First I Look at the Purse
|"First I Look at the Purse"|
|Single by The Contours|
|B-side||"Searching For A Girl"|
|Recorded||Hitsville USA (Studio A); 1965|
|The Contours singles chronology|
"First I Look At The Purse" (G7044) was a 1965 song recorded by R&B group The Contours on Motown Records' Gordy label. It was written by Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers, the authors of the Temptations' very first hit single, "The Way You Do the Things You Do". This song reached #57 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the Top 20 on Billboard's R&B chart, peaking at #12.
A comical story about a man who didn't care how ugly the girl he dated was, "as long she got some cash", this song was tailor-made for the Contours' high-energy, comedic on-stage delivery. Miracles member and co-composer Bobby Rogers did the falsetto spoken-word intro, "what does every man look at first?" and then the Contours took it from there, chanting about those virtues: "The eyes", "the nose", "the size" , "the clothes", "the hair", "the legs", "the waistline", etc. Then Contours lead singer Billy Gordon (who sang lead on the group's biggest hit "Do You Love Me"), snaps you back to reality, yelling "I don't care" ("if her eyes are red, if her nose is long, if she's underfed, if her clothes are wrong, why waste time looking at the waistline?") because "first I look at the purse". Nor does the narrator care "if she waddles like a duck and talks with a lisp", "if her dollar bills are crisp." It is the Contours' second-best remembered song after "Do You Love Me", mainly due to the successful cover version of the song by the J. Geils Band, taken from their self-titled debut album in 1970. The song was also covered by David Bromberg, Rod Stewart and Nashville Pussy.
"First I Look at the Purse" was the last Contours hit featuring original lead Billy Gordon. Shortly after its release, he departed the group, and Motown, for good, due to personal problems. His departure coincided with the return of Sylvester Potts. At this point, all of the other original Contours, except guitarist Huey Davis, had departed the group., replaced by new Contours Stubbs, Jerry Green and Council Gay. His lead position was taken by Joe Stubbs, brother of the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, who sang lead on the group's next release, 1966's Just a Little Misunderstanding. Stubbs would later go on to become lead singer of the 70's non-Motown R&B group, 100 Proof (Aged in Soul).
In the early 2000s, the Contours performed the song on the PBS special Motown: The Early Years. They still sing it in their live shows today. It has also appeared in several Contours' Motown "Greatest Hits" CD compilations.
Credits: The Contours
- Billy Gordon-lead vocals
- Sylvester Potts-baritone
- Huey Davis-guitar
- Council Gay-tenor
- Jerry Green-tenor
- Bobby Rogers (of The Miracles)-co-writer and spoken word intro
- The Funk Brothers-music
- Smokey Robinson (of The Miracles)-co-writer and producer