Friday, May 05, 2006

we're not into that, are you crazy??

I'm a massive fan of Marvin Gaye and have been meaning to write more about him since my Valentine's Day post earlier this year.

Most people know the story of Marvin's life - the childhood teasing that led him to add the "e" to his surname, the abusive transvestite preacher father, and his (private and public) performance anxieties. He was a troubled man indeed, which makes it all the more fascinating that he should have made such beautiful music.

Drug issues and financial problems in the mid-to-late 70s led him to retreat from the limelight. The young Rick James had been a huge Marvin fan, apparently hanging around recording studios whenever his idol was working. In the early 80, Rick's star was in the ascendancy, just as Marvin had hit rock bottom and moved to Ostend to lick his wounds and plan his comeback, Midnight Love. Here's Marvin's response.

Marvin Gaye - Clique Games/Rick James (Original Version of "Midnight Lady")

Studio outtakes are a tricky one - more often than not, what ended up on the studio floor should've stayed there. However, this is a looser, longer take with more emphasis on the vocals. And for some reason, nothing says "here comes summer!" more than a synthesised bass and early 80s drum machine! Or is it just me?

Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing (Original Vocal)

Despite everything that Marvin had been through (and put himself through), he still had the most beautiful voice. On this acapella take of "Sexual Healing", it's spine-tingling to hear him knocking out a seemingly-effortlessly perfect vocal. (is it a scurrilous bit of rumour-mongering, or did he really knock one off before doing this vocal?) I love it when he stretches himself on the bridge and when you can clearly hear him tapping along. However, it's also a bit weird to clearly hear the final line which was faded out on the released version...

Backing vocals are by Marvin, Gordon Banks (Marvin's brother-in-law, rhythm guitarist and Midnight Love's de-facto co-producer) and Harvey Fuqua, who had put together Marvin's first vocal group, The Moonglows.

Marvin Gaye - Message to CBS Records Staff

Marvin obviously saw Midnight Love as his big comeback, embarking on a US tour which would be marred by drug-induced paranoia and a terrible scene during each performance of "Distant Lover" where he would strip off to his underwear. When the tour ended he retreated to his parent's house where (it's widely believed) he effectively goaded his father into killing him so that he wouldn't have to commit suicide, something he'd tried on several occasions.

When I have time, I'll do a post about "Here, My Dear" - one of my favourites, and an album that has gone from being his most criminally ignored release to his most widely misunderstood. Until then, bat-fans, keep it Domino...

Buy - Midnight Love/The Sexual Healing Sessions
Visit - Marvin Gaye on Wikipedia
Visit - the Marvin Gaye page

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