Released to coincide with The Supremes’ must-see exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum (see our news pages), this excellent 2-CD set charts the extraordinary rags to riches career trajectory of one of the world’s most significant and best loved vocal groups. Though the iconic Motown group’s biggest hits – like ‘Where Did Our Love Go,’ ‘Baby Love,’ and ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ – have become synonymous with the swinging ’60s and the era of Civil Rights protests, paradoxically, those same songs have also actually transcended time and achieved evergreen status. Some of the songs on this CD are so familiar and have become such an integral part of the musical and cultural fabric of the western world that it’s easy to overlook how different they were from the norm when they were first released. Certainly, The Supremes’ deft blend of elements from black and white music – from soul and pop – resulted in a potent hybrid that some historical commentators perceive as helping to erode racial barriers in America during a troubled and turbulent era. People also forget that The Supremes weren’t an instant success – in fact, for a long time, their inability to achieve a hit single was a source of acute embarrassment for Motown. As well as the essential ’60s hits, this collection includes some of the trio’s early pre-1964 material and a clutch of overlooked ’70s sides from several post-Diana Ross incarnations of the group (including the excellent Stevie Wonder-helmed ‘Bad Weather’). If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t own a Supremes’ record, then this is the one to buy.
Charles Waring talks to MARY WILSON.
What has been the highlight of your career as a Supreme?
There are so many and I’m not saying this because I’m speaking to you but one of the most memorable was doing the Command Performance for your Royal family – because for people from America it was like a fairytale to actually be in the company of Royalty. It’s quite an accomplishment and so that’s one of the highlights. Also, I think meeting Sammy Davis Jr. He was a great guy. Sammy was just so big, so real and so talented. I had so much fun with him all the time. He would always kid around with me like I was his little sister. He was really great. Also, being on the Ed Sullivan Show was a big highlight. We were on the Ed Sullivan Show almost every other Sunday and that was the big show in America. Families watched it. You guys had similar things like Top of the Pops, which we performed on several times. That was one of the highlights too.
What do you remember about your first trip to the UK?
Oh God, it was great. I remember so much. I remember the Motown Appreciation fan club met us at the airport and we felt how it must have been when the Americans greeted The Beatles like that. You guys greeted us over in the UK in the same manner. There were people coming out with flowers and the paparazzi were there – and the paparazzi before they were known as the paparazzi really were cool. So that was quite, quite wonderful and then of course we did all the shows and we met all kinds of people over there.
What was your first impression of the country? Was it your first time outside the States?
It was pretty much our first time out. I think we had also been to Bermuda but that was about it. I loved it. I loved the countryside. It was always so green and it was cold at times as well. And I remember the sheep. You could ride along the highway and see these farm animals. In the States they were relegated to certain areas. So that was always very wonderful and I remember in school I had studied about this white horse on a hill and on my first trip to the UK we passed it. And it was such a huge thing for me – I’m sitting there and all of a sudden I saw it. I’m like ‘oh my God, I studied about that in school!’ It was so cool because I was beginning to become a part of life and the world in this manner. That’s what I love about having been a Supreme and having this career because it got me in touch with so many things in the world that I never would have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.
What was it like working with Holland-Dozier-Holland?
Absolutely wonderful. First of all, when you’re in their presence, you know that they know what they’re talking about musically. They are so musical. It was like working with God’s musicians. These guys are music. It’s a shame that they don’t get as many accolades as they should because their music book is huge. You hear about these guys The Beatles, which is great, but you don’t hear as much about Holland-Dozier-Holland in terms of giving them real respect in regard to how much they created – because not only did they do our tunes, they recorded with the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas as well. They did everybody.