Monday, July 18, 2011

All By Myself: The Supremes: "Where Did Our Love Go"

At first it was horrible, but at least she had been able to cry. Now she was blank; a blank, numb figure out in the humid, swampy city dense with foliage and trees dropping ripe fruits. There was a chance, a window, but it was closed now, he gave her the things he was going to give her and then walked away, plain as that. The blankness didn't go away, despite all she could do to distract it, and the city seemed quiet, still, her steps the only thing she could really hear. He said he would call, and now she could wait.

It was all she could do. The voices urged her to look, to keep looking, but there was nothing to really find. The wall-like air was like a mobile prison. Others did things, but all she could hear were her own steps, solitary in the street, in the shops, in the museum; and it wasn't supposed to be this way at all. Everything had been so perfect it had been making her giddy, but now she could only smile wanly. A city full of monuments to greatness sopped up her need to belong, if only temporarily, to something. He said he would call; this promise seemed unlikely but she had to hang on to it, even if she knew he wouldn't. She had no way to write to him, and anyhow, writing was what had gotten her into trouble in the first place; he was away on the weekend and was unreachable. So she sat and looked out the window, her godmother once again apologizing for the heat. But the heat wasn't the problem. What had happened? She could not just sit and mope, but had to go out there and lose herself, before heading back on the train, where her sadness would slowly turn into anger, then defiance. In truth, it already was, and she was determined to enjoy herself, heat or no. But the underlying sadness was slow to go away.


To an American's eyes, the early 60s UK charts seem rather resistant to Motown; it is as if some unknown force is keeping its relentless hit machine at bay. However with The Supremes the UK finally succumbs and (according to the NME) this nearly got to the top. It is only appropriate it did so well, as the clapping comes right out of the stomping of "Bits and Pieces" - as does the general lyrical misery, though the angry march of the DC5 turns into the desolate clomping cheer of this song, one that The Marvelettes had turned down for sounding too childish; and they warned The Supremes not to take Holland-Dozier-Holland's orders (for they wrote the song) without a fight; thus they made the song simpler and thus more sophisticated. It stands for a failed relationship, to be sure, but it also mourns for something indefinable that has been lost, happiness perhaps, innocence most certainly. Something has been thrown out and the rest of the 60s is merely a process of trying to replace it, if that is possible. Could music itself be the answer?

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