At least IMHO. BTW, I am not overlooking the passing of Glen Campbell. I have been meaning to write about him for some time but haven’t yet had a chance.
First up is the song, “Mad World,” originally released by Tears for Fears on their debt album, The Hurting, from 1983. These guys had a cool sound, some nice guitar work, good songs and fit well into the early Eighties MTV landscape.
Those of you familiar with the 2001 film Donnie Darko – for my money, one of the oddest films ever made – will know the version by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews. Andrews was hired to write the score for the film with the stipulation that he use no guitar and no drums.
He did this album on a very tight budget and brought his pal Jules in to sing while he played piano. This haunting version, that finds the angst in the song, has now become the standard and possibly the only one that many people know.
Yeah, I’m just as big a Led Zeppelin fan as many of you. I’ve featured them a few times and one day will get to a series. Generally speaking, nobody does Zep better than Zep. (Although that said, Heart does a hell of a job, even bringing Robert Plant to tears when they did “Stairway” at the Kennedy Center Honors. Jason Bonham on drums.)
While I think much of Zep’s output is outstanding, occasionally their songs make me shrug. (I have never gotten the whole “Kashmir is great” thing. For the most part, I can take or leave that song.) Another song I like but don’t love is “Dancing Days,” from Houses of the Holy. Yeah, I’ll listen to it if it comes on the radio but it’s not a big deal for me. YouTube version here and Spotify version here.
So when I first heard Stone Temple Pilot’s version, I found that I just really liked the song for the first time. For one thing, it’s acoustic and that seems to bring more of the song out. Also, I think Scott Weiland’s voice just lends itself better to the song than Plant’s.
This version was recorded for a 1995 album called Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin. (Oddly enough, Robert Plant does the song “Down by the Seaside”- with Tori Amos – on his own tribute album!)
The Box Tops were an interesting band. They were a Sixties group who had hits with songs like “Cry Like a Baby,” “Neon Rainbow,” and – ahem – “Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March.”
But their biggest hit was their first single, “The Letter,” which was released in August 1967. Now, you have to understand that there were so many songs flooding the airwaves back then, nobody was really thinking about the members of each individual band.
It wasn’t till later that we found out the lead singer was a seventeen-year-old from Memphis named Alex Chilton. He might have gone down in rock history as a one (or two) hit wonder had he not later founded a band called Big Star.
Alas, Big Star never really broke through but did achieve some level of cult status. Chilton’s song, “In The Street,” was recorded by Cheap Trick (starting with Season Two) as the theme for That ’70’s show. (I always thought the creators of that show really had a good finger on the pulse of that era.)
Anyway, The Box Tops version of “The Letter” (they didn’t write it), clocks in at about two minutes and is, in fact, a really good song. Alex Chilton was the American equivalent of Steve Winwood, young and soulful. The YouTube video is here and the Spotify version is here.
In 1970, Joe Cocker toured with an ensemble called Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Joe was always a great interpreter of others’ songs. Here’s a version from this insanely large ensemble’s stint at Fillmore East. Leon Russell on piano.
When the Allman Joys first went to California in the Sixties, they played places like the Troubador and hung with all the artists there. Recording-wise, their albums – according to both Gregg and Duane – were pretty much shit that “cannot be got off on.” Duane escaped and went to Muscle Shoals to do studio work; Gregg hung around to fulfill their contract.
During that time he met Jackson Browne, himself a struggling singer-songwriter. Jackson wrote a song called “These Days,” that oddly, he didn’t initially record. Gregg got hold of it and somewhat rearranged it for his 1973 album, Laid Back. It quickly became the definitive version.
“When [Allman] did [These Days],” Browne said, “I thought that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version. I started playing the piano. I wasn’t trying to sing it like Gregg; I couldn’t possibly. I took the cue, playin’ this slow walk. But it was written very sort of, kind of a little more flatpicking.”
BTW, Rolling Stone did a nice tribute to Gregg recently. And it kinda really hit me for the first time that I will never be able to randomly check in from time to time and see the Allman Brothers Band ever again. A hole in the universe, if you will.