The Supremes at Their Peak With A’ Go-Go: Review

Share This:

By the time The Supremes A’ Go-Go was released on August 25, 1966, the fabulous girl group had already earned six #1 U.S. pop singles–well seven, actually, since the album’s “You Can’t Hurry Love,” which preceded the LP’s release by a month, also hit the top. Soon enough, The Supremes had their first chart-topping album as well, as A’ Go-Go became the group’s first (and only) #1 studio album on Oct. 22 of that year. (The trio are said to be the first female group to top the U.S sales chart.)

Looking back at that supreme decade for the group, Motown released an astounding 22 albums credited to the Supremes or Diana Ross & the Supremes, which they were eventually renamed.

A’ Go-Go featured the trio of Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, tackling an array of hit cover material, mostly from their Motown stablemates the Four Tops (“Baby I Need Your Loving,” “I Can’t Help Myself [Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch]), the Temptations (“Get Ready”), Martha and the Vandellas, Barrett Strong and the Isley Brothers, but also contemporary hits from Nancy Sinatra (Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin’”) and the McCoys (Bert Berns and Wes Farrell’s “Hang on Sloopy”).

Listen to the original album on Spotify…

Happily, UMe released a deluxe, expanded 2-CD edition in 2017 featuring the original 12 tracks, in both stereo and rare mono album mixes, plus alternative vocal versions and mixes and plenty of bonus tracks. The production represented the peak of the fabled Motown team, headed by producers Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, the Funk Brothers and the top-notch Detroit Symphony Orchestra on hand.

Related: Interview with authors of Motown: The Sound of Young America

The collection’s generous 53 tracks include many songs recorded during the A’ Go-Go sessions that were omitted from the original’s 12-song, 32-minute release. These include covers of some of the era’s big hits: “It’s Not Unusual,” Tom Jones’ breakout hit; the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. #1 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”; and “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” each of which was released in 1965.

That only scratches the surface. There are more covers of Motown material including the Jimmy Ruffin hit “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”; Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Can I Get a Witness” (the Supremes sang backup on the Marvin Gaye original); and “Love is Like a Heat Wave,” yet another H-D-H hit (for Martha and the Vandellas).

This ad appeared in the April 30, 1966 issue of Record World

Related: The top radio hits of 1966

There’s only a touch of studio banter from Miss Ross; the collection lets the music do the talking. And it reminds a listener what a marvelous vocalist she is. The highlight is “Love is Like an Itching in My Heart,” the album’s lead-off track. The recording was that rare Holland-Dozier-Holland song for the Supremes that didn’t become a #1 hit, peaking at “only” #9 on the pop singles chart.

And perhaps because of that, it’s a welcome treat to the ears, a revelation, really. “Woo, get up in the morning,” Ross purrs, “And I’m filled with desire.”

Watch a 1966 TV performance of the song

Besides the stereo and mono mixes, there are two versions of “Itching” at the end of disc 2’s “More A’ Go-Go.” “Ain’t that enough?” asks Ross, laughing, at the conclusion of what’s labeled the song’s “the SupreMix.” Encore!

Related: Mary Wilson died in 2021

Greg Brodsky

7 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. Skip
    #1 Skip 23 May, 2017, 14:19

    Yes, this is album reached #1. No, none of their other albums did. But to say they “peaked” with this one? On that merit alone? Unfair. There were better Supremes albums before an after “A Go Go.” It reaching #1 had a lot more to do with creative marketing: other than the two originals/singles, every other songs was a cover of someone else’s previous hit – familiar titles all. Sonically, fellow Motown girl-group Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dance Party” set was more cohesive and the individual cuts better produced. Much of “A Go Go” lacks energy.

    And although “You Can’t Hurry Love” charted higher than “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart” – #1 to #9 – to this day I listen to the latter quite frequently whereas I have never been that enamored of the former except for its intro and the girls’ hyper-glam classy-sassy performance of it on The Ed Sullivan Show (speaking of marketing, I read that the single was released in stores the day after that appearance. I read it on the Internet, so it’s true, right?).

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky Author 23 May, 2017, 16:05

      Thanks for your note, Skip. I think you’re taking the word “Peak” in the headline a little too literally. It was meant to refer to a period of time covered by the release of this album. As for “Love is Like an Itching in My Heart”… I couldn’t agree with you more and, in fact, refer to the song as the “highlight” of the collection.

      Reply this comment
    • Mike
      Mike 7 November, 2017, 22:54

      “A go go lacks energy” biggest laugh; the Diana led group outshone the others and Still does today a go go is filled with bounce and so love energy what a great friggen album it’s unbelievable the way she sings there is no one like her

      Reply this comment
  2. Mitch
    #2 Mitch 24 October, 2018, 12:23

    For me, it was how Motown would allow the lyrics supposedly about menstruation in “Satisfaction” would be handled . Of course, they breezed right by it. And. while there’s nothing wrong with praising Miss Ross, you ignore the spirited “cos, if it AINT alright, that’s TOO BAD!” Hopefully from the late Florence Ballard.

    Reply this comment
  3. Zane
    #3 Zane 18 March, 2021, 08:45

    A Go Go does not work well with the usual filler and extended remakes. The fillers are nothing more than an excuse to have created 2 discs. Also, the recordings are dark sounding and the resolution is lacking. Usually, Motown knew what to release but the “Political Correct” of releasing everything only reinforces that some things should never be revealed to the Human Ear and some of those fillers are examples.

    Reply this comment
    • Zane
      Zane 19 September, 2023, 16:06

      I do agree with the “uselessness” of the “Expanded Second Disc” of The Supremes A Go Go. Truthfully, many of the selections were either demos(which were not to be released regardless) or first orchestrated versions. The original album still works and works well. It sold well enough to be the biggest selling Supremes’ album until The Greatest Hits a year later. Also, marketing had nothing to do with the success of this album. It began to sell immediately and rose to #1 all on its own..

      Reply this comment
  4. 122intheshade
    #4 122intheshade 29 August, 2021, 23:09

    I always thought that “Love Is Like an Itching at My Heart” was the archetypical Motown song. Has it all: relentless beat, great horns, the “help me/here I come” back and forth lyric. Dig the bass near the 5 minute mark. Sounds like it’s playing out. Not hardly! I think this song catches that Swingin’ Mid-60s vibe perfectly.

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.