The Miracles

TrackSingle
Shop AroundTamla 54034
What's So Good About GoodbyeTamla 54053
I'll Try Something NewTamla 54059
You've Really Got A Hold On MeTamla 54073
Ooo Baby BabyTamla 54113
The Tracks Of My TearsTamla 54118
Choosey BeggarTamla 54127
The Love I Saw In You Was Just A MirageTamla 54145
More LoveTamla 54152
I Second That EmotionTamla 54159
The Tears Of A ClownTamla 54199

The Miracles photo 1

The Miracles (l to r): Bobby Rogers, Pete Moore, Claudette Robinson,
Ronnie White, Smokey Robinson

 

 

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Miracles playlist

 

The Miracles performed three numbers at the now-legendary “T.A.M.I. Show” in 1964 including this one, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me

 

Contributors: Cal Taylor & Andrew Shields

Authors’ note: Cal Taylor is covering the period 1958-1965 when the group was called The Miracles. Andrew Shields looks at the later period when the group (with the same personnel) changed its name to Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, 1965 up to 1972 when Smokey left the group.

 

The Miracles 1958-1965

Pop music in the very early 1960s, after rock ’n’ roll in the late 1950s and before the Beatles, Rolling Stones and all that followed came on the scene, is generally often looked at as being ‘in the doldrums’ – when nothing much happened. Not true – even though there was certainly a lot of dross at that time. However, if you looked beyond the Top 30, ignored BBC radio and, instead, selectively listened to Radio Luxembourg as well as, if you could find it, AFN (American Forces Network) ‘the world was your oyster’, musically speaking. It helped, too, if you were choosy with what you read in the music press and knew a good record shop or two, because there was a lot of good stuff to find. Loads.

By 1963, my favourite solo artists were Howlin’ Wolf and Bobby Bland, with my favourite group being the Miracles. Now, nearly sixty years on, these different strands of black music seem distinctly different from each other but I was only in my mid-teens. I did not analyse music, I just liked what I liked and music had no colour.

My (hopefully informative) Howlin’ Wolf Toppermost #177 and Dave Stephens’ excellent Bobby Bland Toppermost #564 show what wonderful music those artists produced and now, in conjunction with Andrew, we are going to attempt to display the attributes of the Miracles up to 1972 when Smokey Robinson left the group. I am going to cover the period until around 1965 when they were just called The Miracles and Andrew is ‘taking up the baton’ for the period they were called Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1965-1972). After 1972, the Miracles continued Smokey-less, with some success, and Smokey himself embarked on a fruitful solo career.

I initially heard The Miracles in 1961 with their first release in the UK, the wonderful Shop Around, which was a million seller and reached #2 in the US pop charts. It made no impression on the UK charts. It was written by Berry Gordy and Smokey. Berry also played piano on that track and Marvin Gaye played the drums.

The Miracles chart success differed greatly when comparing the US to the UK. In the period to 1965, the Miracles got into the US Pop Top 40 thirteen times but, in the same time, only once into the UK Top 40. Their songs always had a message, meaning or story and Smokey himself wrote (or co-wrote) all but a handful of the songs they recorded. His lyrics were beautiful. Poetic.

I will build you a castle with a tower so high
It reaches the moon
I’ll gather melodies from birdies that fly
And compose you a tune
Give you lovin’, warm as mama’s oven
And if that don’t do
I’ll try something new

With Smokey’s songwriting and his distinctive lead vocal, the Miracles stood out. Between September 1961 and March 1963 (before the Beatles had their first album released and before the Stones had even recorded anything), the Miracles had a real purple patch of six consecutive singles in the US. All were absolutely sensational. The lyrics above come from I’ll Try Something New, which was the third of those six, released in April 1962 and reaching #39 in the pop charts.

Prior to that release, in December 1961, What’s So Good About Goodbye reached #35 in the pop charts and was actually released in the UK on the Fontana label and makes it into this Toppermost.

