’In And Out Of Love’: Florence Ballard’s Final Supremes Session

The group performed their new Holland-Dozier-Holland song on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ but it peaked at No.9 in the US.

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Supremes ‘In And Out Of Love’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Supremes ‘In And Out Of Love’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG

If the Supremes were confronted with the unfamiliar experience of not topping the Billboard Hot 100 when “Reflections” stopped in runner-up spot, there was an even greater shock in store. That single, the first to give Diana Ross “above the title” billing, had followed four singles in a row by the group that topped both the pop and R&B lists.

On November 11, 1967, Diana and the Supremes hit the Hot 100 at a confident No.65 with their latest Holland-Dozier-Holland creation, “In And Out Of Love.” Written with the working title “Summer Good, Summer Bad,” its vocal session in June was a poignant farewell for Florence Ballard, at what became her last track date.

Soon afterwards, she was summarily removed from the group and replaced by Cindy Birdsong. To add further insult, her vocals on the recording, and Mary Wilson’s, were then overdubbed for those of the Andantes.

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Backed by another HDH song, their version of the Isley Brothers’ “I Guess I’ll Always Love You,” the Motown single had a huge promotional leg-up when the Supremes were booked to perform it on the November 19 edition of The Ed Sullivan Show. Now featuring Birdsong, they also sang “Greensleeves” and “Thou Swell” and were joined on the broadcast by labelmates the Temptations.

The Tempts sang “Hello Young Lovers” and “Don’t Look Back” and joined the Supremes for a medley of each other’s hits. The show additionally featured a clip from the brand new movie Dr. Dolittle, with Rex Harrison singing “Talk To The Animals.”

Billboard described “In And Out Of Love” as “a highly rhythmic side, much in the vein of ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ that has all the ingredients for high chart honors. As usual, the group’s inimitable bounce and drive are hard to match and just as hard to resist.” Rival trade magazine Record World declared confidently that the 45 would be “No.1 in three and a half weeks.” But those chart honors were not to be quite as high as expected.

Still writing great songs, but…

In the Supremes’ customary style, the single made fast progress up the pop chart, taking only five weeks to reach No.9. But there it peaked – and there was worse news on the R&B countdown, where it topped out at No.16, hampered, undoubtedly, by its less overtly soulful groove.

In Brian and Eddie Holland’s 2019 autobiography Come And Get These Memories, Eddie wrote of his increasing awareness of an unconscious decline in HDH’s achievements, and those at Motown as a whole. Their other commitments, and specifically his A&R duties at the company, weren’t helping.

Listen to the best of the Supremes on Apple Music and Spotify.

“It was a nice song, and we liked it a lot,” he said. “I knew we were still writing great songs…but the product we were doing on the Supremes – and you have to understand, the Supremes were key – was fading. We were always looking to go to No.1, and we loved the records, but the public didn’t.”

The relatively restrained reaction to the group’s new work was in marked contrast to affection for their achievements to date: a Greatest Hits set of their best-loved songs spent the whole of November 1967 at No.1 in America.

Buy or stream “In And Out Of Love” on the Reflections album.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Luis Boki

    November 12, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    “In and Out of Love” remains one of my all-time favorite Diana Ross and The Supremes songs. I remember particularly that it was #1 on the American Bandstand chart for 4 weeks. It was the featured record for that summer’s dance contest on American Bandstand.

    I was particularly moved at the wonderful “Return to Love Tour” in Detroit at The Palace. Apparently, “In and Out of Love” was not always in the set on previous dates. But that night, at The Palace, Diana seemed to sing the song directly to me as I had a pretty choice seat and was on the huge screen a significant amount of time during her performance. It felt very serendipitous that on that special night, Diana seemed to know what the song meant to me.

    I was disappointed it didn’t make it to the top of the chart. But as another piece of history, it was the last Diana Ross and The Supremes/The Supremes record to make the Billboard/Cash Box/Record World Top 10!!!!! (As we all know that, “Someday We’ll Be Together” was actually a solo Diana Ross record).

    I’m happy that this record was singled out.

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