One Song/Three Versions

Midnight Cowboy is a great, somewhat dated movie and is, to date, the only X-rated movie ever to win best picture. (The stuff it got an X for in 1969 you can now see on cable TV any day of the week. X has since been replaced by NC-17.)

I mention this because that movie was the first time the great majority of us had ever heard ‘Everybody’s Talkin.'” And what a great, plaintive song it was and is. There are times that I still relate to the lyrics:

Everybody’s talking at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind

People stopping, staring
I can’t see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes

But the song was written by a guy named Fred Neil of whom Wikipedia tells us: “Fred Neil was an American folk singer-songwriter active in the 1960s and early 1970s. He did not achieve commercial success as a performer and is mainly known through other people’s recordings of his material  Though highly regarded by contemporary folk singers he was reluctant to tour and spent much of the last 30 years of his life assisting with the preservation of dolphins. (! That’s what ME wants to do when he retires.) 

Neil was considered the King of the MacDougal Street/Greenwich Village folksingers. Bob Dylan recalled that when he arrived at the Village, he was advised to seek Neil there, and, when he did, Neil invited Dylan to join him on stage.”

His album Fred Neil, released in 1967, and relaunched in 1969 as Everybody’s Talkin’, was recorded during his residencies in Greenwich Village and Coconut Grove, with one session taking place in Los Angeles.

Here’s his original:

As readers of this blog know I always like a little radical reinvention of a tune or at least hearing it from someone who I didn’t expect to perform it. My guess is you all know at least to some extent the Tedeschi/Trucks band. Derek Trucks, nephew of the late Allmans’ drummer Butch Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, scion of the Tedeschi family which runs a chain of variety stores.

Or I should say, ran a chain as they were bought out by7-Eleven. Susan could have been some big retail executive calling up to find out where her shipment of Kool-Aid is but n-ooo-oo, she had to go ahead and become a blues guitarist and singer. Which suits me fine. The retail grocery businesses loss is our gain:

Here’s their version which turns the song into a loose, funky thang:

And for all that, I gotta say my favorite version is still Harry Nilsson’s. If you need a Nilsson refresher, read this. This version (with strings) really speaks to me and captures the mood of the movie, especially in the last scenes:

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes

Banking off of the northeast winds
Sailing on a summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

Speaking of Dylan, his “Lay Lady Lay” was originally written for the soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy but wasn’t submitted in time to be included in the finished film. It was also a big hit in 1969.

 

13 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions

  1. I never understood the rating of X for this movie, but the system was more strict in 69. I recently watched the film, and yes, it’s dated and I found myself bored. Nilsson’s music of course is suburb, and Lay Lady Lay would have been a great fit. Sweetwater Texas hasn’t changed much and the film shows NYC at it’s best and grubbiest. I never knew about Fred Niel, but then I wasn’t a folkie at that time. That would be around the time that Bob picked up a Strat, plugged into a Fender twin reverb, and turned Joanie gay.

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    1. I wasn’t so much bored in my last viewing of the film so much as I had an “Is that all there is?” reaction. It’s still a good character study. And that Times Square is long gone and now Disneyfied.
      “Lay Lady Lay” would have been right in the pocket. But boy I love what Nilsson did.
      Fred Neil is a well-known character in some quarters. I recall having conversations about him either on my blog or some other one a while back.
      BTW, if you’re a Dylan fan at all, his “Chronicles” book is pretty good. Some Baez stuff in there.

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        1. I think you’ll dig it. It’s in his own voice and the eras he chooses to write about seem random. But I enjoyed it.

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  2. Stepping up for my Dunce Award presentation, on two counts. Always loved the Nilsson version, no clue he did not write the song. And although I know the Tedeschi-Trucks version (the live album name even!), did not even realize it’s the same song. But that iconic melody line is largely MIA from their version (at least reworked to be pretty unrecognizable) — so maybe I get a pass on that. Shows how much I listened to the lyrics on TDB version.

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    1. Well, in the name of the Worldwide Bloggers League, I absolve you. Nilsson also didn’t write ‘Without You.’ Great interpreter.
      As to Tedeschi, yes they kept the lyrics and chords I suppose, reworked it in their own style. I kinda like when bands reinvent stuff but it’d be nice if they’d educate the audience a little bit.

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    1. Yeah, it’s definitely a relatable tune. I’m actually watching an interview with Derek right now. He’s talking about his band, the ABB but also jazz influences. It turns out that his uncle and Jaimoe knew Elvin Jones and they took him to hang with him one day. Also talking about Wes, Charlie Christian, etc.

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      1. Funny, I was just listening to Coltrane today and Alvin was the drummer on the album. Derek was getting some early education from all sorts of sources. I like Wes a lot. Him and Jimmy Smith together.
        Anyway good slant on a tune that is pretty ingrained in my music head.

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  3. The Harry Nilsson version is the one I had known – great! I also really like where Tedeschi Trucks Band took the tune – a really groovy take! I have to say I prefer both covers over the original.

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