Song of the Week – I Want You; Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Elvis Costello

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Over the many years I’ve been writing, I occasionally cover a topic I call the Evolution Series.  Those posts either follow a song that has been covered in many forms/styles or demonstrates how a rhythm has been used differently in songs.  Today I’m stretching the concept a little further.  Today’s evolution traces three songs with the same title, by three different outstanding artists, that are not related in any direct way, except that they all depict a lover’s obsession.  The song title is “I Want You.”

First up is the Dylan classic from Blonde on Blonde.

The verses contain the vivid imagery that we all came to expect and enjoy from Dylan and the chorus switches to a very heartfelt, direct plea.

The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn
But it’s not that way
I wasn’t born to lose you

I want you, I want you
I want you so bad
Honey, I want you

In 1970, John Lennon contributed a song to Abbey Road called “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”

Everyone knows this one!  It has several cool surprises.  It opens with an arpeggiated guitar riff, quickly moves into the main theme, and switches into a Latin influenced reprise.  About 4:30 in John practices his primal scream vocal that reveals his excruciating pain — it makes Dylan’s “heartfelt, direct plea” seem charming – then returns to the arpeggio opening.  This continues for 3 minutes, getting heavier and heavier with each cycle – until it unexpectedly ends abruptly in a morass of static.  Brilliant!

Elvis Costello released one of his best albums, Blood & Chocolate, in 1986 and it too contained a song titled “I Want You.”

The truth can’t hurt you it’s just like the dark
It scares you witless
But in time you see things clear and stark
I want you
Go on and hurt me then we’ll let it drop
I want you
I’m afraid I won’t know where to stop
I want you
I’m not ashamed to say I cried for you
I want you
I want to know the things you did that we do too
I want you
I want to hear he pleases you more than I do
I want you
I might as well be useless for all it means to you
I want you

The slow, sparse arrangement emphasizes the darkness of the lyrics.  Wikipedia quotes Rolling Stone aptly calling the track “an epic testament to jealousy over a former lover’s new partner.”

I wonder if any of these artists were influenced by the song(s) that preceded theirs.  Perhaps there is a more direct connection than initially seems to be the case.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Grow Old with Me, John Lennon


Last Monday, October 9th, would have been John Lennon’s 77th birthday. Today, October 14th, is my 33rd anniversary.

I’ve decided to combine the two events with today’s SotW, “Grow Old with Me,” by Lennon.

This is one of the last songs he wrote and recorded as a demo before being murdered in 1980. For several years it was only heard by fans who sought out bootleg recordings. But the song was given an official release on 1984’s Milk and Honey album, albeit in the original demo form.

According to Wikipedia:

The song was inspired from two different sources: from a poem penned by Robert Browning titled “Rabbi ben Ezra” and a song by Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono called “Let Me Count the Ways” (which in turn had been inspired from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning).

Lennon and Ono had for some time admired the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Browning, and the two songs were purposely written with the couple in mind.

Ono woke up one morning in the summer of 1980 with the music of “Let Me Count the Ways” in her head and promptly rang Lennon in Bermuda to play it for him. Lennon loved the song and Ono then suggested to him that he should write a Robert Browning piece to accompany it. That afternoon, John was watching TV when a film came on which had the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning in it. Inspired by this turn of events, Lennon wrote “Grow Old with Me” as an answer to Ono’s song, and rang her back to play it to her over the phone.

The song was later covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter and the late Glen Campbell.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week Revisited – Whatever Gets You Through the Night, John Lennon

985f4c448e5e32e32da3c84b626c9b53IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today the great sax player, Bobby Keys, died at the age of 70. In his honor I’m re-posting a SotW I originally sent out 2 years ago tomorrow – November 3, 2012.

One of my favorite session men is tenor sax player Bobby Keys. Known mostly for his long association with the Rolling Stones – that’s Keys on “Brown Sugar”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and all over Exile on Main Street – Keys also made significant to contributions to recordings by everyone from Joe Cocker, to George Harrison, to Harry Nilsson, to Buddy Holly.

He played the sax on Elvis Presley’s “Return to Sender.” That’s him again on Dion’s “The Wanderer.”

Keys rock star lifestyle excesses are legendary. In February he published an autobiography titled Every Night’s a Saturday Night: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m certain it contains some great stories.

My pick for the SotW is John Lennon’s collaboration with Elton John – “Whatever Gets You through the Night.”

I chose this song because Lennon really created a lot of space for Keys to do his thing. (And let’s face it; it’s a really fun song that you probably haven’t heard in a dog’s age.) From the opening note, Keys is blaring away. Then he gets a couple of opportunities in between each verse and chorus to add short solos. He really makes the song.

As a side note, WGYTTN has an interesting story to go along with it. Apparently, in the recording studio Elton predicted it would be a hit. Lennon didn’t agree, so they made a bet. If the song reached #1, Lennon would have to appear on stage to perform it with Elton. Indeed, the song hit #1 on the Billboard charts on November 16, 1974. Lennon made good on his wager and appeared with Elton at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1974.

Enjoy… until next week.