The group’s most consistent album, and among Motown’s most uplifting releases.
Daryl Easlea 2010-02-15
Going to a Go-Go, complete with Smokey Robinson being pushed on a skateboard by his group on the cover, is his best early work. Writing or co-writing 11 of the album’s 12 compositions, Robinson was spurred on by the phenomenal hit rate of Motown, his in-house competition from the Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team and encouraged by compliments paid to him by Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
The album’s opening track, The Tracks of My Tears, remains unassailable, from co-writer Marv Tarplin’s faltering, fragile guitar introduction to its emotive chorus. Although the smile is visible, if you look beyond the protagonist’s bravado, you can clearly see the track marks left by the tears he cries alone. The sumptuous Ooo Baby Baby is in a similar vein: Robinson pleads, “Mistakes, I’ve know I’ve made a few, but I’m only human, you’ve made mistakes too,” before whimpering and adding, “I’m crying”. In a genre where all males were supposed to be alpha, these very visible tears showed great sensitivity. It is this vulnerability that set Robinson apart from his peers.
It is not, however, one long snuffle; the title-track was written by Tarplin after hearing The Rolling Stones, complete with his 12-string electric guitar adding a bit of in-era Byrds jangle. From Head To Toe – covered by Chris Clark and, later, Elvis Costello – has snap and pop sensibility, call-and-response vocals and Broadway musical overtones. The remaining eight songs are anything but filler. For example, its only cover, the Frank Wilson-penned My Baby Changes Like the Weather, is a fantastic northern soul stomp.
When Going to a Go-Go was released in the UK in February 1966, it rode the wave of interest sparked for Motown thanks to the patronage of The Beatles and Dusty Springfield. Robinson gave his rock peers a run for their money. For a group widely seen as a singles-only or compilation act, Going to a Go-Go is Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ most consistent album. Although it’s a record where you are only a heartbeat away from heartbreak, it succeeds in being one of the Motown’s most uplifting Motown releases.