24
Jan 05

THE SUPREMES – “Baby Love”

Popular11 comments • 2,474 views

#181, 21st November 1964

At the start of this record – though maybe it was mixed in years later – there’s a lovely bit of stereo panning where a troupe of polite feet tap across your head from right to left and then quickly back. What images does it summon? Fuzzy TV pictures of women in formation, a tidy, untouchable trio swaying and clapping in perfect order. “Baby Love” still irresistibly provokes movement – but neat, clipped, upper-body movement. It acquiesces mildly to Motown’s rhythmic grid, never challenging it and just as crucially never really using it to build momentum. There’s a hint of drive in the gradual crescendo on the sax break but “Baby Love” is still the most inert of the big Supremes hits.

Does that mean it’s a bad record? God no, it’s a fantastic record. In terms of the drama and energy of its stablemates “Baby Love” falls flat but it’s hard to think of many other hit records so absolutely committed to simple gorgeousness. In fact I have only just realised – on, what, my 100th listen? – that the story in “Baby Love” is one of romantic crisis, so to the track’s other failures we must add a total inability to reflect its own lyrics. And does that matter? Not at all – a single coo dispels the heaviest doubt. “Baby Love” is a gambol, a delight, a chiming wonder, a focused pursuit of prettiness centered on Diana Ross who turns out to be a professional and a performer and one who knows precisely how much sugar you need to ice a cake.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Joe Williams on 31 Aug 2005 #

    That stereo effect isn’t on the original, must be a remixed version you heard. Great record, though you’re right that there are much finer Supremes moments. ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ is my personal favourite.

  2. 2
    Lena on 14 Oct 2006 #

    I once brought the Hitsville USA compilation home to play for my parents and this was the only song my father didn’t like – too many ‘baby’s – and I agree with him. I like the Supremes when they are less sugary, as in “Stop In the Name of Love” or “You Keep Me Hanging On”…

  3. 3
    blount on 14 Oct 2006 #

    is this their horniest record? supremes obv did sweeping dramatic anguish well – is this their biggest (only?) hit that’s less ‘plz to stop hurting me’ and more ‘plz to start hurting me’?

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 21 Jul 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: The performance of this survives (just about… it’s the worst print of any pop performance that I’ve ever seen!). It comes from the edition transmitted on the 8th of October 1964. The Supremes also performed ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’. Also in the studio that week were; Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers, Matt Monro, Sandie Shaw. The host was Pete Murray.

    We owe the survival of this clip to the first few minutes of this edition being found at the end of a tape of the BBC’s 1964 Election coverage!

  5. 5
    SteveIson on 22 Jul 2008 #

    My favourite bit is that gorgeous piano intro,full of intrigue and wonder..I always wish it’d been repeated later..

  6. 6
    lonepilgrim on 28 Dec 2010 #

    this reached number 1 in the US as well – earning the song the attention of the US equivalent of Popular:
    http://nohardchords.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/120-the-supremes-baby-love/

  7. 7
    Jimmy the Swede on 29 Dec 2010 #

    #6 – Ha Haa! Terrific! I wonder if they have the same marvellous bitch fights that we’ve enjoyed over the years!

  8. 8
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Jill Bennett- actress(1969)

    Clive James- writer, broadcaster(1980)

    Nigel Slater-Cookery writer, broadcaster(2005).

  9. 9
    Lena on 18 Jul 2011 #

    And The Girls stop this rough lot from getting another #1 – http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/07/loud-hard-fast-rules-kinks-all-day-and.html Thanks for reading as ever!

  10. 10
    hectorthebat on 31 Mar 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) 4
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 141
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 324
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 332
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1960s (2008)
    Paul Morley (UK) – Words and Music, 210 Greatest Pop Singles of All Time (2003)
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 77
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 20 Mar 2015 #

    for me it’s the girlish coo of Diana Ross that makes this stand out from similar girl groups. Phil Spector seemed to favour the sultry growl of Darlene Love or Ronnie Spector while other Motown acts like Martha Reeves reflected their Gospel roots. Its hard to think of a precedent for DRs breathy tones (maybe Blossom Dearie) but credit should also be given to the other two Supremes for adding their rich varied vocals to the mix. Beneath the softness of their tones there’s a strength that suggests that they will survive, come what may.

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