In 1965, Motown Records sent some of its most famous and successful acts on a tour of the United Kingdom. Intended to promote the label, the tour visited many major cities in the country and included performances from Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations, and Martha and the Vandellas, all backed by the Earl Van Dyke Sextet. Motown was founded by Berry Gordy in 1959 and was the most important African American-owned record label of its era. By promoting African American stars such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Martha Reeves, Motown made an incalculable contribution to the promotion of African American cultural life in the twentieth century. Although it did not release explicitly political songs until Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) many of its records became anthems for black Americans amid the protests of the civil rights movement and are indelibly associated with this era.
The 1965 tour was to follow the launch of Tamla Motown UK, in March 1965 and the accompanying release of seven new singles. Until that point, Motown’s records appeared under a variety of different labels. The Motown fan and founder of the Tamla-Motown Appreciation Society, Dave Godin, encouraged Gordy to create a single label which would give Motown’s UK releases a brand identity. This would hopefully boost sales and give Motown an even stronger position in the British marketplace. The tour itself attracted smaller crowds than Gordy hoped, in part because (as Godin warned) the British public had not yet fully embraced Motown. Yet the Newcastle Revue remains as the first link between Tyneside and one of the great American cultural exports of the twentieth century.
Terry Wilson, Tamla Motown: The Stories behind the UK Singles (CherryRed, 2009); Kingsley Abbot (ed.), Calling Out Around the World: A Motown Reader (Helter Skelter, 2001).