Before Motown artists Martha and the Vandellas made it big, they sang background vocals on several of Marvin Gaye’s hits. Martha Reeves worked as a Motown secretary. They experienced major success in the first half of the 1960s with Dancing in the Streets and their signature hit, Heat Wave.

Watchout!, released in 1966, is the fourth studio album and fifth album overall by the trio, and oddly the only one I own (present tense, in vinyl). The group at that point was Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, and Betty Kelly, who replaced Annette Beard in 1963.

You can tell that the label had already decided I’m Ready for Love was going to be the hit, based on the different colored lettering on the record jacket. Jimmy Mack, though, was just about as big, and the one I remember more fondly. Both songs were written by the legendary Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team, who also created hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, who would leave Motown shortly thereafter.

Still, my favorite song on the album was the non-single No More Tearstained Makeup, written by the incomparable William (Smokey) Robinson. It’s the second verse that really nailed me:

Like a storm my tears have rained
since your shirt was lipstick-stained
and the stains that it contained were not my color.
No sponge has quite the power
to absorb the constant shower
of the tears pancake and powder could never cover.
But today as I look in the mirror
I see things a whole lot clearer.

Elvis Costello is also a fan of the song.

Listen to No More Tearstained Makeup
original here or here
a slower version, not used here
someone’s extended play here
Marvelettes cover (1970) here

Listen to
I’m Ready for Love, #2 soul, #9 pop in 1966 here or here
Jimmy Mack, #1 soul, #10 pop in 1967 here or here

One Response to “Music throwback: No More Tearstained Makeup”

  • CGHill says:

    My favorite track on Watchout! is indeed “Jimmy Mack,” which was recorded way back in 1964 — Annette was still a Vandella — and whose B-side, “Third Finger, Left Hand” never got an LP release while H-D-H were at Motown, though apparently it got a fair amount of airplay on the East Coast. (Friends in Philadelphia and thereabouts professed to be more familiar with “Third Finger” than with “Jimmy Mack.”)

    Still, “No More Tearstained Makeup” is valuable because it’s Smokey, and no one anywhere in the Motown machine could marry words to sentiment quite like Smokey.

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