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  1. #1
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    New single formula for 70's Supremes

    The 60's Supremes had a formula which was Diana Ross singing lead while Mary and Florence sang back up on their singles. The other Supremes had no lead singles save Buttered Popcorn and each with a line on a Breathtaking Guy. That subtly changed in 1970. It was no longer a lead singer with the others on background on the singles. Starting with Up The ladder where Mary and Cindy both had a line. Everybody and Stoned Love were similar to the old formula but Nathan Jones had all 3 sing in unison. Touch was a duet with Mary & Jean as were Floy Joy and Automatically Sunshine. Smokey sang on Sweet Sweet Love.Jean may have sung the lead alone on I Guess I'll Miss The Man but it was a departure from the formula since it was a Broadway ballad not the usual Motown sound and Bad Weather was a departure in sound as it was more of a Stevie Wonder sound than a Supremes sound, something that Smokey was somewhat able to recapture even in the duet singles. On He's My Man Mary sang most of the lead but Scherrie also had a few lines. Heart Do The Walking was mainly Scherrie but Susaye was very prominent with her ad libs. Same with the last two singles where Susaye's ad libs were also featured. It seems the formula was no longer the lead with backing vocals, it was more shared. I wondered if this was deliberate to not copy the Diana Ross years and wonder whose idea it was. The producers? Mary? Motown?
    Last edited by jim aka jtigre99; 08-18-2022 at 06:39 AM.

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    Frank Wilson is quoted in the pink box set saying he was looking for opportunities to broaden the group's appeal, to highlight M and C more.

    also the marvelettes and the temps were multi-lead groups. so were other groups outside of motown.

    mary was certainly looking to increase her presence within the framework of the group too. and lynda even mentioned in a few quotes in books that she wanted to push the group to move more into a multi-lead direction, which obviously would include her in the lead duties some too.

    so i thinnk it was an effort across multiple forces

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    I didn't realize Mary and Cindy had a line in "Up the Ladder"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    I didn't realize Mary and Cindy had a line in "Up the Ladder"?
    i think he's referring to the lines they do, echoing Jean's lead. "where we can be"

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    And yet the Andantes got used as much or more - and others; go figure.

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    In my opinion it was long overdue and every album after Diana left should of had Mary doing a lead. Fans by this time wanted and folks were wondering can she sing or not. You featured her on the Hollywood Palace with " Cant Take My Eyes off You" and also on the album with the Temptations, "Together". So when Motown put her back in the background I was a little confused but, I understood that she was not ready to take lead but how about just one solo ? It just took too long to get there.

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    I think Berry played upon Mary's insecurities and told her she couldn't sing. Mary would sing an occasional line on the first few albums but it wasn't until Floy Joy where she shared leads with Jean and had one solo A Heart Like Mine. But, still, there was far more sharing in the 1970's than the formula of Diana on lead with Mary and Flo or them with the Andantes singing background. It did take quite a long time for Mary to gain her confidence back. It was odd she held on to Can't Take My Eyes Off You as her spotlight in live shows for so long when she clearly could have done a number of leads. It seemed to take Jean and Lynda leaving for Mary to step up and out-it was also the start of far more sharing of leads. Still, on the Anthology there are a few solos she did that could have easily been added on the first few albums.

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    i think there was room on RO to use If You Let Me. it's a very strong lead from mary and would have fit well. I also think they should have traded vocal lines on Everybody - like they did on the live version. had the recorded version been like that, it would have been a much more interesting listen.

    So all of that would have, when combined with the lines on Ladder, given mary a nice amount of spotlight on RO and yet Jean would still have been featured and introduced as the lead

    on NW, they girls all took turn with lead lines on Bridge

    on Mag 7 - You Got What It Takes and Reach out and touch both feature mary and cindy on parts

    return of mag 7 - What Do You Have To Do has an amazing lead line from mary. very sultry and cool

    Touch - she shares lead with Jean

    Floy Joy - 2 shared leads and 1 full lead

    JW - 1 full lead.

    I don't think she had any spot lights on Dynamite.

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    You missed a couple. U missed the song where they sang in unison unless you weren’t counting those.

    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    i think there was room on RO to use If You Let Me. it's a very strong lead from mary and would have fit well. I also think they should have traded vocal lines on Everybody - like they did on the live version. had the recorded version been like that, it would have been a much more interesting listen.

