22 February 2008

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) mp3

never released

bootlegged in UK as In, IN6326, late 1970s.
reissued in UK as Tamla Motown, TMG1170, 1979.
reissued again as Tamla Motown 982 153 2, year unknown (2004?)
reissued again (bootlegged?) as Soul, TMG1170, year unknown.

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You

My copy, you'll not be surprised to learn, isn't an original. The last one of those to change hands went for £15,000.

This pressing mocks up the original label design, but uses the catalogue number of the 1979 UK reissue.

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You original label

I first heard of this record reading Stuart Maconie's book Cider With Roadies, which chronicles his life growing up and the evolution of his marrow-deep love of music.

Whilst not having the profound spiritual depth of Nick Hornby's 31 Songs, nonetheless it's a deeply insightful piece of music writing. Few people can be so genuinely in love with popular music in all its forms that they really truly understand Gentle Giant, punk and Chic, and can explain to you exactly why.

Maconie also has a taste for the extremely experimental, and his weekly Freak Zone radio show is a must-hear. Which you can do not only on the radio but for a week afterwards online (at poorer quality; you can get a podcast of highlights).

He's also a very funny man, and I laughed out loud more times than there are pages in the book. Take this bit about Slade;

Noddy Holder was not, as I originally thought on hearing the phrase, some kind of bizarre Enid Blyton-related implement, but a jolly, worryingly raucous individual from Walsall. His trousers were generally too short, the better to display his 12-hole oxblood docs, the footwear of choice for the man about town with a great many heads to kick in.

He had a penchant for long multicoloured patchwork jackets of the sort favoured by Dr Who and Jesus' favourite stepdad Joseph, although there the similarities with leading religious figures ended. Like Gary Glitter he looked permanently, antagonisingly startled and he had adopted the aforementioned riotously verdant 'sidies' last seen on Jimmy 'Wacko' Edwards.

Best of all though was his hat. He nearly always sported a top hat with small circular mirrors attached. It was the kind of thing desperate mums make for their offspring just before fancy-dress parties when they have no clear idea what to send them as.


Amazingly, though, Noddy Holder was not the most ridiculously dressed person in Slade. That honour has to go to Dave Hill. Dave was the group's second guitarist and had a guitar that bore the legend Superyob. He usually wore a jumpsuit made of the foil that you baste turkeys in and platforms of oil-rig-derrick height. All of this though paled in comparison with his coiffure, a sort of demented tonsure with a great scooping fringe. He looked like a glam rock version of a medieval monk.

Noddy's co-writer in Slade was Jimmy Lea, now, amazingly, a psychotherapist. In 1973 the thought of being psychoanalysed by a member of Slade would have been hilarious and terrifying, rather like Liam Gallagher being Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The line up was completed by the brooding, taciturn drummer Don Powell. Not much to say here other than that, at the height of their fame, Powell was injured in a car crash and afterwards suffered bouts of short-term memory loss. I don't intend to make light of this but even then I used to wonder what it must have felt like to 'come to' in the middle of a set and realise, 'well, I'm obviously a drummer of some sort. Wait a minute, isn't that Noddy Hol- bloody hell, I'm in Slade!'

Anyway, Maconie was also a resident of Wigan in the early 70s. The chapter on the town's legendary soul scene included this description of

what is often regarded as the best and certainly the rarest Northern Soul tune, 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)', one copy in existence, current asking price £15,000. More important than the price, it is utterly wonderful.

If you want to know what the magic of Northern Soul is, get yourself a copy (it's readily available on CD compilations, only the vinyl is worth the price of a terraced house in Whitehaven) and allow yourself to be swept away by its life-affirming, luminous, lump-in-the-throat beauty and effervescence.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no ailment or depression so profound and weighty that two and a half minutes in the company of this fabulous tune won't lift and banish. Excuse me while I go and put it on.

You see why that sent me scurrying off to find it?

Wilson was a writer and producer who did a fair few records in the 60s but really hit a winning streak at the end of the decade and into the 70s, notably with the post-Diana Supremes. One of his songs for them, Stoned Love, is a corker in much the same vein as Do I Love You.

But in 1965 he had a dalliance with the idea of being a performer. Just the one single was made. It seems that a few hundred were pressed but it was never properly released. It was forgotten about until discovered in the 70s by Northern Soul fans in Britain.

As Nick Hornby points out in 31 Songs, Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 is an amazing inventory of British traits. The line 'singalonga Smokey' may be about the American singer Smokey Robinson, but the British have always had a big love of black American music. We know we can't do it like them, but we really get what they do, it really speaks to us.

When the Stax Revue came over they were stunned to be mobbed at the airport and play a string of sold out concerts; this simply didn't happen to them anywhere else, not even back home. Even the standard term Northern Soul refers to that North of England scene in the early 70s.

To this day, old soul artists are amazed at the depth of knowledge and appreciation UK fans show compared with anyone else. Just the other week I heard Geno Washington on the radio making that point. No wonder it was British soul fans who discovered Do I Love You. We singalonga Smokey.

In the late 1970s, prior to any official release, British soul fans pressed a bootleg single of Do I Love You, with the label crediting it to Eddie Foster (In Records, IN 6326).

I've always loved Motown, and yet I'd kind of presumed that the classics were the best. It's a fair assumption. Anyone who's had a deep trawl through, say, first generation punk bands will know that there's a reason why we only know one song from Eddie and The Hot Rods or a couple from the Members but dozens from the Clash. It's cos the rest were shit.

