Velvelettes – “He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’,” Pop #64, R&B #21
By Joel Francis
The Velvelettes’ final single for Motown was their most successful effort. Like their previous hit, “Needle In A Haystack,” this is another Norman Whitfield production. Unlike the house “assembly line” production on Whitfield’s earlier effort, this song bears more of his fingerprints. Listen to the punch of the brass, especially the deep notes from the trombones. That sound would define songs like “Get Ready” and Whitfield’s early collaborations with the Temptations.
“He Was Really Sayin’ Something” is a step up on the writing side as well. Whitfield and Mickey Stevenson are joined by Eddie Holland of the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland team.
It took the Velvelettes two attempts to cut this single. An earlier performance cut in the fall of 1964 was discarded for this take, which was released two days after Christmas. Despite the questionable launch time, this was the group’s highest-charting single and the band was given an opening slot on an all-Motown tour. Life on the road was not sweet, however. The members disagreed about their musical direction and drifted apart. Lone founding member Carolyn Gill recruited two new members and attempted to press on, but Motown was wary of the group’s potential. Two follow-up singles failed to chart, while their final effort scraped No. 43 on the R&B charts in 1966. By then the Supremes had established themselves as Motown’s premier female group and the Velvelettes were cut loose.
In 1982, Bananarama revived the song and had a Top 5 U.K. hit.