    So all of that would have, when combined with the lines on Ladder, given mary a nice amount of spotlight on RO and yet Jean would still have been featured and introduced as the lead

    on NW, they girls all took turn with lead lines on Bridge

    on Mag 7 - You Got What It Takes and Reach out and touch both feature mary and cindy on parts

    return of mag 7 - What Do You Have To Do has an amazing lead line from mary. very sultry and cool

    Touch - she shares lead with Jean

    Floy Joy - 2 shared leads and 1 full lead

    JW - 1 full lead.

    I don't think she had any spot lights on Dynamite.

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    Yes, as you can see there seemed to be a few more leads or shared leads than there were in the 1960's. Nathan Jones from Touch had all three singing in unison on a top 20 single. It was certainly nice to hear Mary and Cindy more. I agree Everybody's Got The Right To Love sounded a bit better on tv with Mary and Cindy singing a line. I love how Mary says "Sing it, Cindy" on Glen Campbell when Cindy gets ready to sing her line.

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    to be honest, I'm not sure the shared lead on NJ was the best idea. it makes it more challenging to really understand the lyrics. it's not as precise or crisp as it could be. it needs excessively sharp enunciation or else the words begin to mush and blur a bit

    one of Berry's tried and true rules - got to be able to understand clear and meaningful lyrics

    it's not that it ruins the song. NJ is a great track. I remember a post on here years ago where someone was pulling in quotes and lines from an interview. the girls were talking about their biggest disappoint or something like that. they mentioned NJ - they were sure it would shoot to #1 and instead it barely got Top 20

    in trying to figure out why it didn't perform more strongly, fans have shared several theories. One is the lead unison and how the words just aren't quite as crisp as other tunes. lord - listen to Love Child if you want an example of share enunciation!

    also the fact of a big climax after the bridge.

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    I have a few thoughts

    1) I don’t believe anybody told Mary that she couldn’t sing. I do believe that she was told her sound was not what they were looking for for the group and that that might have been stretched a little bit to create sympathy in the book. If he thought that she couldn’t sing, period, there would not have been any solos because he wouldn’t have subjected the audience of his number one act to someone who cannot sing.

    2) I don’t necessarily believe that there was an edict one way or another as far as using Mary and Cindy in the new group. They are solo lines in up the ladder are absolutely perfect and fit the progression and the musicality of the song. They didn’t just trade off lines for the fun of it, like in too many Fish in the Sea. I think those trade-offs hurt the record a great deal and made it sound amateurish.

    3) I never heard one person say that they wished Mary and/or Cindy would get more solos until everything started getting picked to pieces online years later. The fans that wanted that were buying the records anyway. I do not believe anyone outside the most ardent fans ever gave it a thought. I believe for the most part that the decisions to use the solos when they did were good decisions. I don’t think touch should have been a duet, although I don’t care for the song anyway, I would’ve given the lead to Mary only. She sounds sexy and sultry which the song needs and Jean is shrill and louder and ruins the mood.

    4) Producers and songwriters and record companies toil in this business to make money not meet quotas. They do what they think best, generally, on what they think they’re highest royalty would come from. This group has fans looking for ways to shoehorn Mary and Cindy into getting more exposure, but I doubt very much any decision to use them in any kind of solo capacity came solely from their desire to give them a chance to shine. If it works and it fits, then it’s great.

    5)H-D-H used Florence and Mary perfectly on the brilliant YKMHO. Each does their own thing and it adds to a perfect record. The fact that they didn’t do that before or after leads me to believe it was the sound they were looking for, not trying to even things out. They were trying to make the best records they could and they did.

    6) It’s not like the singles that did feature Mary had any kind of unusual success. It’s been stated in this form 1 million times those songs chart ascension were disappointing. If they had tightened up You Are The Heart Of Me and sent it out, I think it had top 10 written all over it. That could’ve started a trend featuring Mary. Her voice, on specific applications, I think could’ve been very effective on radio in the mid 70s and beyond.

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    Meet The Supremes had solos by both Florence and Mary. Right On would have been the perfect time to reintroduce the format for all future albums with Mary and Cindy each having solos.

    I think "Everybody..." would have been perfect as a solo for Mary, or at least shared leads for Mary and Cindy.

    On New Ways, "Bridge..." should have been a Mary solo. I think it might have been interesting to have Cindy sing lead on "Is There A Place..." and maybe saving it for the Touch album in the place of "Time and Love". Mary should have had the solo on "Touch".

    I think Frank Wilson focused on Jean's voice, particularly on the Touch album, rather than developing a new group sound. Smokey was able to return the group to form on the Floy Joy album, to some degree, but it was too little too late.

