From autumn 1964 through to spring 1965, Berry Gordy’s Motown label went from being a hit-making Detroit-based indie in the US to a globally adored imprint securing No.1 hits both at home and abroad. Following the phenomenal success of Mary Wells’ ‘My Guy’ (a US No.1 and Motown’s first major UK hit) and a hat-trick of US chart-toppers from The Supremes, Motown hit the UK No.1 spot for the first time with the latter’s ‘Baby Love’, which topped the charts in November 1964, following its September release.
The stage was finally set for Motown to take the world by storm. In October ’64, Gordy’s finest launched their British invasion, with the likes of Mary Wells, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Miracles and Martha And The Vandellas decamping to the UK for the first time. Soul-starved fans in London greeted them like returning heroes, while The Supremes’ debut appearance on Top Of The Pops helped send ‘Baby Love’ to the top of the nationwide charts.
A mere five months later, the famed Motortown Revue officially hit London, as The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Martha And The Vandellas and The Miracles, all backed by the Earl Van Dyke Sextet (which included members of Motown’s iconic house band, The Funk Brothers), embarked on a whirldwind tour of Europe. From a press reception at EMI’s Manchester Square headquarters, in London, to a final show at the Paris Olympia, on 13 April 1965, these live dates ensured that The Sound Of Young America had gone global.
The Revue’s final show was recorded and released later in 1965 as Recorded Live: Motortown Revue Live In Paris (which receives a reissue on 25 March via PledgeMusic), while this ground-breaking period in Motown’s history has been captured in a series of classic photos.
Here we’ve compiled some of the best, presenting Motown’s road to Olympia…
When The Supremes touched down in the UK in October 1964, they were greeted as hometown heroes. During one promotional photo shoot, they donned suits and re-created the iconic pose from The Beatles’ Please Please Me album cover (The Supremes’ 1964 LP, A Bit Of Liverpool, paid wider homage to the Merseybeat scene), and also posed for photos in the garden opposite EMI’s London headquarters on Manchester Square.
For Motown’s first foray into the UK, The Supremes were also joined on the road by Martha And The Vandellas and The Miracles. The Temptations were in London at the same time, promoting their single, ‘It’s Growing’.
Betty Kelly, Martha Reeves and Rosalind Ashford literally danced down the streets in the UK, before taking to the stage on the bill with The Supremes. Earl Van Dyke was the bandleader for the 1964 shows – and would return with the Motortown Revue in 1965.
When The Supremes returned to the UK in March 1965, they brought a new addition to the Revue’s line-up, Stevie Wonder, who’d had his busiest year so far the previous year. Meanwhile, Martha And The Vandellas returning, riding high on the success of ‘Nowhere To Run’.
A press showcase, held at EMI’s London headquarters, hosted The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and Martha And The Vandellas – with the Earl Van Dyke Sextet backing – further cementing the Revue’s reputation as one of the finest live shows in town…
… Before they flew to Paris to headline a sold-out show at L’Olympia on 13 April. The concert brought the Motortown Revue’s first European tour to a close, while opening the door for the remainder of Berry Gordy’s stable to flood the European market.