Saturday, October 15, 2016

50 years ago: The Four Tops "Reach" #1

Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

The Four Tops

Writer(s): Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Eddie Holland (see lyrics here)

Released: August 18, 1966

First Charted: September 3, 1966

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 2 GR, 2 HR, 12 RB, 13 UK, 6 CN, 62 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK, 1.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 12.7 video, 122.5 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Four Tops were an R&B vocal quartet who formed in Detroit in 1953. They’d soldiered along for a decade without a hit when they signed with Motown in 1963. The famed writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland crafted “Baby I Need Your Loving” for them and the group had their first hit - #4 on the R&B chart and #11 on the pop chart. Over the next two years, they reached the top 5 on the pop chart with “It’s the Same Old Song” and hit #1 with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” They hit the top again with “Reach Out (I’ll Be There).”

H-D-H cranked out many a hit for Motown Records but even in such a “strictly defined, even formulaic context,” MA much of what they “created... was brilliant, and now and then, as on this record, it was pure genius.” PW They were “increasingly ambitious” SS even as they worked within the confines of the three-minute single. This is “one of the best of all the Motown productions” DJ and a song to match “anything in the history of rock and roll.” MA

In his captivating baritone, Four Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs belts “reach out” with a religious fervor “like a great preacher who can make merely reading the gospel a creative act.” MA Supposedly, H-D-H instructed Stubbs to sing like Bob Dylan on “Like a Rolling Stone.” SF Apparently it showed; famed producer Phil Specctor described the song, the Four Tops’ second #1 on the pop charts, as “black Dylan.” RS500

In the fall of 1966, Motown was concerned because the Tops’ last two hits had barely cracked the top 20. TB One Motown exec concluded that “Reach Out” wouldn’t sell because it was “too different.” TB Even the Four Tops, who nailed the song in just two takes, SF assumed it was just a throwaway album cut. However, Motown founder Berry Gordy disagreed, telling the Tops to prep “for the biggest hit of their career.” FB Gordy’s instincts for hits were uncanny, and he definitely got this one right. The song went to #1 on the pop and R&B charts in the U.S. and was a #1 in the UK as well. It was “their greatest performance.” SS


First posted 9/3/2011; last updated 2/3/2023.

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