TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Barely released as a single (V.I.P. 25006) in March 1964.
SONGWRITERS: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland Jr.
PRODUCERS: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier.
BACKSTORY: This is one of the rarest-ever Motown singles, blessed with that distinction because few copies made it beyond the boundaries of Hitsville, and because the Andantes were hidden figures. Adding to the mystique is the fact that the record was created by Motown’s golden Holland/Dozier/Holland team, which should have guaranteed it a wide release at the very least, and a high-ranking chart slot at best.
Yet the Andantes – soprano Louvain Demps, first alto Jackie Hicks, second alto Marlene Barrow – remained unknown to the millions of music buyers who heard them singing background on hundreds of hits made in Detroit. Demps was the first to connect with Berry Gordy around 1958, before Motown existed; Hicks and Barrow joined a little later. “The Andantes soon became the first choice for producers to use on their records and we worked all the time,” explained Barrow in the trio’s biography, Motown From The Background.
Because the Andantes’ sound and skill became so essential to Motown’s increasing – and increasingly successful – output, the company was reluctant to allow them time in the spotlight, much like its studio band, the Funk Brothers. “[Motown] had made a promise to record us on our own,” said Barrow, “but there was no real effort to put us out there or promote us.” The Andantes put “(Like A) Nightmare” on tape in February 1964; it was scheduled for release on the V.I.P. label the following month. Yet the 45 never reached retailers’ shelves, and probably not even radio stations. The assumption is that Motown saw greater value in the group’s background role than in any income from a hit in their name, and all the distractions which could follow.
Because copies of “(Like A) Nightmare” were so few – perhaps only a half-dozen test pressings were manufactured – its value soared over time among serious Motown collectors. (Estimates of the single’s value now run to thousands of dollars.) The highly-danceable track was also popular on Britain’s “Northern Soul” club circuit, adding to the Andantes’ legend.
Meanwhile, where can you hear the Andantes, “(Like A) Nightmare” aside? On countless Motown recordings by the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, the Four Tops, Jimmy Ruffin, the Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, and more. “If I had to put one record [we made] into a treasure chest,” said Marlene Barrow, “I would have to pick ‘Bernadette’.” Hidden figures? Not to those who listen.
FOOTNOTE: To anyone already familiar with the story above, the group on “(Like A) Nightmare” might better be billed as the Ann-dantes, because the lead voice on the recording was not a member. She was Ann Bogan, previously associated with producer Harvey Fuqua’s record label, Harvey, before he joined the Motown staff in 1963. “We needed a lead voice,” recalled Marlene Barrow, “and she was a strong lead singer.” Later, Bogan recorded with the Marvelettes, replacing Gladys Horton.