Thursday's Summer Song: No Wallflowers Allowed

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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
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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. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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