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It's the Same Old Song - the Four Tops

The degree to which Motown Records swiftly became a corporation can be seen from the in-house office jokes that often surface in their recordings, almost like gags dreamed up between two people waiting to use the photocopier. This is a case in point. Motown, while developing their own sound in the early sixties, were never averse to cashing in by stealing elements of other hits on the Hot 100 such as psychedelia (the Supremes "Reflections"), funk psychedelia (the Temptations' "Cloud Nine" and following singles) and so on. Nor were they shy of milking their own success by repeating the same formula of one hit several times over until the winning horse was flogged to its final demise (for example Martha and the Vandellas' releases following "Heatwave" were the distinctly similar "Quicksand" and "Live Wire"). So when Berry Gordy demanded a fast follow-up single to the Four Tops hugely successful "I Can't Help Myself", Holland-Dozier-Holland came up with a song that had the same chord sequence and almost the same tune as its predecessor, even echoing its first line "Sugar pie, honey bunch" with its own opener:

"You're sweet as a honey bee but like a honey bee stings you've gone and left my heart in pain all you left is our favourite song the one we danced to all night long...."

The joke being, of course, that it was in all but name the same old song. Except it was the "Same Old Song"....well you know what I mean! But they of course were right: when the horse has got this much life in it, you've got to race it again. Especially with exquisite rhymes like "pain" with "stings" and the complex

"now you're gone, left this emptiness I only reminisce the happiness we spent...",

the gorgeous Jamie Jamerson bass line and Levi Stubbs' extraordinary phrasing and emphasis as he once again effortlessly squeezes the maximum out of what should be just an ordinary pop number.

Not bad for an office joke.

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