Nightman Listens To – I Hear A Symphony – The Supremes (1966 Series)!

I Hear a Symphony (The Supremes album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! I have high hopes for this one. To me, the Motown sound comes down to The Supremes and The Jacksons. Of course, it’s more varied, but when I think of Motown, I think of these two groups first and foremost. While I grew up with The Jacksons and Michael, I never owned or heard any albums by The Supremes or Diana Ross. I did hear a bunch of their songs, and in most cases loved all of them. I have quite a few Supremes songs in my car playlist, and some of these appear on this very album. The album seems to be a mixture of covers and Supremes originals, so I’m excepting sweet harmonies and bouncy melodies. Let’s do this.

Stranger In Paradise‘ isn’t one I’m familiar with, but sounds very dated – the pace and the dreary strings – it feels like a song from a few decades earlier. The singers do what they can with it so I can tolerate it, but wouldn’t choose to hear it again.

Yesterday‘ is The Beatles, obvs. I didn’t know The Supremes had covered it, though I suppose everyone has. It’s spruced up in a jangling, twinkling way, and the strings give it a fuller feeling than the original. The main difference is of course the vocals, Diana retains the sadness of The Beatles version and again gives it a meatier boost, but adds some unnecessary little ticks at various points.

I Hear A Symphony’ is on my playlist in the car. It’s pure, fun Motown pop. It does sound similar to some other Supremes songs, but on its own it still hits all its marks. Sunny, lovely.

Unchained Melody‘ is one of my most hated songs ever. Man, it just never goes away. I’m not sure why I have such feelings against it in my heart, definitely the overplaying and success it has had is part of it, but beyond that I find it exceptionally boring and emotionless for what others see as this big heartfelt thing. I just don’t feel it, or get it. I don’t mind the lead lines, the melodies are changed up just enough from what I know to take him them sweeter, but the backing vocals are not great – I’m not sure what they’re going for but those harmonies are not in sync with anything else going on. This is probably the best version I’ve heard of a song I can’t stand, though it does round out of steam towards the end like every other version.

With A Song In My Heart‘ instantly feels dated again – those violins reek of the crappy musicals of ages gone by. The vocals make the song tolerable again, but like many of the songs from those musicals, there isn’t a single interesting melody and they seem designed as background music for slow dances. Just feels a little pointless.

Without A Song’ continues that trend. More slow dance, uneventful music. At least this one has more of a formula than the previous one. There are some bell-like keys and percussion going on, but they don’t help.

My World Is Empty Without You‘ is another one already on my playlist, and it’s such a step above the other songs so far. It’s full-on Motown genius, bouncy, perfectly blending funk and pop in the guise of a ballad. I love the switches from major to minor, all the instruments shouldn’t work together – but do – and the melodies have actual stakes and merit.

A Lover’s Concerto‘ opens with…. is that Bach? It then shifts into another Motown pop song. Why is this familiar to me? The vocal melodies are following the Bach melody, I assume that’s why. It’s a little jarring if I’m honest… I’m not sure if it works, but I think I like it. It’s definitely weird to me, putting words to a piece of classical music I sort of know. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has been done, but it reminds me of when they put lyrics to the Eastenders theme tune.

Any Girl In Love‘ opens with a brief brass parp which leads succinctly into some of the better harmonies and melodies on the album. This is a new one on me, it feels like it bridges the gap effectively between the dreary junk of old, and the more engaging inventive pop of the time. It’s classy and memorable.

‘Wonderful Wonderful‘ doesn’t give me good feelings from the off – instantly returning 40 years into the early years of the 20th Century. Those whining strings, the tame beat. Luckily though, the overall melodies and vocals bring it out of the mire of ye olde music, so it isn’t so distasteful to me. If I had been around in the 1920s, and perhaps I was, I could see myself tolerating a dance or two to this.

