Oct 06

FREDA PAYNE – “Band Of Gold”

FT + Popular53 comments • 8,415 views

#291, 19th September 1970

“Band Of Gold” isn’t a particular standout musically – a Motown beat that seems to have gone a bit stale on its journey over to the Invictus label, a string arrangement low in the mix and an enjoyably twangy guitar. It does a job but it’s down to Freda Payne to give the record its kick. And she does – a performance full of hurt, sorrow and indignant anger. Impotence is a rare pop topic, now as then: the lyric stresses the bride’s naivety, but the strongest impression I get is that Payne simply can’t believe the affrontery of what’s happened: whatever olive branches she’s prepared to hand out (“love me like you tried before”) pale beside her bubbling, disbelieving wrath – “but THAT NIGHT, on our HONEYMOON”. It’s withering stuff: a shame the band also couldn’t get it up a little more.



  1. 1
    Matos W.K. on 17 Oct 2006 #

    One of my favorite singles of all time, and a great record to begin the polling with. What a terrific idea.

  2. 2
    Matos W.K. on 17 Oct 2006 #

    For the record, I’d give it a 9.

  3. 3
    Tom on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I actually wonder if my MP3 copy of this one is a bit defective, cos every time I’ve heard it out it’s had a lot more punch from the band. If so I may revise the mark up for once.

    The polling is new, yes! If it has any negative impact on the quality of comments I’ll stop doing it (or if it makes the server run slow) but I like the idea a lot.

  4. 4
    Brian on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I always thought this record to be much later ( 1977 was Saurday Night Fever ! ) and always associated it with ” Disco”. I think it could be argued that this may be the first # 1 disco tune ?

  5. 5
    Matos W.K. on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Sonically it’s not nearly disco enough by my ear for that claim–at least in the sense of “disco” meaning 4/4 kickdrum, hi-hat on the offbeat, etc. It’s definitely more like late Motown, snares predominant on the kit, that kind of thing. Definitely has a huffing-and-puffing rhythmic momentum, almost marching band-like, that a lot of early disco has (e.g. Al Downing’s “I’ll Keep Holding On,” Don Downing’s “Dreamworld”), though.

  6. 6
    bramble on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I never thought of it as disco. It was one of the Holland-Dozier-Holland productions on their new Invictus label, along with Chairmen of the Board, after falling out with Motown and the great bass line carries on the Motown sound.Freda Payne’s sister was in the post-Diana Ross Supremes, though Freda herself always sounded more of jazz than soul on most of her records.

  7. 7
    henry on 17 Oct 2006 #

    “Feel The Need In Me” by the Detroit Emeralds (1972) sure feels like the first disco track to me. The string arrangement gives it a lush hedonism, while the the horns add an oomph that renders it more danceable than the Philly stuff of the same era.

  8. 8
    Matos W.K. on 17 Oct 2006 #

    “Feel the Need” is a great record and definitely a big early disco favorite. Peter Shapiro usually gives the first-disco-record crown to the Temptations’ “Law of the Land,” also from ’72.

  9. 9
    wwolfe on 18 Oct 2006 #

    I think that twangy guitar is a late appearance by the electric sitar, also used on the Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby” and B.J. Thomas’s “Hooked On a Feeling.” It works great here. This is a record where once you start singing it, you just can’t stop – there’s a circular structure to the melody that makes you want it to keep going and going.

    I also liked Freda’s other big American hit, “Bring the Boys Home,” one of the few pop hits that specifically protested the Vietnam War, rather than simply saying that war in general is bad.

  10. 10
    Doctor Mod on 18 Oct 2006 #

    Musically, this was one of the more interesting songs of the early 1970s. The electric sitar perhaps makes it sound a little dated by today’s standards, but still, the recording provided a truly interesting mix of ingredients. The beat might foreshadow disco, but no one would have thought of this then–I agree with those who describe it as late Motown. On top of that, it’s truly catchy and has great hooks, all the ingredients for the perfect pop hit.

