TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: No. 2 (behind the Beatles) on the Billboard Hot 100 on Friday, March 20, 1965.
SONGWRITERS: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland Jr.
PRODUCERS: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier.
BACKSTORY: Were the Supremes become the first group in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to reach the summit with four consecutive singles? The Billboard Book Of Number One Hits has the answer (yes, after the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week” stepped down), and author Fred Bronson also explains that Lamont Dozier was arguing with a girlfriend when he told her to “stop in the name of love.” This off-the-cuff remark proved to be the inspiration for the song, written by him with Brian and Eddie Holland – the very same three men of Motown who were responsible for creating the Supremes’ previous Number One hits.
“Stop! In The Name Of Love” was recorded by the Supremes in January 1965, and released February 8. It’s arguably their signature song, as much because of the choreography as the music. To this day, the “traffic cop” movements of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard are visually inseparable from the record. The idea for this piece of choreography is attributed to Melvin Franklin of the Temptations, although Motown’s resident choreographer Cholly Atkins may also have helped. Either way, the Supremes introduced their “Stop!” signals February 24 on ABC-TV’s popular Shindig! music show. One month later, the single was in prime position on both the Billboard and Cash Box charts.
Across the Atlantic, the trio was arresting British music fans with the “Stop!” sign, too. March ’65 marked the first time the Supremes were booked for live concert dates in the U.K.; previously, they had only performed on TV and radio. Motown took its traveling revue package abroad for the first time, with shows across Britain. The Supremes were the main attraction, because of their earlier chart success with “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love.” Joining them on the road were Stevie Wonder, Martha & the Vandellas, and the Miracles, all backed by members of Motown’s house band.
“Stop! In The Name Of Love” proved to be a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom, where the Supremes also appeared on The Sound of Motown, a one-hour TV special featuring the above-mentioned acts, plus the Temptations. It was hosted by Dusty Springfield, who had herself recorded a version of the Supremes’ first substantial hit, “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes.” Given Britain’s love of Motown, it was no surprise that Manchester’s Hollies should later record “Stop! In The Name Of Love” in 1983 – although it was not a hit for them at home. Instead, it reached the Top 30 in the U.S. Maybe American traffic cops are more sympathetic.
REMAKES: The Holland/Dozier/Holland songbook is Motown’s most popular, rivalled only by that of Smokey Robinson. In addition to the Hollies’ version mentioned above, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” has been recorded by a wide range of artists, from the Johnny Mann Singers to Margie Joseph (who scored a modest R&B hit with it in 1971), from the New Christy Minstrels to the cast of Glee. There have been Australians (Human Nature) and Brits (Sinitta, Nicki French, Barbara Dickson), plus American pop stars of the ’60s (Johnny Rivers, Gene Pitney). Gloria Gaynor discofied the song, of course, and even a Jackson (LaToya) tackled it. At Motown, two acts avoided a generic remake: namely, the Isley Brothers and Kim Weston. She gave it the slow-burn treatment, and once again, the song arrested everyone who heard it.
FOOTNOTE: “Stop! In The Name Of Love” was chosen as the first single for release on the Tamla Motown label in the U.K. In America, Berry Gordy’s company operated its Motown, Tamla, Gordy, Soul and V.I.P. brands separately, but for 18 months from the fall of 1963, British record buyers bought the output of all those imprints via one label, Stateside, which was part of EMI. In March 1965, Tamla Motown was created to give Hitsville a sharper profile abroad. EMI, which was Motown’s international business partner in various parts of the world, also used the Tamla Motown identity in other countries from then until 1976, when the label name was slimmed down to Motown.