Towards the end of “Baby Come Back” the Equals start making “ch! ch! ch! ch!” noises in the background: it’s a nod to the way several ska tracks use the same sounds to add final momentum to a track, the ska train leaving the platform and pulling away into infinity. Except “Baby Come Back” isn’t quite ska, its rhythm sounds closer to the Motown 4/4, and so the train-noise trick sounds intriguingly off.
It’s a good way of reminding you that this is an excellent pop track that happens to have been made by a mixed-race, mixed-birthplace British-Caribbean band, not a track that should stand or fall on historical importance. You could, like Robin Carmody on his blog, raise an eyebrow at the fact that this track was kicking around for two years before pirate radio made it a hit, and you could also draw attention to the thickest Jamaican accents on a number one so far. But the accents don’t give the performance its determination and force on their own, and the elastic weave and thrust of the Equals’ three guitars isn’t specifically Caribbean either. If you want to link it to the soon-coming reggae boom, it’s at most a quirky sort-of harbinger. In the bubblegum-rich singles environment of 1968, though, it fits right in.