- mixed version to the released one from 1966. The one released as medley in 1979 or 80 with Love Hangover as B-side. It always makes me get up, dance and annoy the rest of the household .
    Last edited by TYK1986; 08-08-2020 at 06:18 AM.

  4. #4
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    A memory from the past .... I bought the single, and my mother and I tried to write down the lyrics as the song played. We had to play it dozens of times because the beat was faster than our hands could write.
    Last edited by Circa 1824; 08-08-2020 at 08:01 AM.

  5. #5
    I can just imagine the pair of you sitting together speed writing lol. A bit further in time, the early 90's, so had to do it with cassette tapes. I got no idea what's worse . Think I destroyed my mum's cassette player and they weren't very happy about it.

  6. #6
    I really like this song and it shows how the Supremes had the ability to sing so many different genres successfully. They were just not a homogenized pop sound. This song shows how Diana Ross was so flexible vocally and that Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard really could sing great support with more lines than ooh and baby baby. I know that Mary Wilson for one wanted more songs like this as she said to HDH she wanted songs like Martha & the Vandellas had. She certainly showed in a way how much she liked this song when she was jamming in her choreography on Ed Sullivan and Diana shouted "Go Mary!" upon seeing how much she liked the song during her performance. Plus, it was an all around success hitting #9 on the charts and being #90 on Billboard's Top 100 Girl Group Songs of All Time. Shame it is not remembered as well as some of their other songs.

  7. #7
    They came from the streets. They came from the projects. They weren't living the Pop Life!"

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by jim aka jtigre99 View Post
    I really like this song and it shows how the Supremes had the ability to sing so many different genres successfully. They were just not a homogenized pop sound. This song shows how Diana Ross was so flexible vocally and that Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard really could sing great support with more lines than ooh and baby baby. I know that Mary Wilson for one wanted more songs like this as she said to HDH she wanted songs like Martha & the Vandellas had. She certainly showed in a way how much she liked this song when she was jamming in her choreography on Ed Sullivan and Diana shouted "Go Mary!" upon seeing how much she liked the song during her performance. Plus, it was an all around success hitting #9 on the charts and being #90 on Billboard's Top 100 Girl Group Songs of All Time. Shame it is not remembered as well as some of their other songs.
    I know. I think it's one of their greatest songs personally!

  9. #9
    "Itchin" was a tough song, for sure. But honestly I don't think it was anymore "street" than "Hangin On". "Hurry Love" was straight church. And "Back In My Arms Again"'s track is IMO as tough as "Itchin" also. The Funks take no prisoners on that one. There's a weird fascination for some with this idea that the Supremes were [insert racially insulting adjective] as it relates to their Blackness, but there's a reason why they were also the most popular and successful female group among R&B fans. They just had a gift for reaching everybody at the same time.

  10. #10
    I agree that Itchin was a bit more rough than some of the other Supremes "cutie pie" songs. It's a good song but i think it wasn't "special" enough when released in 66. A year earlier would have been better. By 1966, this sound just wasn't fresh enough. It's a very good representation of the earlier Motown sound along the lines of Sugar Pie, Back in my arms again, dancing in the street, nowhere to run, etc.

    HDH started really pushing things to new levels in 66. You Keep Me Hangin On, Reach Out, Bernadette, I'm Ready For Love. They evolved the sound to keep it fresh

    Itchin' was too "old school" in 66

    and of course this is all relative. it's still an excellent dance track and went Top 10. just talking about varying degrees here

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I agree that Itchin was a bit more rough than some of the other Supremes "cutie pie" songs. It's a good song but i think it wasn't "special" enough when released in 66. A year earlier would have been better. By 1966, this sound just wasn't fresh enough. It's a very good representation of the earlier Motown sound along the lines of Sugar Pie, Back in my arms again, dancing in the street, nowhere to run, etc.

    HDH started really pushing things to new levels in 66. You Keep Me Hangin On, Reach Out, Bernadette, I'm Ready For Love. They evolved the sound to keep it fresh

    Itchin' was too "old school" in 66

    and of course this is all relative. it's still an excellent dance track and went Top 10. just talking about varying degrees here
    Sorry to disagree but "I'm Ready For Love" sounds a lot more old school to me than "Itchin'".

