The Isley Brothers knew how to put excitement on wax, and in my opinion they never did it better than on this song, written by the Dozier-Holland team, with Sylvia Moy, during the band’s short period on Motown Records. Not a lot of folks realize this, but one of the best things the Isleys’ did was create an independent record label, T-Neck.
Rod Stewart recorded it later on, alongside Ron Isley. That version is fine, but it’s the original that qualifies as one of the Greatest Of All Tunes. The deceptively simply intro and hook slide in immediately, and by the time you get to the band singing and shouting “I’m mad about you!” your heart is racing and you’re completely lost in the moment.
The Isleys were huge—history doesn’t put them alongside The Temptations or The Supremes, or even the Four Tops, but it should. After all, these are the guys who created the million-selling record, “Shout” (covered on the Animal House soundtrack), and then “Twist and Shout”—a song made even more popular by The Beatles. They jumped from traditional Motown sounds to funk to protest music to disco, and managed to keep making hit records together for almost 20 years. Then, in the 21st Century, surviving brothers Ernie and Ron resurged with another big hit, “Contagious.” In all, they’ve had a staggering 16 albums in the top 40. The Temptations didn’t do that. Their music serves as samples and inspiration for hit songs by Ice Cube, B.I.G., Public Enemy, and many other rappers—and was even featured in the cult classic film The Warriors! I also think they were the first people to record a song with the word “Thang” in the title.
And if none of that is enough, Jimi Hendrix was their lead guitar player. He didn’t play on This Old Heart of Mine, but can you imagine if he did?
Further listening: Nowhere To Run To, Shout, It’s Your Thing, Fight the Power, That Lady.