Oh, what a sound (September 1963)
For me, music changed exactly 50 years ago this month. It was in September 1963 that, as a 16-year-old schooolboy, I first heard all the 45s you can see in the photograph above. They are, clockwise from top left: “You’re No Good” by Betty Everett,”The Monkey Time” by Major Lance, “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Dionne Warwick, “Can I Get a Witness” by Marvin Gaye,”It’s All Right” by the Impressions, “You Lost the Sweetest Boy” by Mary Wells, and “Hello Stranger” by Barbara Lewis.
When you’re 16, everything seems important. But these records really were. All of them were brand new; together they rearranged the possibilities inherent in a fusion of R&B, gospel and pop. Beamed in from Detroit, Chicago and New York, they announced the birth of soul music.
“Heat Wave” was the first, and it remains the closest to my heart. I can remember the feeling of being transfixed as those guitar and piano chords and that driving snare-drum came out of the radio. But each of them was a lesson of its own.
As you can see, I preserved the original copies, each in its proper seven-inch bag. They’re the ones I bought back then — with a single exception. One summer night in 1967, during a party at my parents’ house on the day my sister got married, someone stole my complete run of Martha and the Vandellas’ Stateside 45s, half a dozen of them, from “Heat Wave” to “Wild One”. Nothing else; just those. A thief with impeccable taste, obviously.