  12. #12
    I have always thought that 1966 was the "peak" year for Motown and this song proves it. It came out at a time when the producers were emphasizing that driving beat, that get out there and dance appeal, with storylines still to come. [[Love Child being an example of the latter.)

    Also the TV shows of the time featured songs like Itchin so they were probably trying to capitalize on that appeal as well. I can think of at least two other girl groups that tried to cover it in the 80s.........The Good Girls and Krystol I think it was. But neither came close to matching the original.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    Sorry to disagree but "I'm Ready For Love" sounds a lot more old school to me than "Itchin'".
    interesting. i see I'm Ready, Hanging On and Reach out as HDH pushing the envelop and working more with dramatic tension. of the 3 i agree that I'm Ready is more 'traditional motown' but it has such an interesting chorus. not typical at all IMO - the dynamic drops at the chorus, in a good. After these bigger verses, it suddenly falls to the chorus. You have the singer going into these big announcements of being ready for love, but then it's like she's second guessing herself a little at the chorus. very interesting IMO

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    "Itchin" was a tough song, for sure. But honestly I don't think it was anymore "street" than "Hangin On". "Hurry Love" was straight church. And "Back In My Arms Again"'s track is IMO as tough as "Itchin" also. The Funks take no prisoners on that one. There's a weird fascination for some with this idea that the Supremes were [insert racially insulting adjective] as it relates to their Blackness, but there's a reason why they were also the most popular and successful female group among R&B fans. They just had a gift for reaching everybody at the same time.
    Oh, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" was FONKY, ya heard me? FONKY! That Morse Code-like guitar riff that carried on and began the track, you knew what was up!

  15. #15
    LILAIIMH is a fav of mine and is great workout music. The track is smoking hot and I agree it's a little too frenetic for the Supremes. Perhaps Martha, Levi or even Marvin could have taken it further up the charts.

    It was recorded well before Symphony and My World Is Empty. It sat in the can. I get the feeling the decision to release it as a single was made from exhaustion. HDH was being spread very thin and they have spoken about the exhaustion they had from working up to 20 hrs a day. It gave them time to regroup and come back with 4 more No 1 hits for the group

  16. #16
    also by spring of 66, the girls were sort of out of new "hit" material. Fall of 65 was spent with the Xmas content and then preparing all of the MOR tracks for Symphony album

    In Oct, there was some additional studio work on Itchin, which had been initial recorded in June 65. also HDH did the track for Heaven Must Have Sent You but then the song was shifted to Elgins.

    There was just SO much touring going on during this time that there really wasn't much time to record. what interesting is how LITTLE pop HDH content was being prepared for the girls.

    June 65 - mother dear and itching are recorded

    july - too much a little too soon

    Sept - recorded mother dear, Xmas stuff and IHAS [[at the end of the month)

    Oct - Slow Down, finishing touches on Itching, My World Is Empty, potential track with Heaven must have sent

    Nov - all of the recording sessions are preparing content for Symphony lp

    Dec - backing tracks are prepared for Supremes Around The World material, though no Sup vocals have been found

    Jan - rerecorded Mother Dear again

    March - mother you, smother you, Broadway to hollywood sessions, Blowing in the wind, What the world needs now, One Way Out [[but Sup vocals wiped and given to MRATV)

    April - Ithcing is released

    the only real options at this point for a single release would have been:

    1. Mother You, Smother You
    2. one of the Mother Dear versions
    3. Itching
    4. slow down
    5. too much a little too soon

  17. #17
    Believe it or not, Ask Any Girl was being considered as a possible single after the failure of NBH. It was remixed and put as the opening track to More Hits for that reason. But when HDH came up with Symphony, everything changed.

  18. #18
    Believe it or not, Ask Any Girl was being considered as a possible single after the failure of NBH. It was remixed and put as the opening track to More Hits for that reason. But when HDH came up with Symphony, everything changed.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I agree that Itchin was a bit more rough than some of the other Supremes "cutie pie" songs. It's a good song but i think it wasn't "special" enough when released in 66. A year earlier would have been better. By 1966, this sound just wasn't fresh enough. It's a very good representation of the earlier Motown sound along the lines of Sugar Pie, Back in my arms again, dancing in the street, nowhere to run, etc.
    Interesting to ponder how well the song may have done had it been released sometime in 1965. But I definitely disagree that it wasn't "special enough" when it was released. I hardly think anyone in 1966 was thinking "Oh it's cool, but I would've really liked it had it come out last year."

