Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Mod Mecca - Motown, Hitsville USA

 Today felt like a pilgrimage. I was going to the Promised Land. Last summer I walked on the beaches of Brighton, last March I strolled down Bourbon Street in New Orleans and this time, I got to add another check to my mental list. For a Mod this is the equivalent of Graceland for a Rocker. Motown, I am home! 

For all of us northern soul fans, we can’t deny the impact that the founder Berry Gordy Jr. had on the musical landscape. He turned an initial 800$ loan from his family into a multi million dollar empire. And if you visit the Motown Museum, you get to see that contract. You get to step back in time and see where all the magic happened. The little house that Berry dubbed Hitsville USA holds a collection of photos, costumes and memorabilia.

I also got to experience what they call the echo chamber. One of the reasons why Berry loved the house is because of the echo a hole in the ceiling produced. This is the precursor to the reverb you hear on songs like Dancing in The Streets. Our tour guide pulled me out of the 20+ crowd to test it. She was quite surprised that I was so eager to sing. “People usually hide in corners when I point  them out. You got the attitude man! I like that!”

I thought I was going brake some glass when I sang my version of Heat Wave from Martha and The Vandellas. The visitors laughed when I changed one verse from “Whenever he calls my name. Sounds so soft sweet and plain” to “Whenever SHE calls my name. Sounds so soft sweet and plain”. I was surprised when people applauded after my questionable performance.

You also get to see the upstairs apartments with the original couch where Marvin Gaye slept on on countless occasions. The couch being 4 feet and Marvin being over 6 feet, you can imagine that those nights were probably very uncomfortable.

The highlight of the tour has to be the famous Studio A. You get to stand on the floor, next to the original instruments, where more than 200 number 1 hits were recorded throughout the years. Every Motown tune you could name was recorded in that very room. My girlfriend got to test the acoustics when she got to sing Diana Ross’ part from Stop in The Name of Love. There is no comparison with my earlier performance. She’s actually quite a talented singer. I just wish I could prove it all to you but we weren’t allowed to take photos anywhere.

Photo from a Motown Museum postcard

The 837 km trip from Montreal to Detroit was worth it just for that visit. Need I say more?


  1. You just can't beat that original Motown sound and I cherish those early Lps in my collection. I think of that house whenever I play one.

  2. I loved the musical it was brilliant getting taken on trip through musical history I want to go to hitsvill USA I love Motown music it's the greatest music ever I hear those classics and it's like I'm listening to a peice of history your reliving history everytime you listen to a song I love that berry gordy gave us music that we can love