Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Miracles - Way Over There (Tamla 54028)

Way Over There

This is one of those records that still knocks me out every time I hear it. A record that never dented the charts, yet somehow managed to change the world.

The Miracles had the first release on Berry Gordy's newly created Motown label in September of 1959. Through his brother-in-law Roquel 'Billy' Davis, Gordy was able to secure national distribution for the single by leasing it to Chess. Despite the Chicago label's considerable industry muscle, Chess 1734 barely made it into the Billboard Hot 100, crawling to #93 in early October.

It was Tamla 54027 however, which had been released that August, that Gordy believed was destined for greatness. Billy Davis thought so too and, although I'm not sure why it took so long, he picked it up for release on Anna 1111 (which would also be distributed nationally by Chess) in March of 1960. They were right, of course, and Barret Strong's Money (That's What I Want) shot straight to #2 R&B and stayed there for six weeks of its five month run on the charts. It is one of those songs that will live on forever.

It was on the strength of that monster hit that Gordy was finally recognized as the hit-making force he was to become, and he was able to secure national distribution for future releases on his own terms and on his own labels.

The next Tamla release, 54028, was by The Miracles and had been issued in September of 1959, presumably around the same time as 'Bad Girl'. The A Side, The Feeling Is So Fine, wasn't much of a song, and certainly wouldn't fly as the follow-up single to 'Money'. Gordy pulled the record back, and replaced the top side with a great new Gospel inflected song Smokey Robinson had written, Way Over There, in February of 1960. But Gordy still wasn't through. He would withdraw it again, re-cut the song with a little more drive, add some strings, and put it out in March as this third and final incarnation of Tamla 54028 that we have here today.

As I said, I just love it to death. The teenaged Smokey is singing his heart out on this one... dig that little tip of the hat to Sam Cooke there on the fade, man. Awesome. Despite Gordy's high hopes, I'm sure, that the record would become another There Goes My Baby, it didn't happen, and Tamla and The Miracles would have to wait until December to bust things wide open with Shop Around. "That's all very nice, Red," you might ask, "but what on earth does all of this have to do with Record Store Day?"

Well, I dug this one out from under the stacks and stacks of vintage vinyl on a recent foray with John Broven and Dickie Tapp to one of the coolest record stores on earth, Platter World in Garfield, New Jersey.

Beloved owner Charlie Rigolosi passed away at 87 years old in February. "I've had a long run," he said, "...before they close the casket they're gonna play two songs - Artie Shaw's version of 'Yesterdays' and 'Begin The Beguine'. Then they close the casket and that's the end of Charlie." An inveterate record collector since he spent most of his allowance on an Artie Shaw 78 in 1940, it's sad to think that he is no longer behind the counter, surrounded by the incredible mountain of vinyl he nurtured and loved. He will most certainly be missed.

Charlie's daughter Gina is committed to doing the right thing by her Dad's records, however, and she and her husband Joe open the shop up every weekend. This is not some cutesy place that stocks a few vanity pressings by the latest angst-ridden alternative band-du-jour. This is a real Record Store. A place where you can dig through thousands of mostly un-categorized LPs and 45s on your own vinyl voyage of discovery... a rare find indeed in this digital age. You owe it to yourself to check it out!

In Vinyl Veritas!