Motortown Revue UK Tour, 1965

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published on 12 March 2017, by ; latest edit: 17 May 2017

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1965 Motortown Revue UK Tour

 

tamla-motown-uk-tour-detroit-departure-1a

(above) This photo of members of the Motortown Revue UK Tour (aka the Tamla-Motown UK Tour) of March-April 1965 includes the Supremes, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Earl Van Dyke Sextet. Berry Gordy stands at left center, and his father at the far right. I’m guessing that the photo was taken upon arrival at London Airport on 15 March 1965 (see photos below). Notice the Tamla Motown and BOAC carry on bags, and the fact that most of the tour members appear to be dressed as they were when disembarking at London Airport that day, minus the overcoats — except for Martha Reeves, who is wearing the fur coat and floppy hat seen in a couple of disembarking photos. Alternatively, it might have been taken at the airport in the US just prior to departure.

(above) Diana Ross and Martha Reeves at the Finsbury Park Astoria, 20 March 1965, from the article “Five London spots for Motown fans,” by Adam White, published on 7 March 2016 at TimeOut.com

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Excerpts from the post “Motown in our town: the 1965 Motortown Revue hits the UK,” by Rocknrollroutemaster, published on 8 April 2015:

It was 50 years ago today: The Motortown Revue landed at the Finsbury Park Astoria on Saturday 20 March 1965, on the first night of a package tour that took them around the UK. A 24 day trip visiting 21 theatres for two shows a night – plus a live TV special.

[T]he real reason for the tour was to launch the Tamla Motown label. Up to March 1965, there were no Tamla Motown releases in the UK because Tamla Motown didn’t exist. All those classic records from Mary Wells, Martha and the Vandellas and the Supremes came out on Stateside. The tour then was an important milestone in Motown’s international expansion and crucial in Motown breaking the UK, an ambitious label from Detroit, a booming city. And you would imagine there was a rabid audience for the music as this is 1964/5 and we were Mod-mad. Not to mention Motown’s huge influence on our own groups. The Stones did “Can I Get A Witness” and The Beatles sang three  Motown songs on With The Beatles – “Please Mr Postman,” “Money” and “You Really Got A Hold On Me.”

The first night of the tour was 20 March and two shows 6.40 and 9.10 at the Finsbury Park Astoria at 232 Seven Sisters Road N4, followed the next night with two at the Odeon Hammersmith [at] 6pm and 8pm. It then went off round England, Scotland and Wales to places like Bristol and Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, 21 towns in 24 days. They all travelled together in a 52 seat coach on A roads. After a long trip to Bristol on the A4 – the M4 didn’t open fully till 1971 – Berry and the three Supremes opted to rent a limo for themselves for the rest of the tour. Everyone else stayed on the bus and bonded, including the Blue Flames. The Earl van Dyke Six went on first, followed by Martha & the Vandellas, a comedy spot by Northern comedian Tony Marsh before Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, hit from a 3 year residency at the Flamingo Club’s Allnighter at 33 Wardour Street W1 closed the first half. After an interval, Earl van Dyke kicked things off again followed by Smokey & the Miracles, Little Stevie before the headliners The Supremes closed the show. On many nights the entire revue came back on and finished with a version of ‘Mickey’s Monkey’.

[T]he Motortown tour was a mixed critical success –  and a complete commercial disaster. Outside London, theatres were half full. The whole Mod thing was very London-centric so why any promoter thought they could attract 4,000 punters to then Stockton On Tees ABC or the Gaumont Theatre, Ipswich is beyond me.

While the account by Rocknrollroutemaster and other reports suggest that attendance shrank and the enthusiastic welcome received by the Revue upon arrival in London vanished abruptly after it left the capitol following the first two dates, in the BBC Four Legends TV series episode The Motown Invasion (see below), a documentary largely about the tour, music executive and Radio Luxembourg DJ Tony Hall indicates that a half empty house greeted the Revue at the very first concert, at the Finsbury Park Astoria in London on 20 March. Recalling the night, he says:

The most depressing thing of all about the opening concert was the fact that the theater was half empty. I thought it was so sad. And those of us who were there had to cheer and clap about ten times louder than usual, just to try to make up for it.

