Soul Serenade: The Marvelettes, “Too Many Fish In The Sea”
One of the things that I cover extensively for the my local paper, the Jamestown Press, is the environmental beat. Since we are a coastal island community, there is a particularly keen interest regarding issues that affect the waters that surround us. One of the most important of these issues is the state of the local fishery.
Perceived wisdom is that global fisheries are in crisis, and they are unlikely to recover. Yesterday I attended a lecture by a scientist who presented evidence that disputed that thinking to some degree. While his data confirms that the fisheries are in crisis, he believes that given the right management they have a good chance of recovery.
What does any of that have to do with this week’s column you might ask. Well all that talk about sea creatures got me thinking about the 1964 hit by the Marvelettes “Too Many Fish In the Sea”. Sadly there are no longer too many or even enough fish in the sea, but maybe I’m taking that title too literally and missing the metaphor. No matter how you interpret the title, the fact remains that times have changed and in many ways not for the better.
A little over a year ago I featured the 1962 Marvelettes hit “Playboy” and that column discussed the group’s origins and provided a career overview. So I’ll just focus on the song this time around.
The Marvelettes hadn’t had a Top 40 hit in over a year when “Too Many Fish In the Sea” was released. In those days that was a big deal, especially given the fact that the group had scored hits regularly beginning with their debut single, “Please Mr. Postman,” in 1961, and including the aforementioned “Playboy,” and “Beechwood 4-5789.”
Times had changed for the Marvelettes at that point because since “Beechwood” nine successive singles failed to reach the Top 40, although “Locking Up My Heart,” “Forever,” “As Long As I Know He’s Mine,” and “You’re My Remedy” came close.
Clearly what the Marvelettes needed most by fall of 1964 was another big hit. They got it in the form of a song written by Eddie Holland and Norman Whitfield, and produced by Whitfield. As always, the fabulous Funk Brothers provided the backing track. “Too Many Fish In the Sea” was released on Motown’s Tamla imprint on October 14 of that year and made it to #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The most unusual thing about the record is that it features all four Marvelettes — Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, and Wanda Rogers — singing lead vocals at different points. It was also the last single for Tillman who left the group due in 1965 after she was diagnosed with lupus.
The Marvelettes continued as a trio. The lead vocals, which had been shared by Rogers and Horton, were turned over to Rogers on a full-time basis, at least as far as A-sides were concerned. The move paid off as the Marvelettes score some of the biggest hits of their career with records like “Don’t Mess With Bill” (1966), “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game” (1967), and “My Baby Must Be A Magician” (1968).
“Too Many Fish In the Sea” was the record that got the Marvelettes back on track, and despite the departure of a key member following the success of the single the group was able to continue and find renewed success.
In 1967 The Rascals recorded a cover version of “Too Many Fish In the Sea” for their Collections album.