    Sometimes we also have to keep in mind that music was bigger than the Supremes. The week "Itchin" hit #9, there were just 8 songs that were selling better or getting more spins. Perhaps a different 8 might have made the difference between #9 and #1.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    Oh, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" was FONKY, ya heard me? FONKY! That Morse Code-like guitar riff that carried on and began the track, you knew what was up!
    Absolutely. Honestly, I think that's the last single where the track is on fire in a funky way. "No Matter What Sign You Are" comes close later on but doesn't quite get there. I wonder how much better "Sign" would have been if Norman Whitfield had produced it on the group.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by BayouMotownMan View Post
    Believe it or not, Ask Any Girl was being considered as a possible single after the failure of NBH. It was remixed and put as the opening track to More Hits for that reason. But when HDH came up with Symphony, everything changed.
    Horrible decision that would have been. Everybody and their mama had the "Baby Love" 45 with "Ask" as the B side, and if they didn't, they had the WDOLG album with "Ask" on it. Had this song come blaring out as the next 45, it wouldn't have even done as well as "Heartaches".

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Interesting to ponder how well the song may have done had it been released sometime in 1965. But I definitely disagree that it wasn't "special enough" when it was released. I hardly think anyone in 1966 was thinking "Oh it's cool, but I would've really liked it had it come out last year."

    Sometimes we also have to keep in mind that music was bigger than the Supremes. The week "Itchin" hit #9, there were just 8 songs that were selling better or getting more spins. Perhaps a different 8 might have made the difference between #9 and #1.
    The american public, especially youth, are extremely fickle. talk about SQUIRREL!! lolol

    itchin did do a good job - it went top ten, it's a hot track. it brought the girls back to a more teen/dance sound. but it wasn't innovative enough in 66 to grab enough attention to push it to #1. you had Simon and Garfunkle with their first big hit, Sound of Silence. Mamas and Papas had released California Dreaming in Dec 65 which peaked in March and heralded the "california and sunshine pop" sounds. then they release Monday Monday in the spring and it went #1. Plus a slew of songs from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and others

    so the musical playing field was just getting more crowded. LA and San Fran were starting to help re-energize the US pop market which, other than motown, had been decimated by the British Invasion.

  23. #23
    I find your comment about not being innovative enough interesting. What else was there around that sounded like it?

  24. #24
    i think Itchin [[assuming the recorded had been completed in time) would have been a sensational follow up to Back In my Arms. much better than NBH

    keep in mind that i'm talking about shades of grey here. Itching is a good song and a #9 chart peak is nothing to sneeze at. it's a hot dance track and was most certainly successful

    there are definite trends and evolution to their songs

    WDOLG of course kicks it all off and is quickly followed up in the recording studio with CSAM and the original BL. both are very close templates to Where. the released BL was recorded almost a month later than version 1 but you can already hear the changes they're exploring and tinkering with.

    Then you have Stop/Back in my arms. the tracks are more full - adding in organ and more instrumentals. BIMAA is a very classic "motown sound" supremes' song. People often refer to Sugar Pie Honey Bunch as a song that epitomizes the "motown sound" and BIMAA is practically a sonic twin.

    Then you evolve with Symphony. much more sophisticated song structure. it's not just 2 verses bookended with choruses. it's more of a poem or sonnet. 3 key modulations. plus the addition of a full symphonic orchestra. This is replicated in My World.

