Thursday's Summer Song: No Wallflowers Allowed

by Oliver Wang

Considering all the melancholia I've hit you with the last three days, I have to include at least one uptempo track for those who associate summer with things like, you know, parties and dancing and sweat.



Betty Moorer: Speed Up
From 7" (Wand, 1967). Also available on Soulful Thangs Vol 4
.

From the very start, the song practically leaps out with those big horns accenting the song's irresistibly catchy hook. Seems only right since it is a dance song about dancing, or more specifically a dance contest where Moorer is exhorting her partner to "speed up/a little bit/baby!" If that's all there was, this would still be a great Northern soul/crossover tune but what I think is so fantastic is how the songwriting (co-written by Moorer herself), gradually reveals a hidden backstory: Moorer is less invested in winning the contest than she is showing up a romantic rival whose dance partner is Moorer's ex-boyfriend. (Oh snap!)

One of my other favorite examples of a "turnaround" story in a song is this:



Aretha Franklin: I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face
From Runnin Out of Fools (Columbia, 1964)

A gem from the pens of Chip Taylor and Jerry Ragovoy, the song begins with defiance, shifts to uncertainly, and in the end, the song's title does a complete reversal in meaning/intention. Absolutely brilliant songwriting and while this song has been well-covered, I think it's hard to find a version with more verve and presence that Aretha's.

By the way, I first heard the Moorer single at Good Records in NYC; the owner of said establishment is actually a frequent commentator on TNC's blogs. His store site has a few excellent mixes up right now, including a massive, 4-part series of African records put together by Frank of Voodoo Funk fame.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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