The Four Tops - Classic Or Dud?

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"Bernadette" is claimed to be better than all indiepop ever but my goodness how fantastic does that make "Baby I Need Your Loving?". On the other hand there's "Loco In Acapulco" to take into account, m'lud.

Tom, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think the time of the Four Tops has passed. Kind of like Glenn Miller. I wouldn't say they aren't a classic - but it's time to move on.

Dave225, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I disagree that "Bernadette" is better than all indie pop ever. That's completely f@cking ridiculous - ANY FIVE SECONDS OF BERNADETTE IS BETTER THAN ALL INDIEPOP EVER!!

Classic obviously - a good a run of singles as anyone at their peak, yet oddly they seem to be relegated to 2nd div status compared to Smokey, N. Whitfield, Supremes etc. Could be because of longevity and, as Tom says, mingin' later output. They lost most of their traction after HDH left Motown, even though 'Renee' and 'If I were a Carpenter'are up to scratch.There was also the suspicion that HDH were sort of handle-turning different variants of the same song for The Four Tops. But what a song - that high choir backing vox + strings sound is from another world. Also they didn't have a cred- enhancing switch to a more proto-urban sound like the Temptations did. But for intense, beltin' powerhouse delivery of great songs they have no equals. Best singles - "Standing in The Shadows Of Love" and "You Keep Running Away".

Dr. C, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I don't know if "Bernadette" is better than all indiepop EVAH, but damn is that a great song. All the Four Tops singles I've ever heard are fabulous. I vote classic. I like the Chills too. Early singles are utterly classic as well.

Alex in SF, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm not mad about the Four Tops and definitely not 'Bernadette'. They're a bit too gritty and... male for my Motown tastes. 'I Can't Help Myself' is great though.

N., Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Bernadette is better than all music ever.

(See first b'day special for further praise.)

Andy K, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

The "Bernadette"/indiepop thing is a bit of a red herring, sorry. It's a good single but not my favourite by them. I can see what Nick means by 'male' but this is maybe what I love about them - Levi Stubbs has this enormous chestbeating voice but at the same time he's so often singing from a position of desperation or abjection, not from a position of male strength - in that sense "Reach Out I'll Be There", with Stubbs as the apparent solidity in the huge orchestrated hurricane, is an atypical Tops hit, even though it's their best known. Mind you even there the hysteria is always looming.

Tom, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

"Time to move on"? Is it not possible to like the Hives or Dat Politics or what-evuh AND get chills every time you hear the intro to "Reach Out I'll Be There"?

Lee G, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

It is entirely possible that I have never heard "Bernadette" believe it or not.

I have a couple of Four Tops songs on soul/Motown comps (probably mid- 60s stuff), but never felt the inclination to explore further for the silly reason that I found the sound quality of the recordings piss poor, lo-fi even... [ha-HA! Four Tops ARE indiepop! :) ]

...until that is I acquired La Musique de Paris Dernière 2 the other week, which has on it an extraordinary cover version by them of "Fool On The Hill". I definitely need to find some more of their late 60s stuff now. Did they go all socially conscious at this time like many other Motown groups?

Jeff W, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

'Standing in the Shadows of Love' is also good 'male Four Tops', but they seem at their best when more feminine -- above mentions + "Walk Away Renee" cover and so forth.

Also, they are very indie pop because there are so many songs about longing or unrequited love.

(FWIW, it seems to be an anomoly in the very professional Motown 'factory' that all four members stayed together for the duration.)

scott p., Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think the music is decent, but not classic. I think their dance moves are the only classic thing about them.

Chris, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

(bowie's "move on" is a bloomian misprision of "bernadette": discuss

flowercrusher s, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

)!

grammar bulldozer s, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

There was also the suspicion that HDH were sort of handle-turning different variants of the same song for The Four Tops...

Oh, no doubt. I just bought a European 2-for-1 Motown reissue (the Supremes' _Where Did Our Love Go_ / _I Hear a Symphony_), and while the 1st LP (mostly HDH compositions) do try out different things, the HITS are definitely variations on a theme. And it's a most excellent theme, too - the best parts of _Symphony_ are those moments where HDH give the Supremes compositions to sing that don't exceed their reach (or Berry Gordy's pop aspirations).

Daver, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

hence "it's the same old song" => the heroic section on rock-as-repetition in meltzer's the AESTHETICS of ROCK (hmmm i did not think to go to RM to answer my "is it rock" questions? his answer is YES, whatever you put before him...)

mark s, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Bliss as repetition: "Still Water (Love)." One of the most inexplicable and very greatest singles. In terms of deconstructing the art of the "pop single," up there with Bowie's "Sound and Vision." Frank Wilson producer; Smokey and FW writers.