Everything Is Good About You‘ starts with a brighter, more familiar Motown beat. Now, I could say it’s samey to some other Supremes hits – it certainly seems to be going that way – but it’s a beat and sound I enjoy. Mostly I’m just glad it’s not another cover of some dismal ancient ballache. It’s hardly close to their best work, not enough edge, not any harmonies to speak of, and lacks a killer hook, but it’s still fine.

He’s All I Got‘ closes the album in what appears to be a more traditional Motown vein. Again it’s bouncy, poppy, sweet verse melodies, and catchy chorus, all supplemented with guitars, clangs, horns, and strings. It’s a step above the previous song, but a step below the ones I’m putting in my playlist. Maybe I’d like it more with more listens, but nothing wrong here.

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Half of it was, but the other half were daft covers of songs from a genre I’m not a fan of – those old-time soulless ballads from an era when music asked no questions and was merely tactless dressing. The other half – the good half – features a number of songs I was already familiar with, and a few I wasn’t. These are mostly where the group shines and allow their energy and joy to come through. It’s a pity there wasn’t a few more tracks on the good half to tip into the majority of the album being enjoyable, but I hope that comes in later releases.

Nightman’s Playlist: Any Girl In Love. I Hear A Symphony. My World Is Empty Without You. Lovers Concerto.

Chart Music Through The Years – 1964

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here –

Greetings, Glancers! We go back approximately 20 years before I was born to check out what the kids were listening to in October 1964. 1964, if you know your music history, was a seminal year. The Beatles landed in the US for the first time, TOTP was shown for the first time in The UK, Keith Moon joined The Who, The Rolling Stones released their first album, Sam Cooke, died, and a bunch of hit songs were released, some of which we’ll cover below.

Elsewhere in the world, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was published, Cuba and the US arsed about, Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston, the first Ford Mustang was created, Nelson Mandela went to prison, and many riots and protests abounded all around the globe. It was a British invasion in most areas of culture – from music to movies to fashion and sport. I’m actually shocked that the Top 10 below doesn’t contain a single Beatles song but it does contain a mixture of new rock groups, Motown, and holdovers from the era which was on its way out. I know a few of these and as always I’ll probably recognise others once I hit play. So let’s hit play!

  1. Roy Orbison: Oh Pretty Woman

Oh right. I thought it might be this, but I never realised it was actually called ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. Isn’t it just ‘Pretty Woman’? Either way, it’s a timeless pop song. Obviously it’s routed in the 50s, but it’s basically perfect. What more could you need from a pop song – you can sing along easily, you recognize it by hearing any single second, it’s instantly catchy, and there isn’t a note out of place.

2. Herman’s Hermits: I’m Into Something Good

I bet this is the ham song, right? Denny’s ham? That’s an Irish reference which only Irish readers are going to get. It’s happy clappy anyway. Everyone knows this though, another timeless one, more flawless pop. It’s a little bit Beach Boys, what with those harmonies, but there’s something a bit more quirky to it. Apparently the scum sing this at their games. Yeah, like they have anything to sing about these days. Anyway, another good song.

3. The Supremes: Where Did Our Love Go

It’s pretty woman again, with that steady clappy intro. Seriously, compare these three songs with any three songs int he charts today. No comparison right? Sure they’re a little twee and innocent, but musically, melodically, vocally these songs wipe the floor with any of today’s chart wank. Plus, you already know this song. Even if you’ve never heard it, you know it. Today’s songs won’t last. For proof of that, the chart songs of 10 years ago haven’t lasted. This shit is over 50 years old and it’s still awesome. Too short though and doesn’t have a lot of (any) variety.


Julie Rogers: The Wedding

I have no idea what this is, so I’ll assume it’s Country. Nope, doesn’t sound Country. Well, the vocals could be, musically not really. Musically this is incredibly old fashioned. There’s a slight touch of Shirley Bassey here. Ave Maria. Strings. Explosion. Yeah, I’ve never heard this. Love how the drummer is going batshit. Vocals blasting away. I’m not sure what this is, but I can’t help but enjoy it just because of the sheer power of the performances. It’s not as catchy as the ones above but the gal and her gang knock it out of the park.