Motown, however, is a case apart. Check out a compilation of Gladys Knight's Motown years and it's all killer no filler. Go a tad more obscure, get a Tammi Terrell and it's the same. And further it goes, into artists you've never heard of, until frankly if you did the maths Motown seem to have transgressed dimensional boundaries in the 1960s; there seem to be more hours of great Motown recordings than there were hours in the decade.

Then, if the released stuff wasn't enough, came the Motown Connoisseurs compilations. These were put together by Richard Searling, a Northern Soul legend whose credentials stretch as far back as being one of the original Wigan Casino DJs.

On Motown Connoisseurs Volume 1 there's a huge variety of Motown songs, all unreleased or painfully obscure, almost all of them as good as the classics that everybody knows. Volume 2 does more of the same, with the excruciating exception of a Four Tops track from the 80s.

However, Motown Connoisseurs Volume 1 featured Chris Clark's version of Do I Love You. Clark was Motown's first (and, for a long time, only) white signing. She possessed little of the charisma of her label mates and even less of their talent. Her version of Do I Love You is Wilson's backing track with Clark's anaemic voice failing to do it justice. It's like watching a wet tissue break over the front of a speeding train.

Searling then put together Northern Soul Connoisseurs. This has Frank Wilson's Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) on it. But it's a different version, a remake that lacks the urgency and effervescence of the single I've got. (It's quickly distinguished by the ad-lib "here's another thing I wanna say to you now" at about 0.58 just before the second verse).

In a further insult/injury interface, the recent reissue 45 (Tamla Motown 982 153 2) has Frank Wilson's inferior version backed with Chris Clark's!

The other week I was in a bookshop playing a top quality Motown compilation and there amongst all the tunes even your gran knows was Do I Love You, seemingly taking its place among the classics. But, again, it was the inferior version. This made me want to post the more yawping version here.

The single is a slightly shonky affair (hence my suspicion of it being a bootleg) and has endearingly/irritatingly missed off the first note. But three seconds in to the track you just don't care. You're off, soaring away on the greatest euphoric Motown stomper of them all.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]

Incidentally, Amazon do all those Connoisseurs albums for £3.33 each. If you're buying a £12 CD or DVD, it can be cheaper to buy one of these and qualify for free postage than to just buy your one item. Go get 'em!


Anonymous said...

Bloody marvellous track. Thanks. Nice one.

Anonymous said...

"Do I love you" crops up on Virgin's "The best Northern Soul All-Nighter …ever!" - I think it's the original, I'll have to compare with your download...

It is a fantastic track and Maconie does make you want to go and listen to it again.

I'd heard it before reading Maconie's book - which I enjoyed a lot but my paperback copy was littered with poor spellings! I don't know if he proof-read his own copy but he should be ashamed for letting stuff like "Dobie GARY" and "Siouxsie SUE" get printed!


Anonymous said...

I looked at 31 Songs once; actually I only remember looking at his take on "Frankie Teardrop". I hated it and put it down quite quickly. But I kept thinking about it - and the more I thought about it the more I hated it, until for a while I was seriously considering going back to the shop, buying it, reading the whole thing, buying any records he reviewed that I didn't already have, and writing a book-length reply taking issue with every stupid line on every stupid page.

You could say it got to me.

So I'm interested that your take on it was, um, a bit more positive.

merrick said...

Phil, the thing with 31 songs is that it isn't a 'my favourite 31 songs', or a 'the 31 best songs ever'.

Each of them is something that sparks something in him, and he uses that as a springboard to talk about music generally. some of the essays are 10 pages long and spend only a few lines describing the actual song.

For instance, he picks Rain by The Beatles. Not because it's their best, but because we haven't heard it a zillion times from the day we were born. It's the sound of them at the peak of their powers and yet it's still a bit frsh to our ears. That gives us a glimpse of what it must've been like to hear Hey Jude or Strawberry Fields at the time, and why there's such a fuss made of their music.

It's written by someone with a real gift for language, a fealressness in describing emotions, and a sense of magic and awe for music itself.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to give it another go. Still think the way he stamped all over "Frankie Teardrop" was stupid, manipulative and dishonest. I mean, I don't much like Suicide; they were recommended to me years ago by a workmate who said they were the most intense thing ever, and he was older than me but still lived with his parents. Fast forward to the present & I'm 47, have two kids, have lost both parents, etc, so on paper I ought to sympathise with Hornby on this one. But I really don't. Gerard Manley Hopkins:

"O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there."

I think there's a dignity, and a reality, to childhood & adolescent suffering: the cliffs lonely kids in their bedrooms hang from are just as real as the one I looked over when my mother died. The implications of that thought are genuinely frightening - and Hornby's indignant refusal to entertain it smacked of imperfectly-repressed fear.

Thanks for prompting me to formulate that - maybe I will write that book...

radio nixon said...

I totally agree with everything you say about the Frank Wilson record (one of the greatest of all Motown singles), and I have no idea if you're still looking at comments on this, but just a short aside: Chris Clark wasn't even close to being Motown's first white signing. She signed more than five years after Debbie Dean, and there were dozens of white Motown artists before, during and after Clark's time with the company. Just saying, like.

Brilliant piece, though, really enjoyed reading it.

merrick said...

Radio nixon,

thanks a lot for your comment. That's what I love about online publishing, your information gets refined and you can move to a clearer picture of a subject.

Who were the earlier white signings? Were any of them any good?

(And yes, as is now self-evident, I am still checking comments. Most blogs have a facility for any comments to be emailed to the blogger, and most bloggers are keen enough on their writings to have that facility turned on).

merrick said...

Here's a biog of Debbie Dean who, as Radio Nixon points out, was signed to Motown years before Chris Clark.