Pictured amid the greenery of London’s Manchester Square in October 1964 are (from left) Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross.
- The Supremes made their inaugural trip to the U.K. in 1964, as their American chart-topping triumph, “Where Did Our Love Go,” turned into an international success. That lifted spirits at Motown Records in Detroit and also at EMI Records in London, which was its international distributor in various countries. Motown’s first British breakthrough had occurred with Mary Wells’ “My Guy,” a Top 5 hit that summer, followed by “Where Did Our Love Go,” a Top 3 success in the fall.
- Arriving in London in October ’64, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson embarked on a tightly-packed schedule of promotional work. The itinerary began with the BBC Light Programme’s Pop Inn and Top Gear shows. (The Light Programme was the radio channel which played pop music before BBC Radio 1 was established in 1967.) The Supremes also made appearances on television’s Top of the Pops and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which drew large numbers of young viewers. They were guests, too, on the popular, early-evening TV talk show hosted by Eamonn Andrews.
- The picture above was taken in London’s Manchester Square, opposite the EMI headquarters, by a staff photographer of the record company. The Supremes were in considerable demand by the media, and a number of images from the visit are familiar to their diehard fans. Perhaps the most recognized are those of Flo, Mary and Diana wearing smart green jackets and skirts, each with a tie and brandishing an umbrella. One of those poses was used for their cover of their 1964 album, A Bit Of Liverpool, which was retitled With Love (From Us To You) for British release.
- When “Baby Love” was issued in the U.K. to follow “Where Did Our Love Go,” the single surged to No. 1 in late November, making the Supremes the first-ever American female group to top the charts there. In fact, the record was one of only four U.S. tracks to claim the summit in 1963-64, such was British music fans’ appetite for home-grown music by the Beatles and many others in the so-called “beat boom” of the time. Previously, the most popular Motown song in the U.K. had been a cover version of the Contours’ “Do You Love Me” by Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, which went to No. 1 in October 1963.
- During the Supremes’ visit, members of the media and of Britain’s Tamla Motown Appreciation Society (TMAS) were invited to a reception at EMI House, with some fans coming from Liverpool and other locations beyond London. TMAS founders Dave Godin and Clive Stone were present, and the latter took photos of the event, as he often did when Motown artists came to the U.K. Many of these images can be seen in Hitsville! – The Birth of Tamla Motown by Keith Rylatt, published in 2016.