I guess that the title should read “Why TAMLA Motown?”
Music has always been a big part of my life, and there have always been records (singles, albums) knocking about my house when I was young. I loved playing whatever music was available, but on the radio, the family mostly listened to the BBC’s “Light Programme” which was the national station and there was little “pop” music featured. If you wanted pop playlists, you had to tune in to pirate stations.
I think that the introduction of BBC Radio 1, in 1967, played a big part because it allowed pop music to be much more easily accessible. By then, Tamla Motown had been in existence for 2 years and was establishing itself in the UK as a force to be reckoned with.
In the USA, Motown consisted of multiple labels, but in 1965 Tamla Motown was created and it focused the listener’s attention on a particular family of artists, including Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations and the Four Tops, to name but a few.
Around the age of 10 (we’re talking late 1968, early 1969), I started receiving pocket money and around that time a classmate brought in Motown Chartbusters Volume III to sell, as there were two copies in her house, for some reason. I snapped it up, brought it home and played it endlessly. My particular favourite tracks were Marvin & Tammi’s “You’re All I Need To get By”, “Behind A Painted Smile” by the Isley Brothers and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” by Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations.
That began a love affair with the Motown Chartbusters album series, and it was my go-to Christmas present from my parents.
These albums sold in bucketloads and Volumes 3, 4 & 5 all got to number one in the UK album charts. It was a few years later that I bought the first two volumes. The final volume, twelve came out in 1982 and contained many tracks that never even charted, but I bought it nonetheless, to complete the collection.
I think that, more than the artists themselves, it’s the song writing that allowed Motown to dominate as it did for many years. The infectious songs composed by the legendary team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the introduction of socially aware, funky songs by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and the various teams put together to come up with hits, such as The Corporation, who wrote most of the Jackson 5’s big hits. The late 60’s and early 70’s was when Tamla Motown had it’s greatest successes and run of chart hits and it’s the era that I’m most fond of.
Motown’s production has always been a major part in “The Sound Of Young America” as it was called and production values improved immeasurable during that period, as it did for all pop music being made at that time. I find that many (not all) of Motown’s hit songs age well and still sound great being pumped out of a pair of speakers at a family wedding, getting those toes tapping. I never get tired of listening to Motown music and being able to compile the complete list of Tamla Motown singles and curate my show has been an absolute joy.
Having lived in various parts of the UK and abroad, Mancunian Graham settled here in Harrogate in 1997 and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Music has always been a big part of Graham’s life; starting to build a collection of 45 rpm singles from the age of 11 and avidly following the UK singles charts. Graham presents the C120 Mixtape every Saturday and the un-missable Tamla-Motown: The Singles.