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Great B-sides: How Can You Tell Me? by The Flirtations

In hindsight, The Flirtations’ best known song, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’, sounds like a girl group classic from the early 1960s. It’s a terrific piece, with a pounding back-beat and a strident lead vocal punctuated by horns.

But at the time of release, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ was an anachronism – the song was released in 1968. The trio had relocated from South Carolina to try their luck in the UK, after they won a competition to find a vocal group who could emulate The Supremes. But the heyday of comparable groups like The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas was much earlier in the 1960s, and as a result of timing, this terrific song didn’t crack the top 30.

‘How Can You Tell Me?’ had appeared as a b-side for an earlier single, while ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ had originally been backed by a seasonal b-side for its UK release. But the two songs were coupled for the US release, and they’re a great 1-2 punch. ‘How Can You Tell Me?’ is cut from the same musical cloth, although the prominent bass line is a welcome addition. But it’s a great formula, and it’s another song that could have been much more successful five years earlier.

Trainspotters – I’ve stated earlier that I’m concentrating this series on non-album material, in my opinion this one counts. It was originally released as a b-side in 1968, but wasn’t collated onto an album the following year, so it had a life of its own before it appeared on album.

Oooooo How can you tell me
That you don’t love me?
Think of all that we’ve been through
Don’t it mean a thing to you?
(How could you treat me so unkind
Turn around and change your mind,)

And then just tell me
That you don’t love me?
Oh when I gave you everything I had
Why you wanna treat me so bad?
(I was all tied up in you
A love that I just can’t undo.)

And now you tell me
That you don’t love me
How could I ever be so blind?
Baby after all this time
(The way you used to hold my hand
__ just don’t understand.)

And when I look back
And think about the good times
I can’t believe that you’d just lead me on
What happened to the promises you made me?

And the love we had, where has it gone?

Oh how can you tell me
That you don’t love me?
Oh did I do something wrong?
Please take me back where I belong
(I’m not asking much of you
Do anything you want to do.)

But please don’t tell me
That you don’t love me
Don’t tell me that you don’t love me
Don’t tell me that you’re not thinking of me
(I’m not asking much of you
Do anything you want to do.)

[To Fadeout]
How can you tell me
How can you tell me
That you don’t love me?
Baby, how can you tell me,?

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