Marcello Carlin, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

What was the Jimmy Webb song the 4Ts recorded in c.1970 - I have it on a Webb covers compilation and it's marvellous but I can't remember the name...

Tom, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

They did do a rather odd version of Macarthur Park round about that time. Pt 2 for some reason was the A-side.

Marcello Carlin, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Hooray for Google - it's "Do What You Gotta Do" - stirring stuff and recommended.

Tom, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I prefer the Isley Brothers and the Temptations.

You can only listen to 'Bernadette' 29 times.

Andrew L, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think some Motown sounds like what most indiepop bands want to sound like. It's the verve, the drums and the lyrics that clinch this one for me. The Four Tops are classic. I like "Reach Out" best.

jel --, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Search: "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,"

Destroy: The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese commercial: "It's not the same! (not the same) Old side! (old side)" ("Side" as in "side dish.")

Motown's giddiness and Stubb's serious overstatement sometimes seemed a little...off. "Bernadette" especially. Never warmed to it. "Standing in the Shadows of Love" is its superior in the brooding department. "Reach Out" used to make me giddy, now it just sits there on the floor, playing dead. If I want my 60's Motown I'll usually reach out for Stevie's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2.

You know, until one of the group died fairly recently, they incredibley had the same line-up for decades?

Michael Daddin, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

They were together with the same lineup (though a few different names early on) from, I believe, 1952 until 1999. They are among my all- time favourites. Levi Stubbs' fire was occasionally misplaced (they should never have covered lovely pop fluff like Daydream Believer), but on their best he sounded up there with the great soul singers, for me. Holland-Dozier-Holland were one of the great writing- producing teams too, on the Four Tops, the Supremes and then the Chairmen Of The Board. Actually, not much of the Four Tops' output after H-D-H split with Motown is up to much.

Martin Skidmore, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I PREFER HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUENOTES.

Chris, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

What's their pre-Motown output like? I've always wondered about it.

Christine "Green Leafy Dragon" Indigo, Tuesday, 7 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Never heard any pre-Motown stuff but I have heard (and enjoyed greatly) the "Keeper of the Castle" LP they made for ABC-Dunhill in the 70s.

Dunhill?

Tim, Thursday, 9 May 2002 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

six years pass...

http://blog.allmusic.com/2008/10/17/rip-levi-stubbs-of-the-four-tops/#more-1359

Levi Stubbs has died. Very sad news.

Cunga, Saturday, 18 October 2008 05:07 (twelve years ago) link

This has reminded me of maybe my favorite Four Tops song: Do What You Gotta Do, which was a Jimmy Webb tune. Worth checking out for all you Webb heads on ILM

Cunga, Saturday, 18 October 2008 05:09 (twelve years ago) link

As a singles band, Four Tops were more classic than most in the 60s. And even managed to come up with a few gems later on too, in the case of "A Simple Game" and "Loco In Acapulco".

Geir Hongro, Saturday, 18 October 2008 19:58 (twelve years ago) link

Levi Stubbs R.I.P.

curmudgeon, Saturday, 18 October 2008 23:08 (twelve years ago) link

I think the time of the Four Tops has passed. Kind of like Glenn Miller. I wouldn't say they aren't a classic - but it's time to move on.

― Dave225, Monday, May 6, 2002 5:00 PM (6 years ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

I think the music is decent, but not classic. I think their dance moves are the only classic thing about them.

― Chris, Monday, May 6, 2002 5:00 PM (6 years ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^BAN^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

ILX MOD (musically), Saturday, 18 October 2008 23:51 (twelve years ago) link

two years pass...

i'm in a different world

dayo, Saturday, 16 July 2011 03:33 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

Happy Birthday, Levi!

AP Chemirocha (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 6 June 2021 22:30 (one week ago) link

Destroy: The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese commercial: "It's not the same! (not the same) Old side! (old side)" ("Side" as in "side dish.")

Man, I forgot all about this. They were even in the ad!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwRV3Vzjkf8

blue whales on ambient (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 6 June 2021 23:05 (one week ago) link

Also want to say that the Reach Out LP is crazy loaded: The HDH 'Dramatic Quadrilogy' (title cut, SITSOL, Bernadette, and 7 Rooms); "I'll Turn To Stone" (flip to 7 Rooms and a Northern Soul fav); the Renee & If Were A Carpenter covers; and then lesser Monkees and Association covers.

blue whales on ambient (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 6 June 2021 23:11 (one week ago) link


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