#412: Going To A Go-Go, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Smokey Robinson wrote a number of songs for the Temptations before bailing to sing with the Miracles, a bid that worked out for him. He’s double-featured on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Miracles released their first record in 1961, but this one, released in 1965, was also the first one with Smokey getting top billing. It’s also the first cover that didn’t feature Claudette Rogers Robinson, which outraged me until I learned that she retired from touring life in 1964, preferring to sing in the studio.
Claudette married Robinson in 1959 (and divorced Robinson in 1986) and was related to two other Miracles. She has only sweet things to say about them, too, which I loved hearing from a woman touring in the Sixties. “They always treated me like a lady,” she said. “They never disrespected me, and my experience in showbusiness was so different from so many young ladies that have been on the road. The guys really looked out for me.”
There’s no other way to put this: Smokey sounds like a beautiful, delicate angel. I was utterly convinced that Claudette was singing lead on “Choosey Beggar” until I accepted that, no, it was Smokey Robinson. I kind of feel like he was the Harry Styles of the Sixties. Look at him: a green-eyed hunk that sings sadboy stuff (“The Tracks Of My Tears”), stuff where he just flat-out sounds like a girl (“Ooh Baby Baby,” “All That’s Good”).
Smokey left in 1972, but they didn’t break up until 1978 — they released nine whole albums without him. I’m impressed at how much their style evolved despite the loss, though — one look at their album covers tells you exactly what decade it is. (I remember the Temptations pulling a similar trick. How strange it must have been for doo-wop to transition to disco.) (Side note: Diana Ross of the Supremes is probably the person who made that leap with the most success, and funnily enough, when my boyfriend walked in during “Since You Won My Heart,” he guess that this was the Supremes. Right era and everything! I was so proud.)
Before you accuse them of selling out, though, just remember that parts of this record are already way ahead of their time, predicting genres the rest of the world would eventually cycle through. “Going To A Go-Go” is proto-disco, “In Case You Need Love” is practically 2000s pop, and “Let Me Have Some” is an actual sex song.
My favorite thing about doo-wop is that the songs are so easy to listen to — so easy in fact that you almost forget that they’re all so brilliantly executed. They’re like little pieces of candy that get stuck in my brain instead of my teeth. Take it from me, writing something that’s easy to understand is pretty frikking hard.
One Final Note: Did anyone else feel like the Miracles were getting a little bit more off-key in every song, like they recorded this whole thing in one breathless half hour and their ears were ringing? See “From Head To Toe” and “My Baby Changes Like The Weather.”