Thursday, October 15, 2009

Compare and Contrast (An Occasional Series)

From June of 1964, please enjoy the original r&b version of "It's All Over Now" by The Valentinos (featuring co-composer Bobby Womack on guitar and lead vocals)...

...and then from a month later, the Rolling Stones' pop cover.

I bring this up partly because I love both of these, but also because the Stones record kind of gives the lie to the cliché about white rock musicians ripping off and diluting the work of black artists blah blah blah. The Valentinos original, wonderful as it is, is positively jaunty, as if the singer was secretly amused by the fact he's done with the woman in question, while the Stones take -- done with the identical instrumentation, i.e. two guitars, bass and drums -- all but drips anger and, frankly, menace. Which is to say the Stones totally made the song their own, and no apologies needed. (Womack, of course, was delighted with the large royalty check he received after the Stones version went Top 40.)

It is also worth noting, I think, that the fade-out at the end, with those circular guitar figures (repeated over and over with only the tiniest variations) is for all intents the first real example in pop culture of the musical esthetic we now refer to as Minimalism.

A final bit of trivia: The Stones were turned on to the Valentinos original by legendary New York DJ Murray the K. "We thought he was a cunt," Keith Richards told Rolling Stone some years later, "but he gave us a great record."


Anonymous said...

Was SAR Records Sam Cooke's label?

I've never seen the Stones picture sleeve before, very cheesy & cool at the same time.


Gummo said...

When I saw the Stones at Rich Stadium in Buffalo in 1975, one of the warm-ups was Bobby Womack (one of the others was The Outlaws, but that's better left unremembered).

The 60s English bands like the Stones & Beatles were always very careful to credit their sources and influences, which I think led a lot of us back to the black American musicians who originated a lot of these songs, beats and sounds.

They deserve a lot of credit for that, IMHO, because they sure as heck didn't have to do it and IIRC it wasn't all that common to acknowledge your musical forebears back then.

steve simels said...

Absolutely, Gummo. For example, The Stones famously insisted that Shindig book Howlin' Wolf the first or second time they were on.

Of course, they weren't so scrupulous about crediting Robert Johnson when the covered Love and Vain and Stop Breakin' Down, but it's not like he would have gotten the royalties...

fmcg said...

The Stones (it seems to me, at least) gave credit when it would benefit the original artist (Jimmy Reed, Solomon Burke, whoever wrote "You Gotta Move") but Nanker Phelge got the credit otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Joni Mitchell's "Furry Sings The Blues" remains perhaps the most honest examination of the wariness of many blues artists towards their white progeny.

I saw Furry Lewis perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. As I remember it, he sat alone, seated and playing his guitar, his guttural singing mostly incomprehensible. At he end he was hoisted by two men, still in his chair, onto the back of a truck, and driven off.

steve simels said...

I saw Lewis in Memphis at the first and only rock critic's union convention in 1973.

One of my colleagues referred to him as the "legendary Blues mummy."

David said...

Certainly the Stones were more forthcoming than Led Zeppelin, who pinched melodies, riffs and lyrics and then renamed the songs (e.g., Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" which became "I Can't Quit You Babe" and Muddy Waters's "You Need Love" which became "Whole Lotta Love"). And it wasn't just black artists: they nicked Bert Jansch's "Blackwater Side" and called it "Black Mountain Side." Pretty shameless. (I love 'em anyway.)

steve simels said...

And Dazed and Confused. Stolen by Jimmy Page blatantly from Jake Holmes.

Of course, since Jake's still on TV singing every jingle known to man, I guess he had the last laugh.

Walking Oliver Productions, Ltd said...

The Stones were so in awe of Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf and others that they seemed to credit them as a badge of honour, and rightly so. They gave proper credit proudly where many others didn't dare.

But I don't know, much as I love the Stones, on this one I'm gonna have to go with the Valentinos. Makes me want to go get a hits package, actually. Thanks!

Moose said...

I gotta agree with Walking Oliver. I do love the Stones version. It's one of my early Stones faves. But the Womack clan really knocked down great recording. It's a shame it only made it to 94 on the US chart.