The M M & M 1000 – part 24

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. More I’s..

TEMPTATIONS – I Know I’m Losing You / I Couldn’t Cry If I Wanted To (Gordy 7057 1966)
TEMPTATIONS – I Wish It Would Rain / I Truly Truly Believe (Gordy 7068 1967)

These are two of the greatest Temptations’ songs of the David Ruffin era before he left in 1968 to pursue a solo career. “I Know I’m Losing You” is a desperate plea of a song. A relationship is crashing and Ruffin knows that it’s too late to save it, even though on the surface all appears deceptively normal. “I Wish It Would Rain” from the following year could be seen as the aftermath – the girl little more than a memory now. After his departure from the group, Dennis Edwards was drafted in. The group dynamic changed radically. Before it was essentially Ruffin plus chorus, but in the future the Temptations would be much more of an ensemble with each adding a distinctive voice to the mix.

TELEVISION PERSONALITIES – I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives / Arthur the Gardener (Rough Trade 63 1981)
Syd had been out of the public eye for a decade, living with his mother somewhere in Cambridge. The TVP’s fabulous little song is a fantasy about going round his house for Sunday tea of sausages and beans, all done in a wistful, childlike style that echoed Barrett’s own. The bucolic mood is enhanced by the twittering birdsong, but the reverie is brutally ended by Dan Treacy’s shout of “OH SHUT UP!” at the end. It’s funny, but also a jarring return to the grim reality of mental illness – something which Treacy has had problems with himself.

ERIC B & RAKIM – I Know You Got Soul / dub version (4th & Broadway 7438 1987)
It could be argued that Paid in Full was the first modern rap album. It marked a shift away from up tempo party music to more reflective beats, ultimately paving the way for bands like Massive Attack and the whole Ninja Tune / Mo Wax scene. Rakim’s style was more conversational than his forebears, and he’s still regarded as one of the finest exponents of his art. “I Know You Got Soul” was just one of a slew of seminal tracks on the record, and the one that kicked in the fashion of using James Brown samples – something done to death over the next few years by lesser acts.

ARETHA FRANKLIN – I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) / Do Right Woman – Do Right Man (Atlantic 2386 1967)
ARETHA FRANKLIN – I Say a Little Prayer / The House That Jack Built (Atlantic 2518 1968)

“I Never Loved a Man” is possibly the finest double A side in soul music. Franklin had been around for years, signed to a record label (Columbia) that didn’t really know what to do with her. Jerry Wexler knew, and when she signed to Atlantic, the marriage of Franklin’s Detroit upbringing and the Memphis musicians who backed her created something that brought together Gospel, country-soul and an urban sophistication. The recording of the songs was far from being a smooth process. Sessions in Memphis were fractious and produced little salvageable. The record ended up being finished in New York. When it eventually appeared, it was an immediate sensation, and for the next few years Franklin had an almost vice-like grip on the top of the Billboard R&B chart. Strangely, though, “I Say a Little Prayer” was one of her less successful singles in the US, even though it’s one of her best loved songs. This was mainly due to the fact that Dionne Warwick had just had a big hit with it. Warwick’s version was done in the smooth, urbane style that was expected of Burt Bacharach and Hal David numbers. Franklin stripped away the gloss, and poured her heart into it.

FLAMINGOS – I Only Have Eyes For You / At the Prom (End 1046 1959)
There’s something magical about 1950s doowop ballads that’s hard to pin down. It’s something about the space in the records coupled with the mono recording that makes them both intimate and yet somehow distant. It’s a weird paradox that I can’t really describe. Many old songs reflect the era that they emerged from, but doowop seems to do more than that – it preserves it like a fly in amber. “I Only Have Eyes For You” has a beautiful stillness about it. Nate Nelson’s lead is satin-smooth, and the harmonies are almost angelic. The Flamingos hailed from Baltimore and had been around for the best part of a decade before they recorded this, their defining moment.

MIRACLES – I Second That Emotion / You Must Be Love (Tamla 54159 1967)
The Miracles provided the bridge between doowop and the sophisticated sweet soul of the likes of the Delfonics and the Chi-lites. Smokey Robinson had an unparalleled gift for the use of metaphor and puns which seldom crossed the thin line between being witty and being cheesy. It’s funny how songs like this one don’t even register as puns any more, such have they become an established part of the culture.

BOB DYLAN – I Threw It All Away / Drifter’s Escape (Columbia 44826 1969)
After dipping his toe in the water with John Wesley Harding, Dylan dived head first into country music with Nashville Skyline, a brief collection of short, direct songs sung in a baritone croon very different to the snotty whine of a few years before. “I Threw it All Away” is 143 seconds of regret. Despite its concise simplicity, it stands up alongside his very best work.

JOHNNY CASH – I Walk The Line / Get Rhythm (Sun 241 1956)
With Cash’s rich baritone, and the walking bass, “I Walk the Line” is the very essence of outlaw country. This is Jack Palance not Alan Ladd.

STOOGES – I Wanna Be Your Dog / 1969 (Elektra 45664 1969)
Simplicity itself. A grinding, three note riff and an almost monotone vocal. It’s dirty, it’s mean and it is full of punk attitude in its purest, most nihilistic form. The Stooges took rock and roll to the gutter, a place where, for all their brilliance, you felt the Velvets only ever visited as tourists. Countless bands have followed in their footsteps in the forty years since, but none have bettered that dirty purity.

CAN – I Want More / And More (Virgin 153 1976)
CHIC – I Want Your Love / Funny Bone (Atlantic 3557 1979)

On the face of it, “I Want More” is a bit of a novelty record. Avant-garde art-rock band go disco? It’s a long way from Tago Mago. But then, Can always had a sense of fun about them. “I Want More” could be seen as an extension of their Ethnological Forgery Series, where they recorded lovingly rendered pastiches of everything from hot jazz to various world musics. And ultimately, it’s simply a great record with a shimmering keyboard motif and a lazy, shuffling four square rhythm. Can’s take on disco is a little scruffy compared to the gleaming uptown sounds of Chic.

RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight / When I Get to the Border (Island 6186 1974)
Richard Thompson is many things, but a singles artist is not one of them. He’s released a few over the years, of course, including this – the title track to his first album with his then wife Linda. It’s the classic working class tale of living for the weekend. Going out, having fun, dancing, drinking, just forgetting the daily grind. Unusually for Thommo, it’s direct and simple with no dark psychological undercurrents, and Linda captures the spirit of a working girl out for a night of fun perfectly.

JACKSON FIVE – I Want You Back / Who’s Loving You (Motown 1157 1969)
STEVIE WONDER – I Was Made to Love Her / Hold Me (Tamla 54151 1967)

Motown’s two great child stars at differing periods in their careers. The Jacksons, led by Michael, were overnight sensations in 1969 when their debut single was released. It still sounds fresh and vibrant. They can be forgiven for paving the way for the Osmonds. Just. Stevie Wonder was 17 and his voice had broken. With five years experience already behind him, he sounded older. “I Was Made to Love Her” is a classic, upbeat Motown dancer.

More soon