This Friday afternoon we are premiering the first installment of a new throwback series entitled 'Time Machine - Retro Tracks From Bygone Days'.
The Sapphires - 'Who Do You Love'
by: Nick Stricharchuk
Pop music was at a crossroads in 1964. The British Invasion swept through American radio with ferocity--the U.S. met The Beatles in February that year with "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which was only the group's first of six number ones on Billboard's Hot 100 singles in '64 alone. Simultaneously, Detroit's Motor City was cranking out hit after hit on its Motown label with tracks like Mary Wells' "My Guy" and The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go." But the hip new sounds hadn't completely wiped clean older luminaries from the charts. Louis Armstrong and the All Stars had a smash that year with "Hello, Dolly" to coincide with the release of the show on Broadway, and Dean Martin crooned his way to the top with "Everybody Loves Somebody."
Perhaps that's why The Sapphires failed to find their niche. They were a struggling group of black artists out of Philadelphia, almost invisible without the powerhouse of Motown behind them. The three primary musicians, Carol Jackson, George Gainer, and Joe Livingston, didn't chart with their first single "Where is Johnny Now," released on Swan records, but pressed on. Their follow up, "Who Do You Love," was their only single to gain any attention whatsoever, landing at #25 that year, falling a few notches short from establishing them as pop champions.
"Who Do You Love" is truly a forgotten sapphire in pop music. The track leans towards its Motown contemporaries without shying away from its own sound, which has a decidedly softer, smokier quality, with vocals styled in the "torch singer" vein. The atmosphere created by a lilting guitar and gentle percussion evokes a hot and breezy summer date night, but the silky, youthful voice of Carol Jackson makes it clear her would-be-perfect night didn't lead to true love but a hell of a lot of pain and torment.
This girl has been out with this guy before. She's already fallen for him--hard, and wants to keep seeing him even though she knows the whole thing is probably doomed (her mother warns of his "playboy reputation"). It's starting to sink in that dear mom might have been right. "Where did you go/ When you kissed me goodnight?" She sings. "You didn't walk home the same way you did last night."
These thoughts haunt her on the dance floor. She suspects her date is flirting with other girls even as he whispers sweet nothings in her ear, though something tells her the words are inspired by a woman across the room. "Who do you love," she sings to her dream guy. However, her tone tells us she already has her answer.
The Sapphires never landed on the charts again and all but vanished within a few years, although their follow up single, "I Found Out Too Late" comes across as almost a sequel to "Who Do You Love," picking up where its predecessor leaves off. Both deserve a listen, if only to feel cool while you shake up an ice cold martini and ponder the conditions of your own love life. Cheers.