Sep 06

MARVIN GAYE – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”

FT + Popular62 comments • 6,768 views

#268, 29th March 1969

Some of my favourite soul performances go to the ragged-throated extremes of the style – Lorraine Ellison’s apocalyptic “Stay With Me”, for instance. But more of them are like “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, whose emotions are just as intense but more strictly controlled.

In fact the impact of Gaye’s song is in the way the singer enacts resisting the intolerable pressure of the situation – the sound of him not cracking up, howling or hollering or exploding with pain, is as powerful and wracking as the dams actually bursting. His only chance – whether of winning her back or just keeping his dignity (by the end it doesn’t necessarily matter) – is to stay reasonable, to not break down. The music – measured, smooth, almost smoochy – taunts his efforts. The backing singers hardly break a sweat. Stray words of Gaye’s bubble into wails or snarls, he ends bitter and defeated, but he keeps control. His reward is simply a limit on his humiliation, and the power of the song is in selling us a situation where that really is worth fighting so hard for.



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  1. 51
    Justified Ancient on 18 Nov 2014 #

    I seem to remember that (pardon: zat) “Zounds” existed just long enough to appear, put together their “Top 30 Songs of All Time” list and disappear again, all within the year 1992.

  2. 52
    Lazarus on 18 Nov 2014 #

    I don’t suppose anyone recalls the London-only music paper ‘Trax’, which appeared in early 1981? I have a couple of copies somewhere, but I’ve seen no trace of it on the ‘net.

    Or the equally short-lived ‘New Music News?’

  3. 53
    sukrat unlogged on 18 Nov 2014 #

    I have a copy of New Music News somewhere! I wasn’t very good.

  4. 54
    sukrat unlogged on 19 Nov 2014 #

    er that shd read “it wasn’t very good” i guess but w/evs

  5. 55
    wichitalineman on 19 Nov 2014 #

    New Music News, eh? But do you have any New Sounds New Styles?

  6. 57
    Mark G on 19 Nov 2014 #

    Wasn’t the NMN (as nobody called it) started up during the NME strike?

  7. 58
    Lazarus on 19 Nov 2014 #

    #56 Thanks, I did see those after posting; I’m not forking out 13 quid a copy, but I’m going to see how many I can find in the loft.

    I didn’t know there was an NME strike, but that would explain why the NMN only lasted a few weeks.

  8. 59
    cicero ada sukrat on 20 Nov 2014 #

    There were two strikes! The first was IPC-wide (in 1981) but MM’s editor ran a scab issue and a bunch of writers quit MM for NME — this was when NMN was conjured up to grab the gap. The second was in 1984 (I think) and the three most militant titles were NME, New Scientist and Woman’s (?Realm maybe?) (one of the fubsier-sounding women’s titles anyway, we shared a photocopier with them) — this militancy ensured NME was a management target for several years after that, which IMO contributed a lot to its editorial flaws in the mid-80s (and ultimately contributed in photo-negative — they were much more studiedly apolitical — to MM’s rather different editorial flaws in the late 80s and early 90s). Mark M might remember the details better though.

  9. 60
    punctum on 20 Nov 2014 #

    The first one was actually in 1980. I remember it – Richard Williams quit the paper. The second one was certainly in 1984. And I think the common problems to NME and MM are ascribable to the same person but naming no names here.

    Spotlight Publications, which published Music Week, Sounds and Record Mirror, were briefly on strike in October 1981. This resulted in an issue of Sounds full of puff pieces on a certain agent’s acts (who mostly would never otherwise have seen the inside of the paper).

  10. 61
    ace inhibitor on 20 Nov 2014 #

    I remember having a bootleg tape of a Redskins performance at an outdoor GLC event which must have been in the summer of 1984 (it ended with them getting attacked by fascist skinheads) during which Chris Dean did a bit along the lines of “this song’s dedicated to a group of workers who have stood firm and proud on the picket lines against this Tory government and their bootboys in blue… no, not the miners, its the NME actually…”

  11. 62
    lonepilgrim on 12 Feb 2017 #

    I wasn’t aware of IHITTG at the time and only became aware of it towards the end of the 1970s when I, and my friends from my Art Foundation course, discovered it on a jukebox in a cafe near our college in Worthing. It’s stripped down paranoia seemed to fit well along side the punk, post-punk and Berlin era Bowie we were listening to at the time. It makes sense that the Slits would cover it.

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