Monday, 15 August 2011

Martha & The Vandellas - Nowhere To Run (1965/ No. 26/ 15 weeks/ Motown)

Odd how these old Tamla songs have been co-opted as signifiers of cosy nostalgia, when they sound so tense when you listen to them.

Listening to 'Nowhere To Run' this alongside The Who and The Yardbirds in its 1965 chart context, I was struck by how locked-on the grooves of so many pop songs of this time. In the same way that 'I Can't Explain' revolves around an unceasing riff, everything in this single follows a descending and extremely heavy bassline. The drums are really martial, too - the prominent tambourine sounds not light but cutting, like manacles, the odd crazy drumming flourish coming to emphasise particular revelations of being trapped in the narrative.

The other thing about this song that you tend to overlook is that the singer is not failing to run away from a bad boyfriend, but about to start an affair with him;

"It's not love I'm runnin' from
But the heartbreak I know will come"

This is falling in love as a horror story;

"Each night as I sleep
Into my heart you creep!
I WAKE UP feeling sorry I met you
Hoping soon that I'll FORGET you!
When I look in the mirror
And comb my hair
I see your face
just-a-smiling there!"

This self knowledge of not being able to stop a bad thing is rather an interesting perspective for a song of anticipated love.

(Buried within the middle eight is a brilliant moment that people tend to forget originated here;

"My love reaches SO HIGH
I can't get over it!
I can't get around it"

Both The Temptations and Funkadelic cultivated brilliant songs from this one tiny green shoot...)

1 comment:

  1. It's a fantastic song, and IIRC was another favourite of the troops in Vietnam like 'We gotta get out of this place'.

    The lines:
    "My love reaches SO HIGH
    I can't get over it!
    It's SO WIDE
    I can't get around it"

    are a spin on ones from gospel songs - based on Romans 8.39