Originally published June 2010
What is it with the British and soul music? Why did we fall so truly, madly, deeply in love with it, worship even its most obscure artists and form so many cults and lifestyles around its every permutation? I doubt if there’s another country in world with such an obsession.
The most obvious expression of this love affair was the huge popularity of Tamla Motown which seemed to be adored by everyone in England from sharp-dressed Mods to mums and dads. Growing up, Motown songs always seemed to be coming out of a transistor radio somewhere — usually introduced by the chirpy voice of Tony Blackburn — and I don’t think I entered a house that didn’t have a copy of Motown Chartbusters on the shelf, Volume 6 with it’s bizarre Roger Dean cover was especially popular.
So it was only natural that next to her Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett albums my mother should have a copy of the 1968 compilation “The Motown Sound: A Collection Of 16 Original Big Hits Vol.6”. I’ve no idea what was on the other albums in this series (I can’t find any of them online and the American version has a completely different track listing) but the thing I love about it (especially now) is that only about three tracks on it were big hits while the rest is made up of more obscure numbers which gives it the feel of a from-the-vaults rarities collection rather than a package of chart smashes.
Little did I know when I was a little kid jumping around our living room to the fabulous, rousing “I Got A Feeling” by Barbara Randolph that I was enjoying a cult tune that was filling the floors of Northern Soul clubs. It wasn’t until the Mod revival in the late 70s when I “rediscovered” the album, dusty and half-forgotten in our sideboard, that I realized it was probably the hippest record my mother owned.
Download: I Got A Feeling – Barbara Randolph (mp3)
My other favourite track was the ballad “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You” by Rita Wright which even as a kid I thought was heartbreaking (I was a softy even then). Though I didn’t know then that “Rita Wright” was later better known by her real name Syreeta (and for a while as Mrs. Stevie Wonder), how this was never a hit either is beyond me as it’s utterly gorgeous.
Download: I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You – Rita Wright (mp3)