The second pair of shows, at the Hammersmith Odeon on 21 March, might not have done much better in terms of audience size. In her accounts of the tour, Mary Wilson suggests that audience sizes were small throughout its duration. In the documentary, Mary Wilson says:

No one came. We were so excited — we’d come to the Hammersmith, or wherever we were, and the audience was like half-filled. No one was out there. So that’s why we called it the ghost tour.

From Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme, by Mary Wilson (2000), pp. 160-161:

Though the Supremes had made a real splash in England just six months before, the [1965 UK] Revue as a whole didn’t fare quite so well…There were avid Motown fans all over England and the Continent, but it was clear that reporters in the smaller towns really didn’t understand what the music was all about. And, for the first time in as long as many of us could remember, we were playing to half-filled houses.

The final word, by Wilson, on the small audiences encountered during tour, from the documentary:

We just thought it was going to be a sell out, you know, and this and that, and each time, we would go to a different town and a different theater and it was the same. It really never got better. But night after night, looking out into the audience and seeing a half empty house, England was a big disappointment (laughs).

(above) Front page advertisement in the 5 March 1965 issue of the New Musical Express for the 1965 Motortown (Tamla-Motown) UK Tour

Adam White, a former Billboard editor-in-chief, co-authored the book Motown: The Sound of Young America (2016) with former Motown sales chief Barney Ales. In an article titled “Dancing in the streets of Britain,” by White, published in The Independent (Independent.co.uk), on 31 March 2005, the author says that the performers and musicians sang and played their hearts out during the 1965 Motown Revue UK Tour, “while striving valiantly not to be dispirited by a low audience turnout, the inclement weather and the difference in food (and toilet paper) that came with the territory.” The first tour date outside of London, at Colston Hall in Bristol, happened to be in White’s home city. He attended the first of the two shows at a cost of £4.

White also appears in The Motown Invasion. In the documentary, he praises the thrilling and consummate artistry of the acts in the Revue, and recalls that the opportunity to see the Motortown Revue in the provinces in early 1965 was such an improbable and extraordinary event that it was for him a “religious experience.” However, with respect to the attendance at the first Colston Hall show, in gauging the proportion of occupied seats, White says:

I just remember looking behind me in back and seeing row and row of empty seats, so…I would have said, if Colston Hall’s capacity was 2,000, there were three or four hundred people, at most, in that hall.

BBC Four Legends TV series episode The Motown Invasion — airdate: 20 February 2009

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(below) Motortown Revue arrival at London Airport (later Heathrow Airport), 15 March 1965

The Supremes

  • (below, clockwise)
    • 1. and 2. — The Miracles, Berry Gordy, two children (Gordy’s?), Earl Van Dyke and (presumably) members of his Sextet
    • 3. and 4. — Martha and the Vandellas, with Berry Gordy’s father behind them

Motortown Revue, London, group photo on steps beside Marble Arch (1a)

Motortown Revue, London, group photo on steps beside Marble Arch (4)

(above and below) Group photos of three of the major acts in the 1965 Motortown Revue UK Tour, plus the Temptations, at the London landmark Marble Arch, and on steps beside the landmark, taken on 15 March 1965, shortly after the Revue’s arrival in London that day. In the above two photos, the artists stand in the following order:

top row – The Miracles: Smokey Robinson, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Pete Moore
second row – The Temptations: David Ruffin (shades), Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks
bottom row – The Supremes: Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross; Martha and The Vandellas: Betty Kelly, Rosalind Ashford, Martha Reeves

Marble Arch in London, Spring 2013, with raised area at right

(above) In this 2013 photo of Marble Arch, you can see the raised rest area to the right, with its benches and sets of four steps, where the group had posed 48 years earlier for the series of photos above.

