Saturday, February 11, 2012

It was my kind friend, Adam of Pretending Life is Like a Song who suggested the proposition: "There's an argument that The Smiths' best song is Back to the Old House on Hatful of Hollow (1984) and their worst song is Back to the Old House on Louder than Bombs (1987)." I was more than willing to agree with him: Hatful of Hollow > Louder than Bombs. There is something remarkable about that acoustic interpretation, the resonance of Johnny's guitar, Morrissey's breathtaking vocal delivery, I'm sure many others would agree. Yet, it surprises me to admit that, because I heard the version on Louder than Bombs first.

You never knew how much I really liked you, because I never even told you - oh, but I meant to.

The realisation made me reflect upon that unspoken tendency to prefer the first version of a song we hear. The "first version" manages to become the more definitive interpretation with every repeated listening. This may occur even though the "first version" may, in actuality, be the more illegitimate. It may be a cover, demo or in the case of New Order's Brutal (2000), unduly sped up and distorted to shit. Familiarity with the "first version" may result in a difficulty to accept the qualities of another version. We come up with irrational pronouncements, like Mito's epic Italo anthem Droid (1982) cannot begin to compare with its cover by Hypnosis (1987): the cover is that much better.

A part of me thinks that musical familiarity has much to do with the subconscious. So often, I find myself inexplicably drawn to specific Italo tracks, only to discover I had heard them years before, included in DJ Zyron's Classic Italo Mix. I recognised Catcall's track, Swimming Pool (2010) during her support performance of CSS, not because I had heard the song on the radio, but because my sweet friend Louise of Eton Mess Life sang it in passing, well over a year before. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there exists this subconscious desire to find a version, a "first version" in an attempt to obsessively revisit and ferociously defend.

Yet, it is somehow more vindicating to discover a "second version" which far surpasses the first. It obliterates the comfort that comes from musical familiarity, however conscious. Such a discovery suggests that there continues to be a process of engagement, a process of assessing a song on its merits. Sure, it may never be possible to emulate the dizzying high: that initial moment where an interpretation becomes the first and absolute definitive. But, in spite of all attachments, it may be possible to fall in love with a song, over and over again.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Italo Disco Podcast #39
Big Ben Tribe - Tarzan Loves the Summer Nights
Michael Bedford - More Than a Kiss
Hysterical Fit - Come and Make Me High
Albert One - For Your Love (Another Version)
Buzzer - Complications (Moar Cowbell Mix)
Hot Cold - I Can Hear Your Voice
Mozzart - Malice and Vice
Ken Heaven - The Calling

Download (64.9MB)


smudgeon said...

I'd never heard that Tarzan song until I picked up your podcast, but I've been blasting it on the drive to walk for the last few days.

Thanks again!

Eleanor said...

Why, thank you Smudge! That Tarzan song is epic, I'm so glad you like it! I discovered it here:

If you have the patience to wade through many thousands of other Italo anthems, you can find some very fine gems indeed!