It’s the Same Old Song

Lots of songs make me smile, though they may not necessarily make me happy. Many other songs make me happy, but only when they’ve reached the end. Fortunately, there are loads of songs that make me smile and lift my spirits at the same time. Many of these songs belong to the worlds of reggae and soul music and the one that always raises my level of happiness comes from the Motor City. It’s the Same Old Song by the Four Tops is a typically upbeat number from the Motown production line and begins with the label’s distinctive drum sound before the other instruments herald in the baritone of Levi Stubbs. It was released in 1965 and was the follow-up to I Can’t Help Myself, their breakthrough number one from earlier that year. Like many of the group’s biggest hits, it was written by the successful partnership of Holland/Dozier/Holland

The Four Tops’ previous record company decided to capitalise on their success by re-releasing one of the group’s earlier singles. The head of Motown, Berry Gordy, got wind of this and urged the three writers and the band to come up with a new song that day. Within the space of 24 hours, It’s the Same Old Song was written, recorded and distributed to radio stations all over the States. Even though the new single bore an uncanny resemblance to its predecessor, it almost matched its success by making it into the top five. In fact, Lamont Dozier merely reversed the chord changes of I Can’t Help Myself to create the new record. The song’s seemingly happy mood belies its more downbeat lyric. It’s addressed to the singer’s former lover and the song he refers to used to be the couple’s favourite, the one they “danced to all night long”. It’s still the same song, but it now has a completely different meaning for the singer. The melancholy version by Iron and Wine below is more in keeping with the mood of the lyric. Still, I prefer the original and, despite its subject matter, it still makes me happy

It’s the Same Old Song – The Four Tops

It’s the Same Old Song (Four Tops cover) – Iron & Wine

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