I have made an amazing discovery. It is something that pertains to a song that I have known since its release in 1967 yet has only just revealed itself to me via the almost inevitable service of YouTube. When I tell you what it is, you’re probably going to say, ‘Oh, that old thing…didn’t you know?’ but then I’m always the last to pick up on most things.
Anyway, the year of release - 1967 - will give you a clue as to what sort of song it is. The Summer of Love was the height of Psychedelia and anyone who was anyone was experimenting with studio weirdness following The Beatles’ lead. Most of the experimenters were taken from the growing ‘albums-only’ underground which would reveal itself as progressive rock in the 1968/69 period so it was a bit of a shock to find that the voice of Young America, Tamla Motown, a label carefully geared towards the commercial singles market, was also a willing participant. There were several ‘experimental’ singles released by Motown during this period, mainly by the more progressive elements such as The Temptations, but the one I am referring to here is ‘Reflections’ by Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Written and produced, as always, by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, ‘Reflections’ is one of my favourite Supremes hits. It has all the usual hallmarks of a great H-D-H song with Ross’s breathy vocal carrying a compelling melody over a classic Funk Brothers backing track (with, unless I am mistaken, a signature slithery bass line from James Jameson). But it is the psychedelic extras that are most interesting – the signal oscillators over the intro and verses and the strangely reverberated tambourine being just two devices on show.
And now we get to it, the bit that has surprised me over 40 years later and it is this: the main rhythm is carried by, of all things, an accordion! I mean, who knew? I didn’t expect to find an accordion in pop music at all let alone in a Motown single. But then the Summer of Love opened the door to all sorts of exotic instruments, many from India, so I suppose it was inevitable that that most Victorian of instruments would turn up eventually. Just not in Detroit.
Well damn me, if the video I based this post on hasn't been blocked over at YouTube. You'll just have to listen to Reflections and try to pick out that accordian for yourself!