(below) Motortown Revue members on the sidewalks of London, and possibly elsewhere in the UK, during the 1965 UK tour (l. to r.):

  • 1.-2. The Supremes with members of the Temptations Melvin Franklin and Eddie Kendricks, in London, probably on 15 March 1965
  • 3. Martha and the Vandellas
  • 4. The Supremes

(below) Images from the set of the Ready Steady Go! television special The Sound of Motown, taped at Rediffusion Studios on 18 March 1965, and aired on 28 April 1965

(below) Members of the 1965 Motortown Revue UK Tour, plus the Temptations, appear at EMI House to celebrate the 19 March 1965 launching of the UK Tamla Motown label. It is my understanding that the date of the occasion and (therefore) of the photos is 19 March 1965, though the two b&w Alamy.com photos indicate that the date is 24 March 1964. The Revue performed two shows at Cardiff on 24 March 1965, and two shows each in Bristol and Birmingham on the 23rd and 25th, respectively. It’s unlikely that they made a quick side trip to London on the 24th. I’ll try to find supportive documentation regarding the date of these photos.

The Motown Encyclopedia (2014) by Graham Betts, contains the following itinerary on page 408*:

20 March – Astoria, Finsbury Park (6.40 & 9.10)
21 March – Odeon, Hammersmith (6.00 & 8.00)
22 March – Day off
23 March – Colston Hall, Bristol (6.30 & 8.45)
24 March – Capital, Cardiff (6.00 & 8.30)
25 March – Odeon, Birmingham (6.45 & 9.00)
26 March – ABC, Kingston (6.45 & 9.00)
27 March – Winter Gardens, Bournemouth (6.00 & 8.30)
28 March – Odeon, Leicester (5.40 & 8.00)
29 March – Day off
30 March – Odeon, Manchester (6.15 & 8.45)
31 March – Odeon, Leeds (6.20 & 8.40)
1 April – Odeon, Glasgow (6.40 & 9.00)
2 April – ABC, Stockton (6.15 & 8.30)
3 April – City Hall, Newcastle (6.30 & 8.45)
4 April – Empire, Liverpool (5.40 & 8.00)
5 April – Day off
6 April – ABC, Luton (6.30 & 8.45)
7 April – ABC, Chester (6.15 & 8.30)
8 April – City Hall, Sheffield (6.20 & 8.50)
9 April – ABC, Wigan (6.20 & 8.35)
10 April – Gaumont, Wolverhampton (6.30 & 8.40)
11 April – Gaumont, Ipswich (5.30 & 8.00)
12 April – Guildhall, Portsmouth (6.30 & 8.30)

(below) posters, or signs, advertising the following shows:

  • 23 March – Colston Hall, Bristol (6.30 & 8.45)
  • 27 March – Winter Gardens, Bournemouth (6.00 & 8.30)
  • 31 March – Odeon, Leeds (6.20 & 8.40)
  • 12 April – Guildhall, Portsmouth (6.30 & 8.30)

Martha and the Vandellas at an autograph session during the 1965 Motortown UK Tour

In addition to the above itinerary of the UK tour, I’ve assembled the following chronology, with some dates still being tentative:

