This Sunday, Martha Reeves (and we suspect some of her girls) return to London to take the stage of Village Underground in Shoreditch, over 55 years since she first took charge of The Vandellas and propelled them to Motown success. We’re so glad that unlike with Jimmy Mack, we know she’s coming back, and to celebrate, we’re going to hint at 5 great tracks we really hope she sings. (Hope you’re reading this, Martha.)
1. Dancing in the Street: This one is totally obvious, but as soon as you hear that brass on the intro you’re ready to go. Plus this one’s a safe bet so we thought we’d break in the requests gently. Plus-plus, performing this again helps to stamp out any memory of that despicable cover David Bowie & Mick Jagger did in the 80s – especially as theirs charted higher in the UK than Martha’s.
[Did you know? Reeve’s version of Dancing in the Street is one of only 50 sound recordings to be officially preserved by the US Library of Congress to the National Recording Registry – it takes ‘making the cut’ to the next level.]
2. Nowhere to Run: We once totally took over a party in Shoreditch that was playing crap music by going upstairs and playing Motown, starting with this song… eventually the whole party moved upstairs and threw some serious 60s moves (for a bunch of millennials). We’re really hoping Martha brings the party with this track, and its seriously catchy backing vocals, on Sunday too. This song also captures the rawer side of Motown, unlike The Supremes‘ slick but safe hits. #MarthaForever
[Did you know? Nowhere to Run was a big feature in the trailer for 2017 film Baby Driver – we’re telling you this because the film is bloody good, and the soundtrack is even better.]
3. Jimmy Mack: The song that makes you wish your ex’s name rhymed as well as hers lyrically, this banger is a staple of any good Motown playlist. Whilst your hands might get tired of trying to keep up with the claps (they literally don’t stop), you’ll never get tired of singing Jimmy’s name. Last time we caught her in London, Martha asked us to all sing along loud so Jimmy might hear and finally reach out – we happily obliged.
[Did you know? Jimmy Mack was Martha And The V’s final US top 10 hit in ’67, but was actually recorded in ’64 and shelved as it was considered not suitable for release during the height of the Vietnam War – by the time it was released, one of the Vandellas on the recording was no longer in the group!]
4. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave: With an unusually long intro for a hit Motown record (nearly 30 seconds) this one gives you the space you need to dance before Reeves arrests you with her vocals. Tracks like these are exactly the type that earned the group their party record status. The moment towards the end: “yeah yeah yeah yeah, oh, go ahead girl” gets us every single time.
[Did you know? In a move that these days would undoubtedly result in a lawsuit, group The Lovin’ Spoonful simply sped up the intro to Heat Wave to come up with 1965 hit Do You Believe In Magic, a mere 2 years later; RUDE.]
5. Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things): Okay, so the 4 songs above are fairly obvious choices, but they’re just so damn good we had to request them first to be absolutely sure. For the final request, something different: it’s a rare mid-tempo ballad from the group famed for their party stompers. There’s something really nostalgic about the 6/8 doo-wop feel, and Reeves meanders through it holding that torch so hard, it’s amazing she doesn’t get splinters. She’s also gone on record before saying that this song is one of her favourite of her recordings, and deservedly so. A nice break from all the dancing mid-set perhaps, Martha?
[Did you know? The backing vocals on this track were co-recorded by The Vandellas and The Andantes, who recorded backing on all three Motown versions of this song to be released – talk about keen for royalties.]
Well, what are you waiting for? There’s nowhere to run…