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Monday, October 18, 2010

"Heard It Through The Grapevine" Marvin Gaye Multitrack

"Heard It Through The Grapevine" is one of the most covered songs ever but it all started with the Marvin Gaye version. A look at the multitrack from this song shows you exactly how the brilliance of Motown's arrangements worked.

1) This song was cut on an 8 track analog tape recorder, as were most of the Detroit Motown hits. The tracks were drums, congas and tambourine, bass, guitars, strings, electric piano, background vocals, and lead vocals.

2) Listen to the two drummers on track one. You can hear a little flaming but they're impressively precise for the most part.

3) Track two is dedicated to congas and tambourine. Jack Ashton's tambourine was actually one of the distinctive sounds of Motown records.

4) The three guitars that Motown usually used on most records was also unique. Usually each guitar was assigned a part and they didn't double much, but they do here on the verse.

5) The background vocals by The Andantes are sweet, but if you listen carefully, it sounds like the singers aren't exactly sure of their parts in the beginning of the song. It not the main parts of the the phrases, it's the intros that sometimes sound like they're searching.

6) Marvin's lead vocals are, as usual, spectacular. That said, producer and co-writer Norman Whitfield fought long and hard for Marvin to sing in the key that you hear, which was one of the reasons why the song came out about a year after it was recorded.

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Derek said...

Did it all start here? Not quite.

Gaye's version (1968) was the biggest hit, but both Smokey Robinson (1966) and Gladys Knight (1967) tried it beforehand (though, to be fair, Marvin *recorded* his version before Gladys did, even if hers was released and charted first).

Bobby Owsinski said...

You're right, Derek, and I stand corrected. Although Marvin's version was recorded before The Pips version but released later.

Fred Decker said...

Dear Bobby,

Thanks for another cool analysis of a great tune. I enjoy reading your analysis and then hearing great tunes from a fresh perspective.

Have you ever considered doing this with any songs by the Mamas and the Papas? I thought their records sounded pretty hip. I'd be curious to see what you'd say about them.

Just a thought.


Fred Decker

Bobby Owsinski said...

Unfortunately, Fred, I can only do it with songs that are available. I'd like to hear multitracks of the Mama's and Papa's myself.


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