or, Look What They’ve Done to my Song, Ma

Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma

Look what they’ve done to my song

Well it’s the only thing I could do half right

And it’s turning out all wrong, Ma

Look what they’ve done to my song

Although Melanie’s song never charted on this side of the Atlantic (it reached #6 in Norway), it seems to be an appropriate anthem for this entry.  That is because I want to look at several cases where the work of a well-known composer has been reinterpreted.

Example One

Now I’ve already expressed my appreciation for the work of J.S. Bach.  And I think I’ve made clear my fondness for Brian and the Boys.  So it should seem a natural that I would be ecstatic about their use of a favourite Bach melody (Jesu Joy) in one of their songs.  You know the piece…

The inspiration
The inspiration

I can’t exactly blame (or credit) Brian himself on this one.  Lady Lynda was written by (fellow Beach Boy) Al Jardine as a tribute to his (then) wife, Lynda.  The fact that they divorced shortly after may suggest the impermanence of this particular interpretation.  The song does, however, contain that trademark Beach Boy harmony… here it is live.

and the original recording…

And it did reach #6 on the UK charts in 1979.  Catchy tune, eh!

Example Two

Now put on your disco boots.  Stars on 45 did this little “tribute” to the classics sometime around 1981…

Example Three

I don’t mean to suggest that “reinterpretation” is, by any means, a new phenomenon.  Many decades ago a guy named Spike Jones did quite a deliberate reimagining of classical works in a compilation appropriately titled Spike Jones is Murdering the Classics.   Here is his take (with his band, The Cityslickers) on Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker Suite circa 1944…

And, in case you need to be reminded what the original music sounds like, here it is more or less as Tchaikovsky intended…

One is left to wonder how the original composers of these works would regard the “unexpected” updating of their compositions.  Amusement?  Consternation?  Bewilderment?  Indifference?

Resigned to adapt?
…or just resigned to adapt to change?




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