The Supremes- Where Did Our Love Go (1964)
Updated: May 9
The Supremes - Where Did Our Love Go
Released August 1964
Recorded December 28, 1962-August 13, 1964
The Supremes were supremely popular as an all-female act from Detroit and eventually an essential part of Berry Gordy's Motown roster. The group began as the Primettes with Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross,and Betty McGlown in 1959 while the members lived in the same Detroit housing projects. Ross, who knew Smokey Robinson of the Miracles from the old neighborhood, encouraged Robinson to help secure an audition with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. Gordy found the girls too young and inexperienced and initially passed on the Primettes. Undeterred by the rejection, the Primettes released the "Tears of Sorrow" on Lu Pine Records. It didn't have an impact, and McGlown left the group to get married. Barbara Martin then replaced her. With Motown still in their sights, the girls began hanging around Hitsville recording studios to get Gordy's attention. He eventually let them sing backup and clap their hands on a few records for other Motown artists. In 1961 Gordy finally signed the group to his Tamla label and renamed it "the Supremes. "
The Supremes Early Recordings
Between 1961 and 1963, the group released several singles written by either Gordy or Robinson, but none of the tracks charted. Martin left the group during this time (1962), and the Supremes continued as a trio. In 1963, Gordy decided to call in the writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to help the group. The writing team had already successfully made hits for other female Motown artists, Martha and the Vandellas and Mary Wells. The songwriters offered "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes," The Supremes finally had their first top 40 hits. Now they had the right formula and writing team and perfected an image that portrays glamour and style. The group began their supremacy with the number one hit "Where Did Our Love Go?" and the album with the same name.
Where Did Our Love Go?
Where Did Our Love Go? is a compilation record of Supremes of earlier singles. The album reached #2 on the Billboard Charts. It was the first album in history to have three number-one hits. It was, at the time, the highest-charting album by an all-female group! The album also introduced the world to the characteristics of "Motown Sound," which offered advanced arrangement and production values to pop music. It was a monumental achievement that launched the Supremes into superstardom by showcasing an all-female African American group that broke through the color barriers to earn support by audiences of both African American and white audiences.
After the Release of Where Did Our Love Go?
After the release, things exploded for the Supremes, and they became certified hit makers. Still, with all groups, tensions arose, particularly when Ross began to gain more attention than Ballard and Wilson. In 1967 Gordy renamed the group "Diana Ross and the Supremes," which solidified Ross' status as the main draw and leader of the unit. Ballard did not handle Ross' fame well and began drinking heavily, gaining weight, and missing appearances. She was let go and was meant to be replaced by Cindy Birdsong. After an appearance with the Supremes, Gordy received an injunction from Birdsong's former group, Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles, stopping her from further appearances because of her current contract. Ballard was asked back while Gordy worked on buying Birdsong's contract. Ballard slimmed down for the appearance, thinking that she was to retain her position with the group, but things got ugly when she found that she was only being brought back as a placeholder while Birdsong's contract could be cleared. Angered by the situation, Ballard appeared on stage drunk at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and was fired again. After a failed attempt at a solo career, she tried to sue Gordy and Ross but lost. Ballard returned to her toxic lifestyle and died of a heart attack at 32. The group continued making hits, but they were beginning to lose popularity by the decade's end. In 1970, Diana Ross launched a successful solo career, and the Supremes continued with her replacement Jean Terrell. The group continued till 1977, with only Wilson remaining throughout.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "Where Did Our Love Go" was the Supreme's first number-one hit and started a streak of five number-one hits in a row. The writing team Hollad-Dozier-Holland who wrote most of the Supremes classics, wrote this song specifically with the Supremes in mind. The group didn't like it when he first heard it; they thought it was too "kiddie-ish." There were also several discussions about who should sing lead on the track, Mary Wilson or Diana Ross. Ross was given the nod. The song is fueled by a steady (often overused) clap rhythm with strong support by the fantastic Funk Brothers, who played on all Motown recordings of the time. Like most Supreme songs, the lyrics are about relationships; in this case, it's about a broken one. Check out the sax solo by Mike Terry. (*+)
Track 2 - "Run, Run, Run" was the follow-up single to their first hit, "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through." It did not connect and only reached #93 on the charts. There's some pretty fast rhythmic piano playing on this one, a thick baritone saxophone line, and a solid saxophone solo. (*)
Track 3- "Baby Love" is one of the group's most recognizable songs. The song was nominated for a Grammy in 1965. The lyrical theme is basically the same as "Where Did Our Love Go" (troubled with a relationship. The song offers more handclaps and a fantastic arrangement that adds heavier instrumentation and an obvious key change. (*+)
Track 4- "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" was the group's first top 40 (released in 1963) songs, and guess what? -it includes a hand-clapping rhythm. It was the first time Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote a tune for the group, which proved to be what they needed. The song is played briskly and includes an early example of Motown's heavy layering arrangements. "Lovelight" gave Motown the footprint they needed to help make the group one of the most successful hit makers of the decade. (*+)
Track 5- "Come See About Me" was another #1 and one of their finest tunes. The song offers one of the first examples of a studio fade-in. Before the Supremes released it as a single, Nella Dodds released it, and the song reached #74 on the charts. It is a great tune with a superb rhythmic feel that includes signature handclaps. The song is about a smitten girl who is "crying and lonely" because she wants her boy "to see about (her)." The recording is one of the Supreme's finest. (*+).
Track 6- "Long Gone Lover" was not a hit single but an excellent album track written by Smokey Robinson. The song features a fantatsic groove, a solid sax solo, and of course, great vocals. Lyrically, the song is about a long-gone lover with whom the narrator still loves and believes is true and faithful even though people speculate that he may not be truthful. The narrator's "long gone lover" does write her letters, and he lets her know that he'll be "coming (home) soon." (*)
Track 1- "I'm Giving You Your Freedom" is a breakup song and was not a hit. For some reason, it doesn't connect, but it is a solid album track with some added percussion, like a woodblock, that offers a cha-cha-type secondary rhythm. There are some pretty tasty guitar licks on this one as well.
Track 2- "A Breathtaking Guy," was written by Smokey Robinson and is one of the few tracks in which the Supremes share the lead vocals. It was another song for the early "no-hit Supremes," peaking at #75, which was better than their previous efforts but still not breathtaking. Some pretty jazzy guitar licks on this one (*)
Track 3- "He Means The World To Me," has a bit of a calypso feel. You can tell some of these songs were written by men as it's another song about a girl pining for a guy. This one has some clever orchestral characteristics, including what sounds like a xylophone, congas, and well-written horn lines.
Track 4- "Standing at The Crossroads of Love," starts with the chorus sung in a high register before settling into a comfortable groove. It is a decent tune, but it was never a hit. It may have needed handclaps.
Track 5- Your Kiss Of Fire," was written by Berry Gordy's brother, Robert, and Harvey Fuqua. No need for a fireman- this song is not that hot.
Track 6- "Ask Any Girl" begins with a slow rubato and a violin. At about thirty seconds, it picks up. "Ask Any Girl" is another song about a lonely love-struck crying girl. Although they broke new ground as a popular female group, the Supremes were often portrayed as vulnerable in song, another reminder that men wrote their songs. There is some pretty remarkable string writing on this one. "Ask Any Girl" is a great album closer.
Much love was given to the Supremes after the release of Where Did Our Love Go. In a male-dominated field, the Supremes broke down barriers with this record and future releases. Awards- Grammy Hall Of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame