Sunday, February 8, 2009

BQRH #12: Three Oldies-but-Goldies - "Runaway" (Del Shannon) + "The House Of The Rising Sun" (Eric Burdon & The Animals) + "It's Over" (Roy Orbison)

A break from the Valentine's anticipation? Well, kind of....

Anyway, this delivery is brought to you courtesy of my mom, Carmencita, who is crazy about the songs that follow here. With all my love to you, Muñita.

Nostalgia is the keyword tonight. Three great performances by three amazing artists from the 60's. The Last VJ had to come to save newer generations from overlooking these gems.

Del Shannon's "Runaway" (1961) was his debut single, his first #1 record, and certainly his most sucessful recording overtime. The synthesizer solo in the middle (written by keyboardist and electronic wizard Max Crook) goes together very well with these aching lyrics about poor Del losing his lover for good after she escaped from him. "I wonder, I wa-wa-wa-wa wonder / why, ah-wa-wa-wa-wa why / she ran away / And I wonder, where she will stay? / My little runaway / oh, ran ran ran ran runaway". For this mid-80's performance in Japan, he changed the lyrics from "where she will stay?" to "where you gonna stay?", shifting from third to second person in the interim. It's still a huge rocker.

"The House Of The Rising Sun" is a traditional folk song which was recovered, adapted and arranged by Bob Dylan for his debut album in 1961. British rock group The Animals took this folk ditty and transformed it into the ripping bluesy number that sent them to the highest part of the charts everywhere. The original lyric (as sung by Dylan) made reference to a bordello girl who ruined her life at this place, with her sweetheart being a gambling, drunk man who basically led her to waste her existence, and ultimately she had to kill him and spend the rest of her life in prison. The Animals' version is sung from the standpoint of a boy (the drunk man was the father in this case). However, the transformation made the story less dramatic, and at the same time it made less sense (Was the guy a client of the brothel? Or did he just happen to live there? What else?). Solution? Place a mean-sounding organ everywhere. Voila! You got yourself a smash hit.

At last but not least, the best voice of rock & roll according to Elvis Presley: Roy Kelton Orbison wrote the soul-ripping "It's Over" with his long-time collaborator William Dees back in 1964, and released it as a non-LP single. This version was recorded live in Holland. The track's structure is one of those typical Orbison songs (so atypical in pop music) where instead of verse/chorus/verse, a storytelling approach is favored, where the emotion in the story is matched by the instrumentation and, specially, the vocal delivery. Roy's vocal range is unparalleled, and It's Over makes it more evident. The narrator is telling the story of his beloved one's infidelity, and subsequent leaving. The climax of the song is reached when the cheating is unveiled by the woman herself:

"It breaks your heart in two / to know she's been untrue / but, aw, what will you do / when she says to you 'there's someone new, we're through'... / We're through! / It's oooover!".

Whoever doesn't feel like hell is breaking loose at that point has no soul.

Three gems from the early sixties to enjoy....

Love to all, BQ

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