Arthur Alexander and FAME Studios
The 2013 Documentary “Muscle Shoals” highlights the history of FAME Studios and the numerous famed artists who recorded there in city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. One of the many artists to record in Muscle Shoals was Arthur Alexander. While Alexander’s writing would later be made famous by starts such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, his own recordings are part of the history of FAME Studios’ beginnings. His song, You Better Move On, was recorded in 1961 and would be covered by the Rolling Stones in 1964. People describe “You Better Move On”as a mix between Country and Soul, and upon hearing it a few times, that description is hard to describe. Alexander’s vocals are heartfelt and to the point in the style of many a country artist, and the band backing him maintains a soulful rhythm that is just a bit reserved. The backup singers ohh and ahh as good as they might have on any other R&B song, but on this song they’re just a bit more reserved, just a bit more solem. Alexander sings, not passionately, but firmly and with feeling, about unbreakable love and it’s value about the material aspects of courtship. Where there might be heartbreak, loss, or a failed relationship, Alexander sings “You Better Move On” to the man trying to outshine him, and delivers a powerful message, not through strong agressive vocals, but through strong lyrics and the steady voice of a man with conviction. In the end, “You Better Move On” speaks with a realness and an honesty that transcends the song’s origins. It’s hard not to talk Alexander’s words and voice to heart. His great writing, and the sound that would grow to be a big part of FAME Studios, are a clear part of this record.
“Anna (Go to Him)” is another song written by Arthur Alexander in 1963, and like “You Better Move On” it highlights the special sound that would be developed by Alexander. It’s interesting to listen to the types of voices that would influence young artists like John Lennon and while covers of Alexander’s works have their own value, especially in the early history of so many history bands, it’s hard not to feel like something is lost in the process. Arthur Alexander’s Country Soul style was one of Alabama’s gifts to the music world and it was a style with origins that have been widely borrowed from but not often celebrated in my opinion.