 

The Miracles ad 1

The flip side of that record was also great. Take a listen, it’s called I’ve Been Good To You. The first of that string of six records was Everybody’s Gotta Pay Some Dues, released in September 1961.

To follow I’ll Try Something New, a record called Way Over There was issued in August 1962. A version of this had already been released in 1960 (see later). Because Motown’s studios were too small to accommodate an orchestra this was recorded at RCA studios in Chicago, where RCA also did the mastering.

After Way Over There came the biggie – my favourite Miracles’ record You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (UK records have it as You instead of You’ve) and up to that time only second to Shop Around in terms of their biggest hit. It reached #8 in the pop charts, was released in November 1962 and shortly afterwards in the UK on the Oriole label. A year later, the Beatles did a cover of this top track on their second album.

The last of the run of six consecutive exceptional releases was A Love She Can Count On. It got to #31 in the US pop charts in April 1963. It was not released in the UK but at the time I managed to acquire a Dutch copy with a picture sleeve. This was their first release in the Netherlands, where the Miracles must have been popular, as over thirty subsequent releases by the group followed on the Dutch Motown or Tamla Motown label.

Up to now I have only mentioned Smokey individually but, of course, the Miracles were a group and all of the members were important. They had a set line up all through the 1960s. Besides Smokey, there was Ronnie White, Pete Moore, Bobby Rogers and Claudette Robinson, Smokey’s wife. Claudette did not tour with the group after 1964 because of the toll on her health, and she had had several miscarriages, but she did continue as a group member at recording sessions. There was effectively a sixth member of the group throughout this time and that was Marv Tarplin, who was not only their resident guitarist but also an important member of the team as a producer and a co-writer of a number of the Miracles’ hits. Marv had been associated with a girl group called the Primettes (who became the Supremes) and Smokey had known Diane Ross (before she became Diana) from the local neighbourhood. Smokey got an audition for the Primettes but one of the outcomes was that, from then on, Marv joined the Miracles set-up after his talents made a mark on Smokey.

 

But how did it all start?

Well, Smokey was born William Robinson in Detroit on 19th February 1940. He got his nickname from his uncle Claude, who called him that when young William was playing cowboys and indians, and the name stuck. With a neighbourhood friend, Ronnie White, who was one year older than Smokey, and Aretha Franklin’s brother, Cecil, they started singing doo wop on street corners. Next, with Ronnie and three other school friends, including Pete Moore, also a year older than Smokey, they formed a group called the Five Chimes. Two of the school friends left and were replaced by Emerson Rogers and his cousin, Bobby Rogers, who coincidentally was born on the same day and in the same hospital as Smokey but they had never met before Bobby joined the group. The new line up changed their name to the Matadors. There was one final change of personnel before the one that performed together throughout the 1960s, when Emerson left to join the army and was replaced by his sister, Claudette, around 1957. Two years later Smokey and Claudette married.

 

How did the Motown project evolve?

In August 1957, the Matadors managed to get an audition associated with Brunswick Records, who were looking for acts that would support Jackie Wilson. Present with Brunswick’s executives was Berry Gordy, whose claim to fame at that time was as a songwriter for Jackie. The upshot of the audition was that the Matadors failed to impress those who mattered – being dismissed as too similar to the Platters – but the teenagers did strike a chord with Berry Gordy, especially Smokey with his undeveloped writing skills in which he saw potential and they arranged to keep in touch.

In January 1958, a smash hit topped both the R&B and US national pop charts. This was Get A Job by the Silhouettes. Berry Gordy together with Tyran Carlo (aka Billy Davis) composed an answer song, Got A Job, and arranged for the Matadors, who had now changed their name to the Miracles, to record it. Berry had not formed his own label yet and he got a deal with End Records to release it. This was the first Miracles’ record, in 1958.

Got A Job stirred a little interest, sufficient for a follow-up on End, but things were evolving and Berry Gordy’s ambitions were getting bigger – enough to start his own record label at the beginning of 1959. He called it Tamla. The fledgling company was able to produce records and satisfy demand in the Detroit area but did not have nationwide distribution.

