Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
We continue with our second week of excursions into past columns while my editor is on vacation. This column from 2011 celebrated a collection of bizarre cover versions of semi-popular songs. These versions are rarely heard and that’s why I highlighted them — to give them a proper airing out.
We'll be back to business as usual next week with another collection of new music. Thanks for tuning in!
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1. "Good Day Sunshine" — Roy Redmond (2:39)
Paul McCartney once said in an NPR interview that this was one of his favorite covers of songs that he wrote. Jerry Ragovoy's arrangement was very inspiring to me. In later life, I have tried to take songs that are REALLY well known and write crazy arrangements for them so they can be done again in a brand new, fresh way. Here is Ragovoy and Roy Redmond’s interpretation of the Beatles.
2. "Love Train" — Bunny Sigler with The O’Jays (4:53)
Mick Jagger turned me onto this in the early '70s. The original toe-tapper was helmed by the O’Jays. Turned into a slow and steady gait by former gospel great Bunny Sigler, the O’Jays signed on to provide backup for Mr. Sigler’s no-holds-barred falsetto vocal re-do. He introduces “friends of mine from Trenton” in the breakdown, and they proudly strut the exact harmony sound they sang on the original, albeit much slower. Over the years, I have found it impossible to return to the former fast-paced hit. This slow groove does me just fine. Methinks you will agree. Thanks, Mick.
3. "Mr. Soul" — Rush (3:49)
This don’t look good on paper — the Canadian trio is known for a more progressive approach than this Neil Young staple from the Buffalo Springfield catalog. But they more than control themselves and play a pure tribute right down to Neil’s exact guitar sound. Hidden in the middle is also a four-bar guitar quote homage to a Byrds tune. Rush is not afraid to celebrate their roots and I find that refreshing. This was only released a few months ago.
4. "Kind Woman" — Percy Sledge (4:38)
Originally a little less obvious in the Buffalo Springfield song list, this former country hat-tipper was taken into the murky Deep South and given the full R&B treatment Percy Sledge has always been renowned for. Every stone is subtly unturned in this wonderful organ and horn arrangement that sounds like it was originally written for Percy. A total surprise that sailed over the heads and ears of everyone when originally released months after the Springfield original. And it holds up well in today’s world, where it can now be fully appreciated and hailed for the masterpiece it truly is. Amazing subtleties...
5. "Not Fade Away" — Eric Hine (2:25)
When I thought it was time, I lived in the UK for a coupla years. I heard this track around ‘79-’80 on BBC radio just once. That’s all it took. I rushed out to the closest record shoppe (remember those?) and snapped up a 45 (remember those?). I’ve never met anyone else who ever heard this before. The Buddy Holly chestnut is dragged into early electronica. This is not a perfect record; in fact, it’s a little out of tune, and is some of the lowest fidelity I’ve ever heard. I’m guessing it’s a one-man band overdubbed by the ‘artiste.’ What kills me is simply the bassline and the sound of said bass. I STILL have never heard anyone do the bass like Mr. Hine does here. It’s a standup bass sound corrupted by a pitch wheel to GREAT effect. It makes the whole track worthwhile. It’s a rare bird but I hope you become a fellow birdlistener.
6. "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" — Bobby Scott (3:19)
Bobby Scott was one of my heroes in my teens. Soon after, he wrote "A Taste of Honey" and "He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother" and made a nice piece of change. He was a respected jazz pianist and arranger and recorded for labels like Bethlehem Records, and jazz indies of that period. Nobody made a big deal about his singing, which was half of why I’d go see him play at various jazz haunts in the Village in the '60s. The othet half was his piano playing. There was only a single track that captured this to a T in his entire discography — and here it is, sadly out of print. Admittedly, this is a Ray Charles knock-off, but how many greats weren’t? My favorite thing is when he refers to the female background singers that mysteriously never made it to the recording session budget. He died young, but not under-appreciated by his fellow musicians. Especially me.
7. "Roll Over, Beethoven" — Chris Daniels & The Kings (3:30)
This is something I don’t do often. Here is a track I actually arranged and produced in the mid-'80s. They were a local Denver/Boulder, Colorado band that asked me to help them and I couldn’t resist. I worked for next to nothing because I fell in love with their spirit; they just loved to play and didn’t really care if they made it big or not. So here is one of my craziest arrangements played to perfection by a band that probably still plays a coupla nights a week in the wilds of Colorado. I also love the ad lib lyric change Chris made in the place where Chuck Berry originally warned Tchaikovsky that classical music would fall in the face of rock 'n' roll. So ultimately, this really isn’t about me and I hope you forgive this writer’s small transgression and its hopefully proper inclusion here.
8. "Society's Child" — Spooky Tooth (4:32)
If I wasn’t old and whatever, I’d call Janis Ian and ask her what she thinks about this track. This UK '60s fringe band — home to future Grease Band members and future soloist Gary Wright — liked to do covers. I think in some ways they were the British Vanilla Fudge. I just wonder how organist Gary Wright resisted playing the solo organ afterthought that was a benchmark of Janis’s original recording (produced by Shadow Morton who also gave us The Shangri-Las).
9. "Wild World" — Me First & The Gimme Gimmes (2:30)
I love this band! They are excellent musicians and humourists who love to play covers of formerly gentle ballads in a speed-metal mode. Last year I had dinner with the former Cat Stevens and asked if he ever heard this version of his work. He hadn’t, so we traipsed over to my hotel room and I played it for him off my trusty omnipresent iPod. I am happy to announce that Yusef laughed and appreciated it — even the spoken intro.
10. "Ever Since the World Ended" — Mose Allison (2:50)
This is NOT a cover; it's by a man who has been covered to death his entire career, but still lives! I just felt that this old song has suddenly become lyrically germane and his voice, piano playing, and songwriting are the perfect way to end ... everything! See you next week if we all can afford it. Buy gold!!
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