    Nathan Jones was a good song. There was a lot of competition on the charts at the time. The 'girl group' sound was represented by Honey Cone with "Want Ads" and Jean Knight with "Mr Big Stuff", both Top 10. Motown, shooting itself in the foot, had 7 songs in the Top 100 including Diana with "Reach Out I'll Be There" and the Supremes and Four Tops with "You Gotta Have Love...".

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post

    Nathan Jones was a good song. There was a lot of competition on the charts at the time. The 'girl group' sound was represented by Honey Cone with "Want Ads" and Jean Knight with "Mr Big Stuff", both Top 10. Motown, shooting itself in the foot, had 7 songs in the Top 100 including Diana with "Reach Out I'll Be There" and the Supremes and Four Tops with "You Gotta Have Love...".
    I think this is the bottom line. Flooding playlists with artists competing against their own selves for limited airplay, most odd ... there wasn't room for each to succeed so all suffered as a result.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post
    Meet The Supremes had solos by both Florence and Mary. Right On would have been the perfect time to reintroduce the format for all future albums with Mary and Cindy each having solos.

    I think "Everybody..." would have been perfect as a solo for Mary, or at least shared leads for Mary and Cindy.

    On New Ways, "Bridge..." should have been a Mary solo. I think it might have been interesting to have Cindy sing lead on "Is There A Place..." and maybe saving it for the Touch album in the place of "Time and Love". Mary should have had the solo on "Touch".

    I think Frank Wilson focused on Jean's voice, particularly on the Touch album, rather than developing a new group sound. Smokey was able to return the group to form on the Floy Joy album, to some degree, but it was too little too late.

    Nathan Jones was a good song. There was a lot of competition on the charts at the time. The 'girl group' sound was represented by Honey Cone with "Want Ads" and Jean Knight with "Mr Big Stuff", both Top 10. Motown, shooting itself in the foot, had 7 songs in the Top 100 including Diana with "Reach Out I'll Be There" and the Supremes and Four Tops with "You Gotta Have Love...".
    i think there was definitely room for new approaches to the group. frankly a return to the earlier Supremes approach. on Meet The Sups, F and M have individual leads plus there's a lot more effort to set up group sounds with the recordings - like Time Changes Things and how they bounce lines like "Hello, hello, hello" to each of the women. And Flo's outro vocals on Let Me Go

    on WDOLG album, this continued - BL have the small individual lines on the bridge, CSAM has great bouncing back and forth, Flo's outro lead on Long Gone Lover, the shared leads on Breathtaking. at the end of the day, you have a strong sense that this album was a group effort

    More Hits - while you have less trading off and all, no little spotlighted leads, you do have a heavy emphasis on 3-part harmonies and all.

    Specialty albums - on CW&P, Liverpool, etc for the most part, mary and flo each got 1 song on the specialty albums. at least in the recording process. they didn't always make it onto the final product.

    A Go Go - of course mary's lead on CGTM

    Love child - Can't shake it loose - mary accompanies Diana in an almost duet fashion. sounds great. sort of like how Bobby sang with Smokey on You Really Got a Hold on me

    so there definitely could have been more collaboration and interaction of the overall group members. in addition to the more obvious "each member singing a song"

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    To be fair to both Berry and Mary, Mary says in her book that Berry was joking. As we know with jokes that get personal, sometimes they leave an unintended sting, and if they hit an insecurity button, it can play on those insecurities. As I said in another thread, Berry said out his own mouth all of the Supremes could sing and if they couldn't, they wouldn't have been in the group. His joke hit a sore spot with Mary and she internalized it. But according to Mary, Berry meant no harm.

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    and everyone has said that tact wasn't exactly Berry's strong point. we also don't know the context of the discussion. was mary simply trying to get a little more spotlight in the live act and trying to get a partial lead or something? was she wanting to lead half the songs on the R&H collection? obviously i'm being extreme here. but again, how this discussion came up, how often, in regards to what?

    as it turns out, Flo seems to be the one to complain more. since many more of her leads seem to have been cut out of albums

    Meet the Sups - Buttered, Baby don't go
    WDOLG - shared leads on chorus of Breathtaking, Flo on outro for Long Gone
    Liverpool - Mary shared on You Really got a Hold, Flo on I Saw Him Standing [[cut)
    CW&P - shared leads on Makes No Diff, Mary on Sunset, no flo lead
    Sam Cook - Flo on Good News, Mary on the tiny tiny intros on Chain Gang
    More Hits - no leads
    Symphony - no leads
    There's a place - Mary on Our Day, Flo on people [[cut)
    Copa - Mary on Enjoy Yourself [[cut), no Flo leads
    Merry Christmas - Flo on O Holy Night [[both cut), mary on Christmas Song [[cut)
    A go go - mary on Come Get, no Flo leads
    Sing HDH - no leads
    R&H - mary duet on Falling in Love, Flo no leads [[people said Manhattan is a duet for Flo but George has said Mary is on the track too. so it's not really a duet but Flo is very very prominent)