The third record by the Miracles, Bad Girl, was licensed to Chess for nationwide coverage. This doo wop number sold quite well, getting into the bottom reaches of the US Pop Top 100 for two weeks in October 1959.

Berry Gordy’s empire was beginning to take shape and by 1960 was doing its own nationwide distribution, although I feel they were still experimenting and learning as they went along. Evidence of that might be the release(s) before Shop Around. All four of them were on Tamla 54028, some being issued and withdrawn within a short space of time. The four were a combination of three different songs, two of which had two different backings. One of those tracks was Way Over There (mentioned earlier) when it was re-released in 1962.

In over a year before Shop Around, the Miracles only released the just mentioned Tamla 54028 but at this time the young group were honing their skills, working on their stage act and doing dates around the north east of the USA.

The Miracles had been Berry Gordy’s first signing and his relationship with Smokey began to grow. Young Smokey, who was still only 20 in 1960, started to get involved with all different aspects of the Tamla label business. Separately, Berry, who was ten years older, passed on tips and advice in respect of songwriting skills. He instilled in Smokey that a song had to have a beginning, a middle and an end and that the listener should always be left in no doubt what the story was. Smokey was a good pupil; so much so that within a very short space of time his skills surpassed those of his master.

The flip side of Shop Around deserves a mention. Who’s Lovin’ You is a gorgeous doo wop. Surprisingly, I did come across one ad for the single that implied Who’s Lovin’ You was the top side.

The Miracles ad 2

 

To benefit from the massive success of Shop Around, two records followed in 1961. By comparison, though, Ain’t It Baby (also released in the UK) and Broken Hearted/Mighty Good Lovin’ did not do well in the charts although both got to the middle of the US Top 100. The latter single has the distinction of being Motown’s first double-sided hit.

In 1962, Smokey Robinson was made Motown’s Vice President.

Apart from writing most of the Miracles’ output, Smokey wrote hits for, among others, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. One of those Temptations’ hits was My Girl, which Otis Redding got high into the UK charts at the end of 1965.

After the purple patch that I referred to earlier – with those six great consecutive records 1961 to 1963 – Holland & Dozier penned the next two releases in the latter half of 1963, Mickey’s Monkey and I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying.

1964 started with the excellent Smokey-written (You Can’t Let The Boy Overpower) The Man In You followed by, later in the year, I Like It Like That, That’s What Love Is Made Of and Come On Do The Jerk.

Following the Tamla Motown UK tour in March/April 1965 (see Footnotes) things were about to change a little for the group. Up to that time, since they had started recording in 1958, they had only ever been called the Miracles, but behind the scenes, discussions regarding what they were to be known as in the future, must have been taking place. Just as The Supremes had become Diana Ross & The Supremes there was now talk of the group’s name being changed to Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

The name change manifested itself for the first time with the group’s Going To A Go-Go album in November 1965. The LP was credited to ‘Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ although ‘Smokey Robinson’ was in a much smaller print size than ‘The Miracles’. It was as though Motown was easing in the name transformation. Also, oddly, right up to the end of 1966 all single releases still only bore the name, The Miracles.

Anyway, the personnel did not change, neither did their sound nor their top quality output and 1965 turned out to be a real bumper year for the group, evidenced by the fact that three of our selections come from this year alone.

Because there was so much good material coming from the group in 1965 and their songs appeared under both the old and new name (on 45s and an LP respectively), Andrew and I have each chosen to highlight our personal favourites from this year.

Ooo Baby Baby was released in both the US and the UK in March, which coincided with the Tamla Motown tour of Britain. It turned out to be a top 20 seller in America but was not a big UK seller. Andrew will tell you just how good this song is.

The Miracles next release was The Tracks Of My Tears. Now, this one really did make an impact on the British charts, getting into the Top 10 and becoming their biggest seller in the UK until the 1967-recorded The Tears Of A Clown topped the charts in 1970. This classic makes it into our Toppermost.

