ALBUM OF THE MONTH
FIVE REASONS TO LISTEN:
- The Supremes’ first No. 1 album on the Billboard pop charts.
- The first No. 1 album by a girl group in the rock era.
- Contains the Supremes’ eighth Top 10 single, “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart,” and their seventh No. 1, “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
- Features their versions of Motown classics “Money (That’s What I Want),” “I Can’t Help Myself” and “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You),” among others.
- A different Supreme lead vocal – by Mary Wilson – on “Come And Get These Memories.”
FOUR FAST FACTS:
- Original release date: August 25, 1966.
- The group’s ninth studio album and fourth Top 10 entry.
- First LP on the Motown label to reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts.
- Cover photo by renowned photo-journalist Frank Dandridge.
FULL TRACK LISTING:
- Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson recorded the majority of songs chosen for The Supremes A’ Go-Go between April and July of 1966, in Detroit and Los Angeles. Ten of the twelve were in-house compositions, mostly remakes of hits associated with other Motown acts, such as the Four Tops, the Temptations and Barrett Strong. The exceptions were covers of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” a No. 1 hit for Nancy Sinatra in January that year, and “Hang On Sloopy,” a chart-topper for the McCoys the previous October. Truly, an album for the dance floor.
- The Supremes A’ Go-Go soared up the Billboard charts after its debut at No. 103 in the week ending September 24, 1966, and claimed the top slot four weeks later. The album brought to an end the Beatles’ 11-week reign at No. 1 by dislodging Revolver – an achievement perhaps made all the sweeter for Motown because Beatles ’65 had held the album Where Did Our Love Go at No. 2 some 18 months earlier. The Supremes had two other LPs on the charts when A’ Go-Go arrived, I Hear A Symphony and At The Copa, while “You Can’t Hurry Love” had just dropped to No. 2 on the Hot 100. In total, A’ Go-Go spent 60 weeks on the pop best-sellers, including two at No. 1 and fifteen in the Top 10. It returned to the Top 20 when its successor, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland, hit the heights in March ’67.
- The pair of hit singles featured on A’ Go-Go are “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart,” recorded in 1965, released in April ’66 and inside the Top 10 within weeks, and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” cut in June and July of 1966, released on July 25, and top of the Billboard Hot 100 by September. The liner notes of The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 6 recall the midyear Motown interoffice memo, in which Berry Gordy declared, “We will release nothing less than Top 10 product on any artist.” He added, “And because the Supremes’ worldwide acceptance is greater than the other artists, on them we will release only #1 records.” The group’s next four 45s reached the summit, beginning with “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
- On the cover, Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier are credited as the album’s overall producers, as they supervised six of the twelve tracks: the two hit singles cited above, plus “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “Put Yourself In My Place” and “Come And Get These Memories.” All six were written by Brian, Lamont and Eddie Holland. The remaining half-dozen were produced in April and May 1966 by permutations of Motown’s West Coast team: Hal Davis, Marc Gordon and Frank Wilson. The Supremes were increasingly in California that year, for TV and concert appearances. From mid-May to early June, they performed at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, an important addition to their schedule of upscale cabaret dates.
- Frank Wilson and Hal Davis produced other tracks intended for A’ Go-Go, including the Supremes’ interpretations of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “It’s Not Unusual,” but these were unreleased at the time. In 2008, all four became available on the Motown/Hip-O Select package, Let The Music Play: Supreme Rarities. As its liner notes indicate, Davis was involved with three earlier Supremes albums – A Little Bit Of Liverpool, We Remember Sam Cooke and Merry Christmas – and a fourth, an album of standards entitled There’s A Place For Us. This was originally due for release in 1965, but shelved; its contents eventually appeared in a Motown/Hip-O Select edition in 2004.
- Shortly before A’ Go-Go was issued in August 1966, the Supremes rehearsed and taped their contributions to Rodgers & Hart Today, a one-hour ABC-TV music special which aired the following May. (The show inspired Berry Gordy to have the group record more songs by the revered songwriters, issued as The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart around the same time as the TV special was broadcast.) Then, before A’ Go-Go hit the charts, the trio set off for a tour of Asia. Upon returning, they played Detroit’s Roostertail Club Sep. 26, and rehearsed for a three-week turn at the Flamingo Hotel, their Las Vegas debut in late September. The Supremes were also reportedly due to record the title tune of a new movie, Flight & Pursuit, although it’s not clear what eventually became of the film, or the song.
- The cover image of The Supremes A’ Go-Go was taken by freelancer Frank Dandridge, whose photographs appeared during the 1960s in such publications as Life, Saturday Evening Post, Playboy and Look. Among these was the ’63 shot of Berry Gordy with Rev. Martin Luther King, holding Motown’s The Great March To Freedom album. Harry Webber, hired to run the record company’s art and graphics department in 1966, recalled in his essay for The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11A that Dandridge was “an up-and-coming photojournalist out of New York…very handsome, very dashing and had a great personality.” Aside from A’ Go-Go, Frank’s work graced the covers of LPs by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Martha & the Vandellas and more.
“The fall of 1966 brought the Supremes’ most hectic schedule ever. We joked there were times when we’d have to check the itinerary to know what continent we were on. One day, touring Japan, we’d have a private audience with a future prime minister, entertaining him with an a capella three-part harmony rendition of “Put On A Happy Face.” Another day we’d be doing a sound check at the Flamingo Hotel, nervously preparing for our Vegas debut” – Motown founder Berry Gordy, writing in his autobiography, To Be Loved.
“Three years into her reign as the Queen of Pop, you can still feel the anxious insecurities that drove Diana into those skinny, spangled dresses. It ain’t, I guess, a pretty picture of herself she paints – this song’s about romance as a matter of cold calculation – but it’s an open, honest reflection of her deep emotions, and that’s exactly what soul’s supposed to be all about” – Dave Marsh, writing about “You Can’t Hurry Love” in The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.
VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE TRACK ON THE ALBUM:
Producers: Hal Davis, Lamont Dozier, Marc Gordon, Brian Holland, Frank Wilson.
Songwriters: Janie Bradford, Lamont Dozier, Wes Farrell, Berry Gordy, Lee Hazlewood, Brian Holland, Edward Holland Jr., Sylvia Moy, Bert Russell, William “Smokey” Robinson, John Thornton.
Pre-makes: “Baby I Need Your Loving” (Four Tops, 1964), “Come And Get These Memories” (Martha & the Vandellas, 1963), “Get Ready” (the Temptations, 1966), “Hang On Sloopy” (the Vibrations, 1964; the McCoys, 1965), “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops, 1965), “Money (That’s What I Want)” (Barrett Strong, 1959), “Put Yourself In My Place” (the Elgins, 1965), “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)” (Four Tops, 1966), “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” (Nancy Sinatra, 1965), “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)” (the Isley Brothers, 1966).
Re-makes: “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart” (Sandy Nelson, 1966; Shalamar, 1977; Monica Neal, 1984; the Good Girls, 1989; Paul Young, 1994), “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Les Surfs, 1967; Melanie, 1975; Phil Collins, 1983; the California Raisins, 1987; the Dixie Chicks, 1999; the Jackson 5, 2012; Bette Midler, 2014).