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I’m in the groove.

October 7, 2009

You were getting sick of seeing that image of Ben Folds at the top of the page weren’t you? I’m sorry… things get too busy in the fall. And even though I should be sitting in a chair with a hot pad around my neck (got a nasty bout of whiplash in volleyball last night — those concrete walls really should let you know you’re dangerously close), I’m trying to do right by you dear readers and provide some more good tunes and debating ground.

We’re in a new month now, so I guess it’s time to reset the monthly series, the first of which as always is “Vs.”

This month we pit a bunch of early 1960’s American soulsters against another bunch of early 1960’s British stompers as they both take on one of the most beloved call and response songs of all time, “Do You Love Me.”

“Do You Love Me” was written by Berry Gordy in the formative days of Motown Records, and had the Temptations not scurried out of Detroit on a 1962 night to take part in a gospel music showcase, it could have been the band’s first major hit. As luck would have it, the Contours were hanging around the studio, consciously straddling the line of being dropped after producing a run of non-hit singles, but Gordy was so enthused by his new composition that he put the band in the studio immediately to cut the track.

With the background music provided by the Funk Brothers (who would backdrop several of Motown’s very best offerings), Billy Gordon delivered an impassioned lead vocal and the sheer energy of the song would result in more than a million sales of the single, as well as climbing to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962, and peaking at the top of the Billboard R&B chart.

It would get a second appearance in the Top 20 more than 20 years later when “Dirty Dancing” became a late 1980s sensation and introduced a whole new generation of kids to just how fun the song truly is. Of course, people say it’s the only song the Contours ever really had, and while it’s the only hit they had, I’d point you in the direction of “Just a Little Misunderstanding,” which was also on the Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance) album. Fabulous tune and a true Northern Soul classic.

As popular as the song was on these shores, it (along with several other R&B cuts) blew a bunch of Brits away, including those who were forming their own bands at the time and needed material to fill out their sets. Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and the Hollies both added “Do You Love Me” to their repertoire, but no British act ever attacked it with the verve the Dave Clark Five offered.

The cut was included on their 1964 debut album, Glad All Over, which was better known for its title track and the pounding “Bits and Pieces,” but Mike Smith delivered a lead vocal on “Do You Love Me” that rivaled the energy of Billy Gordon’s two years prior. And the pounding production provided on Glad All Over gave the song, like many DC5 cuts, absolutely pulsating out of your speakers. Plus, how can you argue with this great British choreography?

I wrote a blog early last year where I questioned the DC5’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I felt bad enough when Mike Smith died a few days later, but I feel even worse about it today as I pour through a number of DC5 cuts and realize they really were a great little band. Does it mean I’m any less angry that they’re in while neither the Small Faces nor Faces are? No, but… I’m a little bit more forgiving now. I mean let’s face it — the thought of a bunch of limeys covering an American soul tune? Sure a lot of British bands with varying degrees of success, but this is as about a cocksure cover as has ever been recorded.

Better than the Contours? I honestly don’t know. But I’m willing to say it’s at least as good. Settle for a draw?

dc5vcontours

The Contours vs. The Dave Clark Five
“Do You Love Me”

The Contours – Do You Love Me

The Dave Clark Five – Do You Love Me

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