Martha & the Vandellas‘ golden breakthrough year of 1963 got even better on 30 November. They’d scored a debut hit that spring with the R&B top tenner ‘Come And Get These Memories.’ Then they’d turned up the tempo with the indelible follow-up ‘Heat Wave,’ an R&B No. 1 that also made No. 4 on the pop listing. After that, the Holland-Dozier-Holland magic started working again with their third smash in a row, ‘Quicksand.’
The H-D-H song, produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, bore distinct similarities to ‘Heat Wave,’ but such was the infectious ambience of these early sides by Martha Reeves and the group that their new record-buying public lapped it up nevertheless. With Reeves declaring “It’s not safe loving you this way, but from your arms I can’t stay,” the track featured the backing vocals of both the Vandellas and the Andantes. It was released on Motown’s Gordy label at the beginning of November.
Then came an example of label boss Berry Gordy’s unfailing attention to detail, as this first pressing was withdrawn in favour of a sharper mix that replaced it in stores just a few days later. Funk Brothers session staples, bassman James Jamerson, drummer Benny Benjamin, guitarist Robert White and percussionist/vibes player Jack Ashford, provided the backbone for another great gospel-soul workout by a group who were rapidly turning into one of Motown’s hottest properties.
‘Quicksand’ showed its crossover potential by entering the Hot 100 first, on 23 November. The following week was the very one in which Billboard first stopped publishing its R&B chart, for a period of some 14 months. But the single entered the ‘Top 50 In R&B Locations’ listing, by rival trade magazine Cashbox. It rose to No. 7 on that survey, while graduating to No. 8 on the pop countdown.
‘Quicksand’ is on The Definitive Collection, which can be bought here.
Follow the 60s Motown playlist.