In the autumn, the follow-up to The Tracks Of My Tears was My Girl Has Gone, which actually attained a higher position in the US top 20 than ‘Tracks’ but conversely did not chart in the UK. As ever, beautiful lyrics …

My girl has gone and said goodbye
Don’t you cry, hold your head up high
Don’t give up, give love one more try
‘Cos there’s a right girl for every guy

At the beginning of December 1965, the group released a great double-sider. The top side, from the album of the same name, was Going To A Go-Go (which became a hit for the Rolling Stones in 1982 after it was taken from their Still Life album). The flip side was a little gem called Choosey Beggar – Andrew will extol its virtues along with many other fantastic tracks by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Keep reading for more luscious delights.

Cal Taylor

 

 

The Miracles 1965-1972

Singing it so sweetly like no one else could do
(George Harrison, ‘Pure Smokey’)

Cal has already introduced the group, so I might start with a few reflections on Smokey’s voice. Its purity is perhaps what strikes you first – that soaring sound which gives his best work its transcendent and ethereal quality. It also has a remarkable honey-like smoothness while at the same time being as refined as silk. Along with this, however, Robinson could also sing with an unexpected touch of grittiness, especially on the Miracles’ earlier records. Not only was Smokey born ‘with the gift of a golden voice’, he was also one of the most accomplished lyricists of his generation. His magical way with words and fondness for wordplay was a key part of the Miracles’ appeal. Unlike some other songwriters, Smokey’s lyrics always combined cleverness with genuine emotional depth. In consequence, they never come across as being exercises in wordplay for its own sake.

But the Miracles were very far from being a one-man band. Not only were they all fine singers but in Marv Tarplin (who Cal has rightly described as effectively the ‘sixth member’ of the group) they had a guitarist and songwriter of the very highest rank. Tarplin’s gifts as an arranger also rendered him the perfect foil to Smokey’s sublime skill as a vocalist. More broadly speaking, the group’s superb harmonies also provided the essential backdrop against which Smokey could project his “exquisite fragility”, as described by music critic Ian MacDonald.

That fragile quality is best exemplified in my first choice, Ooo Baby Baby. This is one of Smokey’s most melting vocals, in turn both “dreamily romantic” – to use writer Stephen Holden’s phrase – and pleading. Of course, Smokey has to resort to that cajoling mode as the lyrics show that he has been caught out cheating. The song then is an attempt to win back his partner and, if such a remarkably beautiful one did not do so, then perhaps nothing could. Its effect is reinforced by the brilliant background vocal arrangement from Pete Moore, who also co-wrote the song. Like so many of the Miracles’ best songs, for me this comes close to being a perfect record

As an aside, here is Smokey performing the song with his lifelong friend, Aretha Franklin. I am grateful to Cal for letting me know about this superb performance. They grew up near each other and met through Smokey’s friendship with her brother, Cecil. He discusses their relationship in more detail here.

It has frequently been pointed out that many of Smokey’s best lyrics revolve around paradoxes or seeming paradoxes (I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day; the tears of a clown; I don’t like you but I love you). These kinds of unexpected juxtapositions which serve to turn overused clichés on their head were always key to his art. Perhaps my favourite of all of these is the next selection, Choosey Beggar. Such was the high standard of the songs that he was writing at this point, that this gem is sometimes overlooked. For me, it ranks among his very finest.

By the time 1967 came along the name change was complete and the first single bearing the name Smokey Robinson & The Miracles was The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage, written by Smokey and Marv. Let the lyric of this wonderfully constructed three minute novelette on record speak for itself:

There you were beautiful,
the promise of love was written on your face
You led me on with untrue kisses,
oh, you held me captured in your false embrace
Quicker than I could bat an eye,
seems you were telling me goodbye
Just a minute ago your love was here,
all of a sudden it seemed to disappear
Sweetness was only heartache’s camouflage,
the love I saw in you was just a mirage

We used to meet in romantic places,
oh, you gave the illusion that your love was real
Now all that’s left are lipstick traces,
from the kisses you only pretended to feel
And now our meetings you avoid
and so my world you have destroyed
Just a minute ago your love was here, oh baby,
all of a sudden it seemed to disappear, yeah
The way you wrecked my life was like sabotage,
the love I saw in you was just a mirage