    That being said, what can’t be ignored are the lyrics. As I recall, they were the subject of great debate among my friends. It was obviously about a honeymoon during the course of which something went really, really wrong and he left. But what??? We were all quite sure that it couldn’t be THAT, because you just couldn’t discuss THAT in a pop song–maybe in some “underground” thing that would only be played on a small FM station at two in the morning (were some really outrageous things could be heard every now and then) but not on Top 40 stations. And anyway, it all sounded too, well, decorous to be about anything controversial. What was even stranger is that the disc jockeys didn’t even joke about it–and puerile bad jokes were (still are) the stock and trade of Top 40 disc jockeys. (Ah, please make those gibbering fools read Freud’s Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.)

    But nowadays I realize that it means EXACTLY what everyone thought it meant. Sometimes the obvious explanation is the correct one. I suppose this was some sort of breakthrough in terms of what could be said on mainstream radio. Music-wise, it spearheaded a new trend in crossover pop/soul (which is what Invictus might have been attempting to achieve). Lyric-wise, I can’t remember anything else quite like this that attempted to be, ahem, in relatively good taste.

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Oct 2006 #

    The debate about the lyric is easily resolved by the verse and bridge which were excised from the 45 version (but appears in full on Payne’s Unhooked Generation best-of), viz.:

    “Now that you’ve gone, all that’s left is a band of gold
    All that’s left of the dreams I hold is a band of gold
    And the memory of our wedding day
    And the night I turned you away”


    “Each night I lie awake and I tell myself
    The vows we made gave you the right to have a love each night.”

  12. 12
    Brian on 18 Oct 2006 #

    I now know why I thought “B of G” was disco. As it’s been looping in my head in true ear-worm fashion, I kept hearing it fade to ” Standing In The Shadows of Love “. Why ? K-Tel ! I had a ” hooked on ” LP that must have been “Hooked On Motown ” or something that set all these songs against a steady thump – thump that was meant to simulate disco and supply a continuous beat to a bunch of songs.

    Did you have K – TEL ? in the UK or ” Hooked On ” series of music ?

  13. 13
    Doctor Mod on 19 Oct 2006 #

    Thank you, Marcello. I didn’t know these lyrics existed. This rather shifts the blame balance, making it seem as if HE tried and SHE wouldn’t (as opposed to HE couldn’t) and so he just took a hike.

    As Miss Emily Littella used to say on Saturday Night Live, Oh. Well that’s quite different.

    Even so, I’m not sure that making HER the guilty party makes it any better–but I have to wonder about the reason for the excision: I think that the uncooperative bride scenario actually would have been acceptable to mainstream audiences than the idea that he somehow failed to do the deed.

    But the was 1970. Nowadays, there are commercials on American radio for cures for what I recently misunderstood (while listening to the car radio in heavy traffic and thus not quite attentive) as “Attention all men! Are you suffering from a reptile dysfunction?” Huh? (Visualizing strange images.) Then I realized what they were really saying. One supposes, then, that certain things are hardly taboo anymore.

  14. 14
    wwolfe on 19 Oct 2006 #

    Jim Morrison was the one suffering from a reptile dysfunction in 1970.

  15. 15
    Erithian on 20 Oct 2006 #

    Brian – we had a couple of “Hooked On”-type things over here, notably “Hooked on Classics” by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, no less, which put the confounded disco thump-thump beat behind a range of well-known classical music themes. More prevalent was the infamous “Stars on 45” which ruined a selection of songs by the Beatles, Abba, Stevie Wonder and others by the same method. My favourite of them all was “Classical Mudley” by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, which deservedly sent up the whole thing – their discofied classics included the Blue Danube, where they put the disco thump to a waltz tempo. Hilarious.

    I forget who said it while “Popular” was covering late ’66, but there was a suggestion that if “Good Vibrations” had been followed at Number 1 by an early release of “Strawberry Fields” and not by Tom Jones, it would have been a milestone victory for “serious” as opposed to “frivolous” pop and the chart subsequently might have developed along different lines. This, if you will, battle for music’s soul comes to mind looking at the Number 2 hits of 1970. We’ve earmarked it as a weird year, but how differently might we have looked at it if, say, “Let’s Work Together” had toppled “Love Grows”, if “All Right Now” had triumphed over “In The Summertime”, “Lola” over “Wonder Of You” and Deep Purple’s “Black Night” over Freda Payne? A bit more “cred” at least.