  • 12-14 March 1965(?) — According the Mary Wilson book Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme, as quoted in the soulfuldetroit.com forum thread Tamla Motown European revue March/April 1965 – A Question, Stevie Wonder may have arrived three days earlier the rest of the Motortown Revue UK Tour party. Neither Wonder nor the Temptations are found among those members of the tour seen in photographs disembarking at London Airport on 15 March, or in the group photo with the “Tamla-Motown UK Tour” banner evidently taken at London Airport that day. The Temptations are not part of the UK tour, though they are present with members of the touring party for the following events during the period 15-19 March, prior to the start of the road tour: photo session at Marble Arch, evidently on 15 March; taping of the Ready Steady Go! television special The Sound of Motown, 18 March; launch of Tamla Motown label at EMI House, probably 19 March (see above).
    • Does the Revue perform shows in Rotterdam and Hamburg during this period, or perhaps later on 16-17 March, prior to the taping of the TV special? I’ve yet to answer these questions*, or determined whether the Supremes visited Amsterdam during March-April 1965 as suggested by some sources and photographic evidence. See the soulfuldetroit.com forum thread Tamla Motown European revue March/April 1965 – a question for a discussion of these and related questions. See also the following, from the article titled Motortown Revue In Paris: Complete concert on 3LP or 2CD, by Justyn Barnes, published on 18 January 2016 at superdeluxeedition.com:
      • The European Tour during March-April 1965 was the first time Berry Gordy Jr.’s roadshow had ventured outside of the United States. After dates in Hamburg and Rotterdam, the Revue hit the UK, playing every night bar three from 20 March until 12 April at venues all around England, plus Cardiff and Glasgow, finishing at Portsmouth Guild Hall.
    • In the soulfuldetroit.com thread cited above, bobkayli provides a possible scenario regarding the timing of uncertain European visits, before, during, or after the UK tour:
      • Could be that the whole Revue except for the Temps went to Rotterdam/Hamburg to begin with and the Temps coming to London first and were joined by the rest in London later. I need to dig out my old music magazines from the era to see if they add anything (for example concert dates for the Temps). The Temps were certainly only present for the first part of the UK Tour as Otis Williams mentions in his book The Temptations. The UK tour dates didn’t leave a lot of time to travel to Rotterdam and Hamburg. The Rotterdam date could not have followed on from Paris. Berry Gordy mentions in his book that the entourage split after Paris when he and Diana stayed on in Paris to cement their relationship so to speak.
  • 15 March — The Motortown Revue arrives in London, according to the following Getty Images photos, all dated 15 March 1965, of members disembarking at London Airport from a BOAC aircraft:
  • 15 March — Group photos of the Supremes, Miracles, Temptations and Martha and the Vendellas are taken at Marble Arch, London, and on steps beside the landmark (see above).
  • 16-17 March (?) — see 12-14 March above
  • 18 March — The Ready Steady Go! television special The Sound of Motown is taped at Rediffusion Studios on 18 March 1965, according to various sites.
  • 19 March
    • launch of the Tamla Motown UK label, according to the following:
    • Members of the 1965 Motortown Revue UK Tour, plus the Temptations, appear at EMI House to celebrate launching of the UK Tamla Motown label. I’ve tentatively dated the photos presumably taken at the launching, and displayed above, 19 March 1965, though the two b&w Alamy.com photos included indicate that the date was 24 March 1964. I suspect that Alamy.com has incorrectly dated the photos. The Revue performed two shows at Cardiff on 24 March 1965, and two shows each in Bristol and Birmingham on the 23rd and 25th, respectively. It’s unlikely that they made a quick side trip to London on the 24th.
      • 23 March – Colston Hall, Bristol (6.30 & 8.45)
        24 March – Capital, Cardiff (6.00 & 8.30)
        25 March – Odeon, Birmingham (6.45 & 9.00)
  • 20 March – 12 April — duration of the UK coach tour (see itinerary above)
  • 13 April — The Motortown Revue appears at the Olympia, Paris. According to the itinerary provided above, and to most sources, this is the last show of the tour.
  • 13-15 April(?)– additional events in Paris involving the Motortown Revue members, according to bobkayli in the soulfuldetroit.com thread cited above, who says:
    • On 13th/14th/15th April besides the concert there were a number of promotional events around Paris besides the Motortown Revue show at Olympia including a press launch of the French Tamla Motown label, Supremes photo sessions on the Champs Elysees, Trocadero and Bois de Boulogne as well as a Vandellas photo shoot at the Louvre as well as the Supremes almost being arrested for blocking the traffic on the Champs Elysees.
  • 14-17 April (?)
    • After departure of most members of the Tamla Motown Revue touring party, according to The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal, by Mark Ribowsky (2010), p. 204, Berry Gordy and Diana Ross stay behind in Paris for an additional couple of days, though it’s not precisely clear on which day the others depart and Gordy and Ross are left alone.
    • Ribowsky, p. 203, gives the wrong date, 15 April, for the show at the Olympia, by all accounts the last show of the tour. The Olympia show is dated 13 April everywhere else.
  • 28 April 1965 — The Ready Steady Go! television special The Sound of Motown is broadcast, after the Motortown Revue touring party has returned to the U.S. Ribowsky incorrectly claims that it was broadcast during the third week of the tour.

