Saturday, September 24, 2016

SHG: The Miracles: "Shop Around"

The Miracles: “Shop Around”
Entered the chart on: 12/31/1960
Peaked on: 2/20/1961
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “Calcutta” by Lawrence Welk

I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t Mike promise us a whole bunch of instrumental hits in a row?” Well, you’re close, except for the “in a row” part. If it helps, the (deservedly) forgotten Lawrence Welk tune in the #1 spot is an instrumental.

You’re probably also thinking, “wasn’t ‘Shop Around’ a #1 hit?” it wasn’t. For some reason I was remembering it was...when covered by the Captain & Tennille., apparently that was wrong too. Good. I don’t think I’d want to live in such a world. It’s bad enough that James Taylor’s wilted-lettuce rendition of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” charted one spot higher than Marvin Gaye’s.

That’s Smokey Robinson’s Miracles, of course. This is from before the “Smokey Robinson and the” prefix was added in ’65. It’s so old, Smokey’s sister Claudette is still in the group (she’d quit in ’64, leaving the Miracles resolutely male ever since). It’s also the first song by them to hit the charts, and the first song on the fabled Motown label to be a major chart hit.

No question who the star of the show is. The opening is just Smokey by himself before the other Miracles join in and the song kicks in the octane. If you’re familiar with Smokey for his later reputation as a smooth balladeer (we’ll get there much later), his rousing performance of this tune will probably take you by surprise. I’m extremely impressed by some of the high notes he hits in this! Add him to the list of singers whose range I’m extremely envious of, alongside Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison.

I have to wonder what mother would advise her son, “you’re young, go ahead and play the field! Mess around with as many girls as you like!” but perhaps I’m over-thinking it. Smokey hadn’t crafted his poetic style yet, this was very much in the tenor of the times. For what it is, an energetic soul tune with a unique message, it’s very good.

Rating: 4

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