  16. 16
    Rosie on 20 Oct 2006 #

    Oooh – I’ve had my eye off the ball for a week or so and you’re back! And some good stuff to come back with. I like the poll – in this case 8 is about right, and I’d have given Tears of a Clown a 9, borderline 10, as it’s one of my favourites from round about this time. But then I was bathed in a warm fuzzy glow – back from a summer in France where I discovered sex for the first time!

  17. 17
    Chris Brown on 24 Oct 2006 #

    Has anyone mentioned that Freda Payne actually married Gregory Abbott? Insert your own ‘Shake You Down’ gag here.

  18. 18
    CarsmileSteve on 25 Oct 2006 #

    um, i’m not sure that Portsmouth Sinfonia was a send-up as such, more a kind of art “what is music?” statement…

    also i really like stars on 45, but i realise i’m very much in the minority here, but it’s certainly how i came to know (small bits of) so many beatles songs…

  19. 19
    Tom on 25 Oct 2006 #

    I like Stars on 45 too.

  20. 20
    Tim on 25 Oct 2006 #

    In my world “Band of Gold” is more serious, less frivolous, more credible (also more “cred” if that’s different) more listenable, more fun, and just downright *better* than stinky old “Black Night”.

    Erithian, if the battle for “music’s soul” took place on the territory you describe then thank goodness the right side won.

    (Side note: poptimism gets characterised as panglossianism, which it needn’t be, but rockism seems to be at its core contra-panglossian, even to the point of grabbing a sense of defeat from what could sensibly be seen as victory, but this is just a random thought and not really aimed at Erithian, or anyone else for that matter.)

  21. 21
    Dall'Ufficio AutoReply on 25 Oct 2006 #

    I like the original Stars On 45 bootleg which used the original Beatles records.

    Band Of Gold vs. Black Night “battle” is (a) nonsensical; (b) nonexistent.

  22. 22
    Erithian on 26 Oct 2006 #

    Ha ha, I thought somebody would take me to task over “Black Night” v “Band of Gold” before long. Honestly, I didn’t mean to categorise all four Number 1s in that list as frivolous – it was just that the “Strawberry Fields” discussion came to mind when noticing four Number 2 hits that in my opinion would have greatly improved the year’s stock of Number 1s if they’d won out in their respective battles. I’ll defend my preference for Purple over Payne, Tim, but neither of us are wrong, it’s just a matter of personal taste. The other record blocked by (the admittedly fine) “Band of Gold” was “You Can Get It If You Really Want” by Desmond Dekker, which will no doubt have its backers!

    I was always more a rock fan than a soul one, but in discussion with a soulboy friend the other day I acknowledged that at the same time as my cool friend down the street was introducing me to Purple, Sabbath and Heep (!), I would be bopping away to the Detroit Emeralds at the school party and thoroughly enjoying it. Mind you the chart battle really kicks in later in the decade when it’s new wave versus cheesy disco – I despised the moronic “Let’s All Chant”-type stuff. [dons tin helmet]

  23. 23
    Marcello Carlin on 26 Oct 2006 #

    Oh dear, and you were doing so well…

  24. 24
    Dadaismus on 27 Oct 2006 #

    This is a 10

  25. 25
    Tim on 27 Oct 2006 #

    Hey Erithian, I’ve no problem with you liking the Purps more than dear old Freda, even if I find such a choice inexplicable. It was the “cred” thing at which I bridled, I think. I haven’t mixed in circles where DP would qualify as more “credible” than FP for a long, long time (if ever). I don’t deny they exist.

    Also “serious” / “frivolous” aren’t (only) matters of taste, are they?

    The BN / BoG battle doesn’t exist, it’s true. Then again, isn’t taking sides fun?

