Velvelettes – “Needle in a Haystack”

Velvelettes – “Needle in a Haystack,” Pop #45

The real action in “Needle in a Haystack” is happening away from the microphones and behind the glass. This song was the first single the late Norman Whitfield’s produced for Motown. Whitfield got his start at the label as a songwriter, co-writing Marvin Gaye’s hit “Pride and Joy,” but he made his name as a pioneering producer on the edge of the psychedelic soul movement.

In keeping with Berry Gordy’s assembly line mentality, the song sounds very much like the other Motown productions of the time. None of the experimental flourishes that mark Whitfield’s groundbreaking time with The Temptations are present. The promise of sounds to come, however, makes the song historically worth hearing.

History aside, there’s little that makes “Needle in a Haystack” stand out. The single was the Velvelettes’ second single for Motown and first charting effort. Although they had a follow-up hit, the Velvelettes, like Carolyn Crawford, are a footnote in Motown’s great history. – by Joel Francis

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