Nowhere To Run

Album: Dance Party (1965)
Charted: 26 8


  • This is a tale of a woman who knows her boyfriend treats her badly but she can't help but love him. It was written by the songwriting/production team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, who were also responsible for the Martha & the Vandellas hits "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave" and "Jimmy Mack."

    "Nowhere To Run" is in the rubric of "I love you but you don't love me" songs that Holland-Dozier-Holland often created. Another good example is "This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak for You)."
  • Along with a tambourine and drums, snow chains - the kind made for tires - were used as percussion for this song. Motown producers often got inventive in the studio, resulting in some unique soundscapes.
  • By this time, Martha & the Vandellas had been supplanted by The Supremes as the most successful girl group at Motown. The Supremes were about six months into their run of hits and were getting the bulk of Motown's promotional resources, pushing The Vandellas to second-class status. "Nowhere To Run" has held up as a classic, but it reached just #8 at a time when most Supremes releases were pushed to #1. Martha & the Vandellas never got any higher on the chart.
  • Because of its brassy sound and chorus, this song is one of many which are popular at sporting events, where the original version is played, or a marching band performs it.
  • All the instruments were played by the Funk Brothers, who were session musicians for Motown.
  • The song was particularly popular during the Vietnam War, and was featured in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam. Other films to use the song include:

    Baby Driver (2017)
    Love & Mercy (2014)
    Factory Girl (2006)
    Simon Birch (1998)
    Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998)
    Crimson Tide (1995)
    Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
    The Crossing (1990)
    The Wizard (1989)
    Gleaming the Cube (1989)
    Plain Clothes (1987)

    It has also appeared in these TV series:

    Suits ("Fork in the Road" - 2015)
    Growing Pains ("Dance Fever" - 1988)
    Moonlighting ("Maddie's Turn to Cry" - 1987)
    WKRP in Cincinnati ("Mike Fright" - 1979)
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for all above
  • One of the inspirations for this song was an encounter that Lamont Dozier had with a frightened teenager who was on his way to Vietnam. He recalled to The Guardian: "His friends asked if I would throw a party for him at my house before he was shipped out. We had the party, but he was very solemn, just sitting with his girlfriend. He had a premonition that he wouldn't be coming back. I told him to be positive, but he was adamant. I found myself thinking about how he was feeling trapped – nowhere to run. Sure enough, two months later they shipped his body back. I think he stepped on a land mine. Nineteen years old."
  • The song is titled "Nowhere To Run," but Martha Reeves sings, "Nowhere to run to." It's a case of shoddy grammar (ending a sentence in a preposition) done for the sake of the rhythm.
  • Janet Jackson intended on recording a remake of this on her 1990 Rhythm Nation 1814 album before being persuaded by her songwriters Jam and Lewis to record a song with a similar beat. The end result was her American chart-topper "Escapade."

Comments: 11

  • Jennifur Sun from Ramonathis is the line up for the Funks who played on this tune: Benny B.-drums , James-bass, Early Van Dyke-electic piano, Jack Ashford-percussion, vibes, tamborine, Ivy Joe Hunter-percussion, snow chains, Robert White-guitar, Eddie Willis-guitar
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaMartha's voice could realllly keep up with the Brothers. They sounded sooo good together.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaIf you were a fan of Magnum PI this song was in one of the episodes. My second fav Vandellas tune and one of my fav Funk Brothers tunes (for lack of a better word) they just KILL ON THIS SONG.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 7th 1965, Martha and the Vandellas performed "Nowhere to Run" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'...
    At the time the song was in its first of two weeks at #8 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, and that was also its peak position on the chart {See next post below}...
    R.I.P. Jimmy O'Neill {Shindig's host, 1940 -2013}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 21st 1965, "Nowhere to Run" by Martha and the Vandellas entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #73; and six weeks later on April 4th, 1965 it peaked at #8 {for 2 weeks} and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #5 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1963 and 1971 the group had twenty-three* songs make the Top 100; six made the Top 10 with "Dancing in the Street" being their biggest hit, it peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} in 1964, the two weeks it was at #2 the #1 record for both those weeks was "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann...
    * With their last eight records to make the Top 100 the group was known as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
  • Elmer H from Westville, OkYeoww! That drum intro on "Nowhere To Run" really is tough & cool. Mercy - those snow chains really added some "attitude" to this hit. I'll always love it. Great to dance to. Later that year when I began college, I found it on nearly every jukebox on campus & off campus. It was originally on their "Dance Party" album which my brother bought in '65 & as I recall, the album had some really cool dance songs on it. I can even remember that back in high school one friend always liked to say that if ya didn't get up & dance to this song - you're probably dead.
  • Buddah from New York, NyI think this is probably the best meshing of Martha, H-D-H and the funk brothers. Gospel rooted, extremely funky, extremely sexy. Singular.
  • John from Nashville, TnThis song was a centerpiece in the classic 1978 cult film THE WARRIORS.
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlMartha and the Vandellas presented this song on a CBS special entitled "It's What's Happening, Baby" on June 28, 1965 - In what could be called the early form of the music video, they were shown singing the song at a Ford Automobile Plant, dancing and bouncing to the song while a 1965 Ford Mustang was being built around them.
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlLOVE THAT ROUSING DRUM INTRO! and the snow chains "whipping" throughout the tune - magnificient!
  • Tanya from La Verne, CaA classic love obsession song! Who doesn't this song?
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