Oh, yeah you only filled me with despair,
by showing love that wasn’t there
Just like the desert shows a thirsty man,
a green oasis where there’s only sand
You lured me into something I should have dodged,
oh the love I saw in you was just a mirage

Smokey Robinson has described my next selection, More Love, as one of his most “personal” songs. It was written for his wife, Claudette (see Cal’s section above for more about her role in the band) after she had suffered a series of miscarriages. The background to the song, perhaps, explains the intensity of Robinson’s vocal on it, which is unlike the more restrained and precise passion on most of his other recordings.

What to say about I Second That Emotion? This is another of those ‘perfect’ Miracles’ songs in which music and lyrics unite in an almost seamless marriage. The song came out of an incident when Robinson was shopping for a Christmas present for his wife with his friend and fellow- songwriter, Al Cleveland. When the shop assistant said that she hoped that Claudette would like the gift, Cleveland replied “I second that emotion”. Later, Cleveland admitted that he had meant to say ‘motion’ rather then ‘emotion’. Given that it led to the writing of a masterpiece, however, his verbal slip was a very productive one. Even by the Miracles’ standards, the song is remarkable for the intricate character of its melody. It also features some superbly understated and dexterous guitar playing by Tarplin.

My last choice, The Tears Of A Clown, had an unusual history. It began life as an instrumental written by Hank Cosby and Stevie Wonder. Wonder then brought the song to Robinson, hoping that he could provide a lyric for it. When he heard the song, Robinson immediately associated the opening section melody with the circus. This then gave him the basic idea for his own lyric – he discusses this further here. In relation to this, it is also worth pointing out that Smokey had used part of the lyric before. The lines Just like Pagliacci did / I’ll keep my sadness hid had first appeared in an earlier Robinson song, My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down). It was recorded by Carolyn Crawford, but had failed to achieve the kind of commercial success its writers expected . Like any good writer, however, Robinson was not one to leave good material to go to waste (my thanks to Cal for pointing me towards this record). As discussed earlier, the central metaphor of ‘Tears’ (the clown who makes everyone else happy but is miserable himself because he lacks love) fitted perfectly with Robinson’s love of paradoxes.

Despite its somewhat strange origins, The Tears Of A Clown also has that amazing alchemy which characterised the best of the Miracles’ records. To add to the odd story of the song, it appeared first, simply as an album track, in 1967. It was not until three years later that – almost as an afterthought – it was released as a single in the UK. Its astonishing success there led to its release in the same format in the US. Again, it took off and became the group’s biggest ever American hit – up to that point – reaching #1 on the Billboard chart in December 1970

This remarkable commercial success also led Smokey to go back on his decision to leave the group. Indeed, he delayed starting on his long-planned solo career for another two years. After he left, the Miracles continued with Billy Griffin as lead singer. Despite making some excellent music, the group was not able to compete with the stunning quality of the best of the records they had made with Smokey as lead singer. Put simply, these were some of the finest and most perfect pop records ever recorded.

Andrew Shields

 

 

FOOTNOTES (from Cal Taylor)

Smokey Robinson – America’s Greatest Living Poet (?)

There is much controversy about the so-called Bob Dylan quote but I feel this ‘grew like Topsy’. In my opinion, Smokey’s a great poet and it was true that in a 1965 press conference Bob Dylan mentioned Smokey as a poet he liked – but that is not quite the same as saying that Bob said he was America’s greatest living poet.

