Coming in “second” with the Miracles

Today’s entry from the proposed book The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s is one of at least 76 different hits from the Motown family of labels (Motown, Tamla, Gordy, Soul, etc.) to appear in the countdown. This huge hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles was born when the song’s composers were shopping, and one of them uttered a blooper.  You just never know when and how inspiration is going to strike.

# 273
I Second That Emotion / Smokey Robinson & the Miracles / 
Tamla T-54159
(Total points: 1,435 / Chart debut: 11/4/1967 / Chart peak: 4 / Weeks on chart: 15)

An unintentional malapropism inspired the song that became the Miracles’ second-biggest hit single of the 1960s.

One day in 1967, Smokey Robinson and friend Al Cleveland, a staff writer at Motown, were shopping at the Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit, and Robinson selected a string of pearls for his wife, Claudette. He expressed his hope that his wife would like them, and Cleveland, who meant to say “I second that motion,” instead replied, “I second that emotion.” Both laughed at the blooper –and a lyric was born.

When the song was ready, it was recorded quickly, over a few hours on September 21 and 22, 1967, and it was released less than a month later, on October 12.

“I Second That Emotion” was the third Miracles 45 to be credited as “Smokey Robinson & the Miracles,” a name change that happened even before that of Diana Ross & the Supremes. The first, “The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage,” got to #20 on the pop charts; its follow-up, “More Love,” only got to #23 but was a much bigger hit in 1980 for Kim Carnes. This one, though, became the Miracles’ first Top 10 single in more than four years and their highest pop-chart single in more than six; it spent the last three weeks of 1967 at #4.

Originally, the song had an extra verse, but Motown president Berry Gordy thought it made the song too long, and he cut it from the final product, much to Robinson’s chagrin.

Collector’s notes: Copies of the 45 were pressed at four different plants, with variations of type style and information location. Those from Southern Plastics in Memphis, Tenn. have the catalog number at the right of the label and no hyphen between the “T” and the catalog number. Those from RCA in Rockaway, N.J. and Monarch in Los Angeles have black print instead of the typical brown. All copies have the same mix.

Fast fact: The stereo mix of “I Second That Emotion,” as usually found on compact-disc reissues, is slightly longer than the mono 45 mix because of a later fade-out.

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