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    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    and everyone has said that tact wasn't exactly Berry's strong point. we also don't know the context of the discussion. was mary simply trying to get a little more spotlight in the live act and trying to get a partial lead or something? was she wanting to lead half the songs on the R&H collection? obviously i'm being extreme here. but again, how this discussion came up, how often, in regards to what?
    In DREAMGIRL, Mary places the conversation as taking place during the first Copa engagement. She mentions how PEOPLE was taken away from Flo and how she reacted. Mary then went on to say that she didn't have a lead in the act and was pestering Berry for one when he jokingly said "Oh Mary, you know you can't sing!"

    Obviously she internalized this as from the beginning, she seemed to think that Flo and Diana had better voices than she.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    In DREAMGIRL, Mary places the conversation as taking place during the first Copa engagement. She mentions how PEOPLE was taken away from Flo and how she reacted. Mary then went on to say that she didn't have a lead in the act and was pestering Berry for one when he jokingly said "Oh Mary, you know you can't sing!"

    Obviously she internalized this as from the beginning, she seemed to think that Flo and Diana had better voices than she.
    yes but there's been plenty of speculation about the whole People/Copa story. in the Copa EE and in the interviews the guys conducted, i think they said a total of 6 shows were recorded over 3 nights. none of those shows contain People, regardless of who was singing lead. that doesn't refute the story of People being cut from the act. but Diana did not sing the song any of those 3 nights. did she sing it later during the engagement? maybe - who knows. People was clearly back in the act after Copa as it's mentioned in reviews and in the Roostertail live show. Flo is singing lead.

    Some fans have stated that some of Mary's stories in Dreamgirl were the result of discussions with other fans, like Tony Turner. i'm not sure

    the point is the Copa story mary is tying her story to has been shown to at least be inconsistent, if not simply inaccurate. does that mean her story about wanting to sing lead is wrong - of course not. but again, without the more specific context of the discussion, you can't establish Berry's point of reference and how the request was to be taken.

    if the discussion did occur in summer of 65, mary DID have a lead in Enjoy Yourself in the Copa act. she also did a lead that fall on the Xmas album. then in the following spring she did the lead on Come and Get These memories. by summer/fall 66, she was doing the middle verse on People. then in Jan 67 she did Falling In Love for the R&H set.

    now maybe what mary was asking was to have a greater % of the show than 1 lead and more contribution on the albums besides 1 lead. but that's really about all Flo or Mary EVER got. even on Meet The Supremes. So was she really asking to sort of revamp the act to divide things more evenly? i don't think that's a totally unreasonable request but the act had been always structured around Diana as lead. the earliest recordings we have are from 62 and that's how the show was.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    yes but there's been plenty of speculation about the whole People/Copa story. in the Copa EE and in the interviews the guys conducted, i think they said a total of 6 shows were recorded over 3 nights. none of those shows contain People, regardless of who was singing lead. that doesn't refute the story of People being cut from the act. but Diana did not sing the song any of those 3 nights. did she sing it later during the engagement? maybe - who knows. People was clearly back in the act after Copa as it's mentioned in reviews and in the Roostertail live show. Flo is singing lead.

    Some fans have stated that some of Mary's stories in Dreamgirl were the result of discussions with other fans, like Tony Turner. i'm not sure

    the point is the Copa story mary is tying her story to has been shown to at least be inconsistent, if not simply inaccurate. does that mean her story about wanting to sing lead is wrong - of course not. but again, without the more specific context of the discussion, you can't establish Berry's point of reference and how the request was to be taken.

    if the discussion did occur in summer of 65, mary DID have a lead in Enjoy Yourself in the Copa act. she also did a lead that fall on the Xmas album. then in the following spring she did the lead on Come and Get These memories. by summer/fall 66, she was doing the middle verse on People. then in Jan 67 she did Falling In Love for the R&H set.

    now maybe what mary was asking was to have a greater % of the show than 1 lead and more contribution on the albums besides 1 lead. but that's really about all Flo or Mary EVER got. even on Meet The Supremes. So was she really asking to sort of revamp the act to divide things more evenly? i don't think that's a totally unreasonable request but the act had been always structured around Diana as lead. the earliest recordings we have are from 62 and that's how the show was.
    I wouldn't be surprised if like most of us, some of Mary's memories faded over time and events she placed in one year actually took place in another.