It seems most likely that the story emanated from Al Abrams, Motown’s head of PR. In his 2011 book, “Hype & Soul: Behind The Scenes At Motown”, he recalls: “One morning I received a memo from Berry reminding me that Smokey Robinson is one of the nation’s greatest songwriters and I should really do something in a hurry to promote him as such in the media because he wasn’t getting all the recognition he really deserved … I mentioned it to Al Aronowitz, a music writer who was also Dylan’s biographer and very close friend. Al said that he had heard Dylan praise some of Smokey’s lyrics as being poetical. I asked Al if he would let me get a quote from Dylan about Smokey. Al asked me what I had in mind and I suggested ‘Smokey Robinson is America’s Greatest Living Poet’. Al thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Why bother even asking Bob? That sounds just like something he’d say anyway. Go ahead and do it. If Bob sees it in print he’ll think he said it. He’s never going to deny it.’”

It is possible that Al Aronowitz was referring back to that 1965 press conference when Dylan was asked, “What poets do you dig?” Slowly, accentuated by pauses, Bob answered, “Rimbaud, I guess, W. C. Fields, the family … you know … the trapeze family in the circus, Smokey Robinson, Allen Ginsberg, Charlie Rich … he’s a good poet.”

So there you have it, Bob Dylan digs Smokey but unless he said it at some other time, the words attributed to Bob did not come from Bob’s lips. But, that still does not alter the fact Smokey has been a fantastic songwriter poet.

 

The Miracles programme

The Tamla Motown Show – UK Tour 1965

In America, Motown’s Motortown Revue, showcasing the label’s talents, had been an annual event since 1962. In 1965 it spread its wings.

On 27th March 1965, I had the great experience of seeing the Tamla Motown Show at the Winter Gardens, Bournemouth. Myself and half a dozen or so friends (including our esteemed editor) would have been right at the head of the queue when tickets went on sale. We ended up with the middle seats of the front row. It is well reported that this nationwide tour of the UK was poorly attended. I understand now that they had to add in Georgie Fame to the tour late in the day to try and bolster ticket sales. Two months previously Georgie had topped the UK charts with Yeh, Yeh.

The idea of the show was to promote the Tamla Motown artists outside of America. Tamla Motown artists were not household names and it’s true that up to then they had had little chart success in the UK (from memory, only the Supremes and Mary Wells) but there was a growing following of this avant-garde approach to pop music. It seems odd now to talk of Motown in terms of avant-garde or ’underground’, and those terms might be a bit strong, but in early 1965 Motown was certainly not mainstream. I had been a fan for four years and bought virtually every UK release.

After the show I managed to have a quick word with all the Motown stars – except Stevie Wonder, still only 14 years old, who being blind, was well protected. The tour was arduous and, to my mind, poorly planned – for example, the next day they were performing in Leicester, 170 miles away. They had to criss-cross the country doing over 20 venues twice nightly in a little over three weeks. However, Bournemouth was fairly early in the tour, which had only started seven days before. Notwithstanding, the stars could not be faulted, gave everything in their performances and afterwards were very forthcoming as well as enthusiastic about meeting their new fans.

I think they were genuinely surprised with the warm reception they received, and at how some fans were far more knowledgeable about their music than they would have imagined or anticipated. I managed to speak to Smokey for a couple of minutes and I remember when I talked to him about a Miracles’ Chess release (I had bought through mail order) that he joked with me and said something like ‘you know more about our records than I do’. I know that he did not mean that literally but that was a nice diplomatic riposte, as was his reaction to something else I said: that I was disappointed that Claudette could not make the tour, to which his charming (not dismissive) response was that he was too. I did not know then that Claudette had actually stopped all touring in 1964.

We managed to speak to some of the stars at the show but others I spoke to outside their hotel. (A memory that is etched in my brain is when we saw the Supremes sat together on a couch and it appeared to me that Diana Ross was ostensibly bald, sitting there wigless.) What a night that was, especially outside the Palace Court Hotel, when I managed those few brief words with Smokey.

The Miracles ticket

The Miracles autographs

 

 

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles perform a medley of songs on an ABC Special in November 1967 at Warwick Musical Theatre. Rhode Island

 

 

The Miracles photo 2

 

Warren “Pete” Moore (1938–2017)

Bobby Rogers (1940-2013)

Marv Tarplin (1941–2011)

Ronnie White (1939–1995)

 

Smokey Robinson: Official Site

The Official Home of The Miracles

The Miracles: list of awards and achievements

Motown Junkies – fabulous website

The Miracles at Discogs

The Miracles biography (AllMusic)

Cal Taylor has avidly collected records since the early 1960s, gravitating to deep soul and blues. As time went on he got more and more into studying pre-war blues and accumulated a vast record collection. Cal saw many such artists live in the sixties. He has written several posts for this site including Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson and Otis Redding.