  26. 26


  27. 27
    Erithian on 27 Oct 2006 #

    Tim – I’ve mixed in those circles, and in circles where the opposite is the case! Just goes to show that I was on shakier ground with the fourth pairing I chose back there. The BN/BoG battle, like most of them, is just an accident of particular songs being at 1 and 2 at any given time (Blur/Oasis might have been different…) but yes it’s fun taking sides as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

    Coming up: Clive Dunn v T Rex!

  28. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Oct 2006 #

    maybe wait until it comes up before putting in spoilers?

  29. 29
    Tom on 28 Oct 2006 #

    I am not sure it’s exactly a ‘spoiler’ MC cos the number 1 lists are a matter of public record!

  30. 30
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Oct 2006 #

    Yes I know, but the number 2 lists aren’t so well documented, even though they can be found, and you and I know what they are/were anyway. I just think there’s a nice serendipity in discussing what else was in the chart at the time of a particular chart-topper when we get to it so that we get all the “goodness me!” “blow me down!” etc…

  31. 31
    Tom on 30 Oct 2006 #

    Ah right, crossed wires – I misread Erithian as talking about two No.1 singles (T Rex’s first also coming up) (I am crossing my fingers that this week I’ll actually be able to write more than one entry)

  32. 32
    Erithian on 30 Oct 2006 #

    OK, point taken Marcello, and indeed I had a little whinge about people talking about unconsummated marriage songs before the “Band of Gold” entry had been posted! It was just that one or two of us were getting so worked up about Purple v Freda, and I noticed a pairing coming up that must have aroused Ultravox-esque rage among many at the time. I agree about the serendipity, so let’s leave it there. (and leave Ultravox alone for now as well…)

  33. 33

    “Ultravox-esque rage” is my phrase of the week so far — i shall be using (or doubtless misusing) it whenever i can

  34. 34
    Tom on 30 Oct 2006 #

    I have visions of pencil moustaches bristling with barely suppressed ire.

  35. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Oct 2006 #

    The Unique Paradox of Midge Ure at Number One is indeed something I anticipate on Popular with much covert twirling of bars of handle.

  36. 36
    Dadaismus on 31 Oct 2006 #

    I look forward to an account of how “Shaddup Your Face” prevented “Vienna” from reaching No. 1 with unseemly relish

  37. 37
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Oct 2006 #

    I was thinking more of the records involving Midge which did get to number one; a curious array to be sure.

  38. 38
    Louie on 19 Nov 2006 #

    Speaking of Black Night by Deep Purple, it’s a rip of We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet by the Blues MacGoos. However, that riff was lifted directly from Ricky Nelson’s version of Summertime and the Living is Easy (can’t recall the correct name)—ain’t pop music history fun?

  39. 39
    Steve Owen on 24 Nov 2006 #

    My most fav track takes me back to my first girl friend. Shivers down my spine 10/10

  40. 40
    Waldo on 29 Sep 2009 #

    Freda Payne is Anne of Cleves.

  41. 41
    wichita lineman on 30 Sep 2009 #

    Also notable for having no verse or no chorus, depending how you see it. Ultimate failsafe floorfiller?

  42. 42
    Ken Shinn on 28 Mar 2012 #

    I swear that there’s a mid-70s version of this (artist unknown) which turns the whole thing into knowing sitcom – there’s a constant toot/whistle rhythm track reminiscent of Popeye cartoons, and I recall that the singer finally extends (albeit somewhat irritably) an olive branch to her other half – “WON’T YOU STOP THAT WHISTLING, STANLEY, AND COME IN HERE!!! – I ain’t gonna BITE ya…” Googling hasn’t helped with investigations, but I’m sure that it isn’t a rarebit dream of mine. Can any of you fine folks help?