5. The Four Seasons: Rag Doll

Bum bum-bum. Bum bum-bum. More Beach Boys. What movie is this in….it’s all lovely. It sounds familiar but I don’t think I’ve heard it. Those highs are just on the right side of grating. Those oohs are damn catchy. The guitars are weird, can’t really hear them in this mix. The highs are making me think of Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy – the Star Trek bit? yeah, you know.

6. The Bachelors: I Wouldn’t Trade You For The World

Jeepers, more ooh-oohs. Ha ha, even trying to sound like The Beatles vocals. For about two seconds. It’s a little bit Country. Throw in some strings and I don’t care. The lyrics are cheesy as a tramp’s toe. Instrumental. Vocal disaster for last note. Yeah, fine, it’s another decent song but a little (bit) bit too simpering and soft.

7. The Searchers: When You Walk In The Room

Should this be ‘walk into the room’. Or is this just about someone walking around in a room. Like ‘when you walk in the room you keep blocking the TV, sit the fuck down cos I’m trying to watch Jessica Jones’?  BassThere’s the guitar. I know that riff. More harmonies, more melodies. It’s another toe tapper alright. The Youtube comments on these songs are hilarious – ‘this is REAL music, not like today’s crap’. I’ve already made that point too of course. The difference is I don’t care, or don’t want to care about the age or the genre – I just want it to be good – doesn’t matter if it’s a day old or five decades – good is good. This is good. There is less good in today’s charts. But it’s okay, as there is plenty of good outside the charts.

8. The Animals: I’m Crying

Ha ha, this guy’s Youtube channel is ‘Back When Music Was Good’. What’s the point in even being alive if you believe that? Yeah, go back to the 60s with your wars, rampant unemployment, lack of rights, and no internets. Actually that sounds exactly like 2017 apart from the internets. It’s a fast paced boyo, with organ and deep vocals, and yet it isn’t The Doors. It has an edge, as you’d expect from The Animals, it’s a little bit manic, but it lacks some melody outside of the ahh ahhs. Still, another good’un.

9. The Hollies: We’re Through

Everyone loves The Hollies, right? Listen to that guitar, great stuff. A fast paced rocker like early Beatles covers, this is frantic in every sense – the vocals wobble all over the place, the guitar and bass wrestle for attention, and the drums chatter away like the teeth of a frostbitten fool. It’s isn’t their most catchy or immediate song, but still good.

10. Jim Reeves: I Won’t Forget You

Well, I knew it couldn’t last. Still, this isn’t as horrible as I was forgetting. It’s pretty bleak even with the sentiment. Pure, clean vocals. It’s very plain and easy, a little bit Country, a little bit Calypso, very slow and simple, and there’s always going to be a market for it. Not my thing, but it’s harmless.

Well, that was very good – probably the best Top Ten I’ve covered yet in this series of posts. I’m not going to bother posting an alternate Top 10, partly because I don’t know enough about the other songs released, and partly because any alternate top 10 would include some of the artists above anyway. The obvious other recommendations would be The Beatles – take your pick from I Want To Hold Your Hand, A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love – and also throw in some Beach Boys, Stones, Kinks etc. There’s something for everyone up above, except idiots, and even then some of the songs here are good enough to even interest the most staunch idiot.

Let us know in the comments which of the songs above you love, and if any other hits or otherwise from 1964 float your yacht!

Chart Music – 1966

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here –

1966 Glancers, 1966. The year which meany consider to be the pinnacle of music. A pivotal year by all accounts, for culture worldwide, for music, cinema, politics, civil rights and so on and so forth. Where were you? Where was I? Where am I? So many questions, and so few readers. As you may be aware, I was not yet part of this world, at least not as you understand it, but many people were and they bore witness to things such as England winning the World Cup, thousands more US troops landing in Vietnam, Time magazine asked if God Was Dead, The Church Of Satan was formed, Castro declared Martial Law, Star Trek debuted on TV, John met Yoko, and a maniac went on a shooting spree in Texas.