Andrew Shields is a freelance historian, who grew up in the West of Ireland and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. Along with an interest in history, politics and literature, his other principal occupations are listening to and reading about the music of Bob Dylan and, in more recent years, immersing himself in the often brilliant and unduly neglected music of Phil Ochs ….

Read the toppermosts of some of the other Motown artists mentioned in this post: Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, Marvelettes, Supremes, Temptations, Stevie Wonder

TopperPost #872

10 Comments

  1. Dave Stephens
    Jun 2, 2020

    Brilliant Topper gentlemen. That the music’s good should go without saying but you’ve managed to surround it with such high quality wrapping that the essay is a joy to read. It’s all the little touches which make a difference. And those footnotes just add a giant pink bow – poor follow-on to metaphor but you get the point. I might have gone for Got A Job as a superb example of the Miracles singing “conventional” music but can understand it getting squeezed.

  2. Glenn Smith
    Jun 3, 2020

    What a story, well done gentlemen. Cal, you made mention of the b side to What’s So Good About Goodbye, the brilliant I’ve Been Good to You, can I say what a 45 that is! The Fabs always loved digging into the b side of 45’s especially for their live shows, but I’ve Been Good To You’s claim to fame is that it is the inspiration for Lennon’s This Boy, which is pretty close to a total lift bless him. No greater compliment as to the genius of The Miracles.

  3. Peter Viney
    Jun 4, 2020

    Wonderful. Nothing to argue with. there’s so much of it that is brilliant. The early presence of Claudette as one girl with four male singers echoes The Platters. Robbie Robertson said he advised Dylan to listen to Smokey Robinson’s lyrics for their clarity and soul as he thought Dylan far “too wordy” initially. This is claimed to be the source of Dylan then citing Smokey Robinson as “America’s greatest living poet”. This anecdote has often been repeated by Robbie and sometimes Smokey Robinson is replaced by Curtis Mayfield. It works with either. I’d place Tracks of My Tears and Tears of A Clown at the pinnacle of songwriting in any genre. I have a playlist in iTunes called “Le Kilt” (Cal and our editor will know why … the local discotheque) and it also adds Mickey’s Monkey, Going To A GoGo, I Gotta Dance To Keep From Cryin’ , The Soulful Shack. The Soulful Shack opened the fabulous “Tears of A Clown” album. Actually, I would have to put Going To A Go-Go in my ten. But what could you take out?

  4. John Chamberlain
    Jun 4, 2020

    Another “gem” chaps. Cal mentions the Tamla Tour and I was there with him in Bournemouth. A magic evening.

  5. Cal Taylor
    Jun 5, 2020

    Dave and Glenn, thank you for your kind comments, which are very much appreciated – glad you both liked the ‘story’.
    Glenn, ‘I’ve Been Good To You’ is a particular favourite of both Andrew and myself. Yes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I’m sure you know that besides that Miracles’ song being a basis of the Beatles’ ‘This Boy’, it was also ‘aided’ by ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ (1960) by the vastly underrated Bobby Freeman.

  6. Andrew Shields
    Jun 6, 2020

    Peter and John, thanks for the kind words.
    Peter – when it comes to the Bob quote, I tend to side with Liberty Valance: ‘when the legend becomes fact, print the legend’.
    Agree that ‘Going To A Go-Go’ is a fine track, but then The Miracles recorded so many.
    And, John, I envy those of you – including my esteemed co-writer and editor – who got to see The Miracles in their heyday.