    Back in 1986 when she wrote DREAMGIRL, there probably wasn't as much bootleg video and/or audio that she could get her hands on and had to rely on her own memories as well as those of her fans. If she wrote the book today, for example, she might very well remember ENJOY YOURSELF since it has been released in recent years. I'm sure there are other instances like this.

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    Agreed Reese. Wasn't it a later Copa engagement of the scene of Gil's story about "People" being removed from the show? Mary's story takes place in 1965, Gil's in late 1966 or early 1967. It's possible that they both were mixing up memories regarding the song being removed/replaced and Flo being ill preceding it. So much had to be going on during those days, it can't be a surprise that time frames and some details get blurred. At the Farewell show Diana says "Love Is Here" was a hit from 1965. This was 1970 and she couldn't remember that the song was 1967? They had so much going on that you have to excuse it. Fast forward to the 80s and 90s when Mary and Diana's books were written, it can't be a surprise that there are memories that aren't always 100 percent accurate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Agreed Reese. Wasn't it a later Copa engagement of the scene of Gil's story about "People" being removed from the show? Mary's story takes place in 1965, Gil's in late 1966 or early 1967. It's possible that they both were mixing up memories regarding the song being removed/replaced and Flo being ill preceding it. So much had to be going on during those days, it can't be a surprise that time frames and some details get blurred. At the Farewell show Diana says "Love Is Here" was a hit from 1965. This was 1970 and she couldn't remember that the song was 1967? They had so much going on that you have to excuse it. Fast forward to the 80s and 90s when Mary and Diana's books were written, it can't be a surprise that there are memories that aren't always 100 percent accurate.
    absolutely right - memories fade and blur together. For instance, the story goes that Diana says "fine let's skip people and go with the Symphony medley" but is acting like the Symphony medley wasn't already in the show. seems like from summer 66 [[when they did the symphony medley on Sullivan) that the medley was in the show. it's placement in the show certainly adjusted some. frankly my fav is TOTT where it's the opener of the show. i found that to be very effective.

    of course the lineup of the setlist could have changed from show to show. but IMO that seems to have impacted the "occasional" songs like My Fav Things, Let There Be Love. the bulk of their show seemed to be pretty well locked in place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    absolutely right - memories fade and blur together. For instance, the story goes that Diana says "fine let's skip people and go with the Symphony medley" but is acting like the Symphony medley wasn't already in the show. seems like from summer 66 [[when they did the symphony medley on Sullivan) that the medley was in the show. it's placement in the show certainly adjusted some. frankly my fav is TOTT where it's the opener of the show. i found that to be very effective.

    of course the lineup of the setlist could have changed from show to show. but IMO that seems to have impacted the "occasional" songs like My Fav Things, Let There Be Love. the bulk of their show seemed to be pretty well locked in place.
    If there was internet around back in the 60s, which song in the Supremes set list would have been the I Will Survive--that is the number a lot of fans will ask/demand, "why are they doing this and why can't it be retired from the act for something else?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spreadinglove21 View Post
    If there was internet around back in the 60s, which song in the Supremes set list would have been the I Will Survive--that is the number a lot of fans will ask/demand, "why are they doing this and why can't it be retired from the act for something else?"
    do you mean how Diana uses IWS in her act as the encore/closer?

    I'd say if the internet was around in 72 and 73, the fans would be saying WTF to TCB, Somewhere and You're Nobody! lol

    i wonder if during the DRATS era Queen of the House was getting a little tired? it's a spoof on a Roger Miller song and i wouldn't put RM as a key figure in music trends of the youth in 1968 lol. but the girls were completely ensconced in club-world by then and Queen did fit the act. I don't think Flo's lines were as effective with Cindy. they were so true to Flo and her personality. same with the Fat is Where It's At. Cindy just isn't sassy.

    wasn't the Sam Cook medley done even at TOTT? that's a bit long for that one too

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    "Somewhere" was in the act too long and I just don't care for it. When I discovered that Diana revived it for her solo act, all I could do was roll my eyes, although she didn't do it like she did as a Supreme and that ending was great.

    The Sam Cooke medley was in the act a long time, but that version they do in Sweden [[I think it's Sweden, or Switzerland, or Amsterdam, or maybe Oz, I don't know) in 1968...they killed it. They tore up "Shake", in particular, so it's hard for me to say it was in the act too long when the latest version might have been the best version of all. Lol

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    Somewhere and these others songs were always well performed. I think the girls always made them standout moments in the act. but agree - there is plenty of other music that could have been incorporated as time went by

    of course the biggest travesty was reviving these 60s songs in late 72!

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