Listen: The Chaperone / LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans
LaBrenda Ben was an early Motown signing, releasing ‘Camel Walk’ b/w ‘The Chaperone’ in December ’62. By the end of ’63 though, with just two Gordy singles on the market, she and her group were dropped, thereby also becoming an early roster casualty. Too bad. Sure sounds like she could sing to me, even have succeeded with some Holland-Dozier-Holland or Smokey Robinson songs.
Years later, this B side gained some traction in Northern Soul clubs. The label eventually repressed ‘The Chaperone’ as an A side, this time on Motown (M 1033) as opposed to the original Gordy (G 7009). In keeping with Northern Soul’s formula of non hit Motown sounding knock-offs though, ‘The Chaperone’ more than fits the bill. Just shy of a real chorus, the metallic thumps and all the right jingle jangles were almost enough to cover for lack of one. Records like this came off the label’s conveyer belt as often as cars did down the street. All in all, ‘The Chaperone’ might have worked if only it had gotten some airplay as opposed to being relegated to the flip.
Listen: I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance / LaBrenda Ben
Cursed with a seemingly misspelled stage name, LaBrenda’s back up singers’ moniker, The Beljeans, probably didn’t help.
Looks as though that opinion wasn’t mine alone, given they were nowhere in sight on the label copy for their followup and swan song.
No idea who was making the decisions around Motown then, but legend has it Berry Gordy was a major control freak, and he clearly knew a hit. So how did ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ end up as a B side? I thought lightning never struck twice.
Not only, as with ‘The Chaperone’, was ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ the noticeably stronger track, the song was about The Contours. And they were on the label for God’s sake.