or The ABC’s (even D’s) of Unexpectedness
To recap our journey to this point…
we have considered how performers of the same song (music) can alter that song’s impact
a) by changing the style dramatically eg. My Way is quite different when interpreted by Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Paul Anka or Sid Vicious (by the way, I’ve noticed the “Vicious version” being used recently in an Acura [automobile] commercial… anarchy commercialized!)
b) by turning a piece of classical music into a pop confection eg. Lady Lynda by The Beach Boys borrowing bodaciously from Bach’s Jesu Joy
c) by formulating a parody of the “hit” version eg. Happy by Pharrell Williams becomes Tacky in the hands of Weird Al
d) by doing a gender switch eg. compare the perspective of I Say a Little Prayer as recorded by Dionne Warwick and as recorded by BossHoss
Today’s installment has us studying the same artist/group giving us a choice between two versions of the same song…
I was impressed when I heard The Association (the album) for the first time in 1969. One of my favourite tracks was Dubuque Blues. It was written by Jules Alexander (of the group) who also sang the lead vocal…
Just a year later the band released The Association Live. And there was Dubuque Blues all over again… except it had undergone stylistic surgery and Brian Cole’s raspy voice now replaced Jules on lead. Better? I’ll leave you to decide… but it’s definitely different.
Undecided? Why not just release both versions and let the buyer choose. That’s Beatles logic for Revolution. Version one had a rockier sound and was the B-side of the band’s Hey Jude single (released in 1968). Here it is as a live performance…
That same year the band released the “White Album” (aka The Beatles) and there was the song again. This time however there’s a little more laidback approach to the recording…
Songwriter Jimmy Webb and performer Glen Campbell collaborated to create several major hits at the end of the 60’s. One of those hits was Galveston (#4 on the Billboard Hot 100/#1 on the country music charts). Here is Campbell singing the popular single…
Webb himself has also recorded the song several times and always given it a slower, more somber interpretation. It’s perhaps not surprising that Campbell has also (from time to time) chosen a more reflective tone (given the lyrics).
The change here is purely one of timing. The dominance of AM radio in the early days of rock and rock allowed the stations to (more or less) dictate the duration of the songs they would play. Shorter songs = more songs playable within an hour=more available space for advertising between songs=more revenue for the station. But, by 1967, FM radio had begun to embrace popular music to a degree previously unseen. With the improved fidelity of FM (even stereo!) and a more flexible programming format, AM radio began to experience real competition for the valuable “teen market”. The Doors’ Light My Fire is a good example of the transition taking place at the time. For purposes of AM format the band released an edited single which came in under three minutes (and, by the way, reached #1 in June of 1967). And it sounded like this…
Meanwhile FM radio embraced the album version which clocked in at about seven minutes. The difference? An extended instrumental bridge which more than doubled the length of the single!
One (rather) interesting trivia item… The Doors consisted consisted of four members and none of them played bass guitar (seemingly obligatory for any self-respecting rock band of the era). The workaround was that Ray Manzarek, the band’s organist, played a Fender Rhodes PianoBass with his right hand while providing the melody/harmony on a Vox Continental combo organ (with his left). If interested you can see him in action during a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 (fyi… the song actually kicks in about 1:35 into the clip).
One final note. The idea of this particular post was borne of another “D”… Bob Dylan. I still remember seeing him in concert in London (Ontario) in the 1990’s (’96?). It was about two minutes into one of his songs that I suddenly realized that I knew the song he was singing. That it took that long to recognize it was a combination of
a) Mr. Dylan’s unique vocal stylings
b) a flexible interpretation of the original recording of the song.