  7. Bill Gordon
    Jun 8, 2020

    As a major contributing writer on THE MIRACLES (my all-time favorite group) for Wikipedia for several years, I’d like to share some important facts about them that some people might not know…
    1) THE MIRACLES have MORE SONGS inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame than ANY OTHER MOTOWN GROUP (even more than The Supremes and Temptations. (This is the reason why The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles did a year-long Tribute to the MIRACLES in 2016 as part of their “Legends of Motown” Series.
    2) THE MIRACLES (at #32) are the HIGHEST-RANKED MOTOWN GROUP on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of ‘THE IMMORTALS: The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
    3) The MIRACLES are the ONLY Sixties Motown Group in whom all of the members (except CLAUDETTE) are all ASCAP and/or BMI Award-Winning Songwriters.
    4) THE MIRACLES are, far and away, THE MOST-COVERED MOTOWN GROUP (and Motown Act, PERIOD) of ALL TIME. Over 60 of their songs have been covered by other artists, in every major music genre… No other Motown Act even comes CLOSE.
    5) THE MIRACLES and their music were a MAJOR INFLUENCE on British Invasion groups… with their hit songs having been covered by THE BEATLES, THE HOLLIES, THE ZOMBIES, THE WHO, and THE ROLLING STONES.
    All of these facts are verifiable. Check Wikipedia and its accompanying references.
    Sadly, as the Motown group that has accomplished the MOST (many of the OTHERS were not even Songwriters), they seem to get the LEAST CREDIT. Hopefully, articles like THIS ONE will help to CHANGE THAT. Thanks, Guys !!!

    THE MIRACLES – “MY GIRL HAS GONE” (1965)
    Top 20 Pop, Top 10 R&B, USA

  8. Peter Viney
    Jun 8, 2020

    Thanks, and I’m sure you’re right for the USA. Chart action in the UK is hard to compare as at various times we are looking at Top 30s, Top 40s and Top 50s, but on the chart basis (Guinness Book of Hit Singles), in the UK, The Miracles / Smokey Robinson & The Miracles list 16 chart entries in the UK (some are also listed under both). In contrast: Stevie Wonder 56 (admittedly he goes much later, and goes up to a Top 75) but then the others are on a similar basis to each other: Supremes 37, Four Tops 34, Temptations 28, Marvin Gaye 25. That doesn’t mean any one is better- I treasure all of them.

  9. Paul Newman
    Jun 14, 2020

    Thanks Cal and Andrew for a marvellous piece. Shop Around was always a great favourite of mine too, from the first time I heard it on Radio Luxemburg in February 1961 and rated it highly in my personal Record Book. We had no idea in those days whether the group was black, white, British, American or other, and what did it matter anyway. To be fair, the fact it was on the London label did give a clue that it must have been American (Tamla and Motown being words of no meaning over here then). And You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me was a favourite song later that I remember playing live. We did it in The Surfin’ Gremmies. That long note on ‘hold me’ could go right through the floor if you got it right. The Miracles were an inspiration to so many in so many different ways and your article has done them proud.

  10. Cal Taylor
    Jun 15, 2020

    Thanks Bill, Peter and Paul for adding your Comments to our Miracles’ Toppermost.
    Bill, I remember you commenting on the James Brown Toppermost last year. I am aware of your indefatigable efforts in championing that all members of The Famous Flames and The Miracles should get recognition in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, not just the lead singers (James Brown and Smokey Robinson in this case). In the end they were. Well done for your part and thank you for the statistics on The Miracles.
    Peter, thanks for the British facts regarding Motown artists. I did highlight that The Miracles’ record in the UK charts bore no comparison with that of their success in the US. As with all statistics, depending on how they are presented, they sometimes sound contradictory but, in fact, they are complementary. Part of the reason why they are so different is that Britain was late getting into Motown and The Miracles with Smokey had ceased by 1972 and completely as recording artists a few years later, compared with the longevity of some of the other artists.
    Paul, glad you liked the Toppermost and your kind Comment. With old school friends your personal record books are legend and still a great source of many an interesting discussion sixty years later.
    The great thing is that we all agree The Miracles were a fabulous group, still giving much pleasure today.

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