“He Was Really Saying Something” by The Velvelettes (1964, Motown/V.I.P. single)
This Motown unsung classic was released by the Velvelettes in 1964 and peaked at only #64 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. Written by the hit-writing machine Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland along with Mickey Stevenson, this song really has an energy and a verve to it that always spoke to me at a young age.
As I’ve mentioned on our podcast before my father, Bob, had a huge collection of 45 records that had tons of Motown records in his collection that I’d play often growing up. For me this song was one I played a lot, always thinking it was the Supremes, but reading the label came to find out it was by the relatively obscure group known as the Velvelettes. They only had one other well-known hit “Needle In a Haystack”, and faded into obscurity in the late-60’s. What kept this track alive was a cover version by Bananarama (backed by the Fun Boy Three), which I never liked compared to the original.
The song starts with a great splashy piano and then the drums kick in and suddenly the voice of Cat McNeal busts in “I was walkin’ down the street, when this boy starts following me…”, the backup singers get in there and before you know it we’re getting the hook of “he was really sayin’ something” and they follow that up with the catchy “be-bop-dooby-do-wah” that is inexplicably brilliant.
We also get some great work by the peerless Funk Bros., an oboe and even some perfectly placed tambourine. The song is so well done it’s hard to understand why this wasn’t a bigger hit. If given to the Supremes I can guarantee this would’ve been huge. Proof-positive that life ain’t always fair.