Motortown Revue marquee at Olympia, Paris, 13 April 1965

(below) The Supremes risk life and limb dancing in stop and go traffic on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris as they lip sync to “Where Did Our Love Go.” Diana Ross is very nearly struck in the right leg by a vehicle at 1:16. Toward the end of the clip a policeman instructs them to get out of the road, finally pushing Mary Wilson’s shoulder, forcing her over the curb and into a pedestrian area, before grabbing her arm as if to arrest her.

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Getty Images

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* There are only three days off in the UK tour itinerary from the Motown Encyclopedia, and the last date of the tour is one day after the Guildhall, Portsmouth shows, at the Olympia in Paris on 13 April. However, some sites refer to this tour as the Motortown or Tamla Motown European Tour of 1965, and various sources suggest that the revue also did shows in Rotterdam and Hamburg, Germany as well as in Holland. Did the Germany and Holland appearances occur during those three days off during the UK tour, before the UK tour commenced, or (less likely) after the 13 April Paris show? There are photographic images online purporting to show the revue onstage in Rotterdam in April 1965, and various photos of the Supremes supposedly taken in Hamburg in March 1965.

On undated and questionably dated photographs reportedly taken in Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Amsterdam, March-April 1965:

  • Alamy.com has two different edits of what appear to be the same photograph, supposedly taken in Rotterdam in April 1965, that shows the Supremes, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, and Stevie Wonder performing on stage in an ensemble number, probably the show’s finale.
  • Alamy.com has several photographs which, they claim, show the Supremes in Hamburg in 1965. Here are four: (1), (2), (3), (4). In the four I’ve linked to, Diana Ross appears to be wearing the same dress that she wore at Marble Arch on 15 March 1965 (but a different fur; see images from the Marble Arch photo session above), though the other two members of the Supremes wear different dresses than they did at Marble Arch.
  • One photograph, said to be taken in Amsterdam, that I’ve found appears to have Diana Ross wearing the same blouse she wore in the “Where Did Our Love Go” taping in Paris, where they danced between traffic on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and nearly got arrested. The date of the taping on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is usually given as 13 April, the same date as the show at the Olympia, but I haven’t verified that date. Ribowsky, p. 203, says the taping of “Where Did Our Love Go” on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées occurred on the afternoon of 15 April, but incorrectly says that the Olympia show occurred on that date.

See the contradictory information compiled by blue_whippet in the soulfouldetroit.com forum thread “A Question.” Among the unanswered questions raised in that thread and elsewhere are the following:

  1. On which date did the 1965 Motortown ‘UK-European’ tour begin, and where did it begin?
  2. Did the Temptations arrive in London before the other acts, with them, or later?
  3. Did Stevie Wonder arrive in London on 12 March 1965, three days before the other acts in the Revue, as suggested by the Mary Wilson book Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme, as quoted in the soulfuldetroit.com forum thread (“A Question“)?
  4. When members of the Motortown Revue touring party arrived at London Airport on 15 March 1965, as evidenced by the dates of Getty Images photos showing them disembarking from a BOAC aircraft at that airport, were they arriving from the US, or from a previous engagement somewhere in Europe?
  5. If the tour, or some of its members, appeared in Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Holland, as various notices and reports suggest, supported to some degree by photographic evidence, then when did these visits occur? Did the visits occur before the UK tour, during the UK tour (on days off), or following the UK tour and the 13 April Paris show at the Olympia?
  6. On which date or dates did the touring party depart to return to the US?

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