    Itchin is next and it's just much more like the sound being developed with BIMAA. yes it's a further development of that sound and more complex. but not as innovative as Symphony was or the songs that would follow Itchin

    So while Itchin was climbing the charts, HDH is preparing the next string of mega hits. And now each subsequent record is doing something totally new

    YCHL - gospel
    YKMHO - rock and roll and guitars
    LIHANYG - baroque with harpsichords and the dramatic spoken verses
    Happening - dixieland, plus the uniqueness of being a movie theme song
    Reflections - psychedelic soul with electronic gimmickry
    In and out - sunshine pop

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by BayouMotownMan View Post
    LILAIIMH is a fav of mine and is great workout music. The track is smoking hot and I agree it's a little too frenetic for the Supremes. Perhaps Martha, Levi or even Marvin could have taken it further up the charts.

    It was recorded well before Symphony and My World Is Empty. It sat in the can. I get the feeling the decision to release it as a single was made from exhaustion. HDH was being spread very thin and they have spoken about the exhaustion they had from working up to 20 hrs a day. It gave them time to regroup and come back with 4 more No 1 hits for the group
    "Itching" seems tailor-made for Martha. I could even see Marvin getting down to it [[albeit in a different tone lol).

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Absolutely. Honestly, I think that's the last single where the track is on fire in a funky way. "No Matter What Sign You Are" comes close later on but doesn't quite get there. I wonder how much better "Sign" would have been if Norman Whitfield had produced it on the group.
    "Sign" started strong but ended up flat. It was obvious the producers who got with the Supremes after HDH left had no idea what to do with em. :/

  27. #27
    I wonder if the release of Itching coincided with an increase of Motown's popularity in discos? If this is the case it might have been Motown's way of ensuring that the Supremes were heard in that setting too?

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    I wonder if the release of Itching coincided with an increase of Motown's popularity in discos? If this is the case it might have been Motown's way of ensuring that the Supremes were heard in that setting too?
    Quite possibly. It goes off in a different direction to their prior and subsequent hits, with a hard, driving beat that shouts very simply “Get Up And Dance”. In that way it has its own kind of innovation, i.e. almost pure, distilled dance, and it must have been great being a player on that session. Listening to it in 2020 it still sounds fresh.

  29. #29
    The mono mix of Itching on the The Supremes Ultimate Collection is the most vibrant of any version I've heard. It just leaps out of the speakers. Must have been a floor filler in its day.

  30. #30
    It can be argued the success of "Itching" enabled Motown to record more danceable material though more songs on that "get off your butt and jam" type of records were building up even before then from Motown especially with Marvin, Martha and the Vandellas, the Temptations, Junior Walker and Shorty Long.

  31. #31
    LILAIIMH is my single favorite Supremes record and without question my favorite Motown record. A Go Go is my desert island disc along with Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook [[which is a five disc box, but who's counting?)

    But I don't think Itching it is "street". It is very clearly "dance". It set the stage for upbeat, hard driving, tight vocals that would later be [[unfortunately) transformed into disco and then club music.

    There are many moods to this song, as revealed by George, Andy, and Co. in the expanded editions.

    The mono album version is clearest and most uncluttered, but I find it drags. It is, however, loud. The best version of the mono version is on the 50th Anniversary Box.

    The stereo album version from the 1993 CD highlights the kazoo and gets closest to a "percussive" version, which sticks in my mind as a missed opportunity. I sometimes hear [[in my head) a version with wild percussion and a much faster pitch that just goes crazy. It's probably too "Latin" for 1966, but if I could better work music editing software I would eventually bring it to life.

    The stereo Expanded Edition version starts my sub-woofer walking around the room. I absolutely love that the mix finally gave the song the bass it deserves.

    When I'm in "how the hell did this happen" mode, I go to the two mixes at the end of the Expanded Edition. The SupreMix might be my very favorite version.

    If I'm feeling funky and Motown-roots-y I go for the instrumental version on the "Funk Brothers" boxed set.

    When I really want to disco [[which is rare), its the mixed version on the "Superstar" disc.

    Soul version is the one on the Supremes/Tempts "Joined Together" set, buried in the "Opening Medley".

    Regardless, I almost always increased the pitch of any version just to make it more frenetic.

    So I don't agree the song is "street". It is the ultimate example of Motown "dance" and embodies the "dance party" vibe of '65 and '66. It hurts me every time I read it only made it to #9. I say to myself "stupid people". Should have been the hit of the decade.
    Last edited by thanxal; 08-13-2020 at 09:51 PM. Reason: CD date wrong

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