In the realm of music, David Bowie emerged, The Beatles became the first band to play the Nippon Budokan Hall, Van Morrison and The Doors appeared on stage together, and Bob Dylan turned Judas. A bunch of extraordinarily popular albums were released and many songs still played regularly today were recorded. Looking at the list of songs below, there are only three I know from the name but I’m sure once I listen I will know a few more. The list at a first glance doesn’t seem to be representative of the many great songs and albums which first appeared this year.

  1.  Jim Reeves. Distant Drums.

Smooth vocals. Slow. Far away. Basic beat, simple piano. Strings arrive. Shifts to a more Western style pace. All very pleasant but out of time. Nothing wrong with it, a little too nice for my liking.

2. Dave Dee: Bend It!

Descending riff. Slower pace. Quickening like a Greek tune. Faster. Collapse. Funny. Even Greek guitars so I assume a deliberate choice. I always liked this sort of music from my travels. What exactly is he bending? Pretty good, though probably a novelty song.

3. The Who: I’m A Boy.

Back when they sounded like a nice little garage band, though they still manage to make plenty of noise in the chorus and bridge with those chugging guitars and bin lid drums. Great lyrics, good music.

4. New Vaudeville Band: Winchester Cathedral.

Ha ha, South Park. There’s something in my pocket for you. Waterloo melody. More novelty stuff but still good. Not a bad song yet, yay.

5. The Rolling Stones: Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow.

Fuzz and throbbing and sudden trumpets. All a bit chaotic with the trumpets out of tune with the vocals and guitar. The little break in the middle is nice. I was never a huge fan of early Stones but this is pretty good. The bass is probably the best part. It all collapses into a surprise bonus riff at the end. You wouldn’t get that in the charts these days.

6. The Supremes: You Can’t Hurry Love.

You know it, of course you do. Or the Phil Collins version. Sweet, melodic, beautiful. Can’t say much more about it, just enjoy!

7. Sandpipers: Guatanamera.

A song forever adopted by football crowds with ‘Guatanamera’ changed to… something else. I have no idea what it’s about but all very nice – dreamy verses and of course an incredibly catchy chorus. Oh, a spoken explanation. I didn’t really need that, but thanks.

8. Sonny And Cher: Little Man.

Greek fingering (madam) and bangs (sir). Yes, I know this. Horn beeps. Lots of pauses. It is a very odd song, then again it was 1966. Good though.

9. The Troggs: I Can’t Control Myself.

To be fair, most morning I wake up and scream ‘OH NO!’ This is a song with a marching beat and a simple structure, catchy chorus, verses okay, probably shouldn’t be stretched to three minutes.

10. Dusty Springfield: All I See Is You

Your standard Springfield ballad – big vocals, a little mournful, you know the score.  The chorus/rest of song is much better – even bigger vocals and more emotion, and it keeps getting bigger in every sense as it goes along.

As mentioned earlier, 1966 had a wealth of quality releases – Sounds Of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel, Boots by Nancy Sinatra, Blonde On Blonde, Pet Sounds, Revolver, Freak Out, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, A Quick One, and many others. Out of the top selling singles of the year in the US, three were by The Beatles, one by The Beach Boys, and one by Frank Sinatra – four out of five ain’t bad. For an alternative list of 10 great songs from 1966 (though most are incredibly famous) have a click on the links below:

  1. The Beatles: We Can Work It Out

2. James Brown: I Got You (I Feel Good)

3. The Mamas And The Papas: California Dreamin

4. The Rolling Stones: Paint It Black

5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hey Joe

6. The Velvet Underground & Nico: I’ll Be Your Mirror

7. Janis Ian: Society’s Child

8. Jefferson Airplane: Let Me In

9. The Kinks: Sunny Afternoon

10. The Who: Boris The Spider

What is your favourite song from 1966? Let us know in the comments!