  43. 43
    Lena on 1 May 2012 #

    Motown/Not Motown: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/you-cant-hurry-love-chairmen-of-board.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  44. 45
    Lena on 8 May 2012 #

    Man in dark seeks home: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/rock-and-roll-deep-purple-black-night.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  45. 46
    JLR on 15 Apr 2014 #

    Maybe it’s been said already, but what you’ve heard as guitar, I’d swear to be sitar, Tom. Maybe I’m wrong? And it was only a couple years ago I figured out the song’s about what it is about, so melodically cheerful I’d thought it when I was a kid.

    Don’t know how many readers you get from the U.S., but I’m one who discovered you a few years ago via The Singles Jukebox blog and have enjoyed your insights no matter a profound philosophical difference or two (am a politically conservative capitalist Christian, but I’d like to think I know good music criticism when I read it, too).

  46. 47
    Tom on 15 Apr 2014 #

    Hi JLR – as I’ve learned to my sorrow, nothing could be likelier than me misidentifying an instrument! So you’re almost certainly right. (And thanks for reading!)

  47. 48
    hectorthebat on 14 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 9
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 81
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 391
    Stylus (USA) – Seconds: One Song Essay Every Week
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 82
    Mojo (UK) – The Ultimate Jukebox: 100 Singles You Must Own (2003) 14
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 54
    Paul Roland (UK) – CD Guide to Pop & Rock, 100 Essential Singles (2001)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    STM Entertainment (Australia) – The 50 Best Songs Ever (2007) 49
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  48. 49
    Lazarus on 4 Apr 2016 #

    I have this on a compilation, ‘This is Northern Soul 2’ but was it a hit on the Northern scene, or was it rather too mainstream? (I note that NS was discussed on the Tams thread, and maybe under ‘Tainted Love’ too, but not here, which suggests not). And going back to the lyrics, even if the story was that he couldn’t rather than she wouldn’t, that should have been cause for sympathy and support, surely, rather than anger on Freda’s part. It makes me think of an early Lily Allen hit – not, I think, a bunny – in which her fella was suffering a different form of dysfunction and all she can respond with is ‘It’s not fair.’ Yeah, like he’s doing it on purpose.

  49. 50
    enitharmon on 4 Apr 2016 #

    Lazarus @ 49: it was, as I recall, one of the initial releases of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s shiny new Invictus Records and as such got a lot of publicity and airtime from the start. So no, not a NS kind of thing. But I may be a meringue.

  50. 51
    Phil on 5 Apr 2016 #

    Apparently Freda Payne didn’t want to take the song because she didn’t think it would sound credible coming from her – specifically, she didn’t think that she could carry off the ‘virgin so freaked out by the prospect of sex that her new husband leaves on the spot’ demanded by the full lyrics (see Marcello @11).

    But, of course, thanks to the ‘single edit’ (which as I understand it was only intended to shorten the song), that’s not the song we heard. So we’ve got a man who walks out on his wedding night and a woman who’s absolutely furious about it. Why’s she angry about impotence? I didn’t think very deeply about this at the time, only being ten years old, but one reading is that she’s angry because he knew, or should have known, that he’d have trouble going through with it, with her or any other woman. Supposedly it was a hit in gay discos for just this reason – Freda’s anguish projected onto the poor guy who’d got himself into that situation.

  51. 52
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jun 2018 #

    In the early episodes of Mad Men, at the start of the 1960s, Betty Draper and her suburban friends were aghast to discover that their new neighbour was a divorcee and treated her as a potential vector of infection. By the end of the series, and the decade, half or more of the marriages – including Betty’s – had ended. Divorce was becoming the norm. I wonder whether this song touched a nerve and/or reflected the times. The vagueness of the lyrics over what exactly has happened may have helped listeners to match it to their own experience – whether lived or anticipated. Had the full lyrics been included then I think there would have been a tension between Freda’s fierce accusatory tone and words that put the blamed herself.

  52. 53
    wichitalineman on 19 Jun 2018 #

    Re 53: First piece of music ever played in Mad Men – theme tune aside – was Don Cherry’s Band Of Gold. Not the jazzer Don Cherry, and not this Band Of Gold, it was instead a brassy croon, a New York equivalent to Finger Of Suspicion maybe… but the coincidence was too neat to pass by.

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