The Original Vs. The Cover – “Live and Let Die”

Welcome to the first installment of “The Original Vs. The Cover” for 2018.  We are going to start it off this year with the battle between Paul McCartney & Wings and Guns ‘N Roses with the song “Live and Let Die”.  The song was written by Paul & Linda McCartney for the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die”. The two versions aren’t really that different in my opinion.  Some of the orchestration is replaced with guitars, but other than that they are very similar.  But before we choose a version we like more, let’s talk about each version first.

Paul McCartney and Wings

Paul was given the Ian Fleming novel to read and then he sat down at his piano and wrote the song.  I am not sure Paul had ever had to write a song around a title before as he said it was not an easy thing to do.  Well, he wrote the song in an afternoon, so it must not have been that hard.  The song is one of Wing’s most popular songs and it received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song in 1973.  However, it did lose to Barbara Streisand’s song “The Way We Were”.  The song was also nominated for a Grammy in the same year.

The orchestration in the Wing’s version was done by the very famous Beatles Producer, George Martin, who also produced this song for Paul.  The James Bond movie producer, Harry Saltzman wanted Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston to perform the song rather than Wings, but George & Paul said they would let them have the song only if Paul and Wings performed it.  The rest is history.

The song is a play on the phrase “Live and Let Live” and how we use that phrase when we are younger, but when we become older and more cynical, we start saying “Live and Let Die”.

What makes the Wings version work is the orchestration through out the song.  The added horns, strings and percussion give it that cinema punch needed for a movie.  The song almost feels like a classical piece with the tempo and style changes throughout from softer to harder and back and forth.  It is one of my favorite James Bond theme songs.


 

Guns ‘N Roses

The Guns ‘N Roses version is off their 1991 album Use Your Illusion I.  In 1993, the song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance and so both versions were nominated for a Grammy.  Both lost.

So what did Guns ‘N Roses do to change it up and make it their own version.  Honestly, not much.  They start off with the same piano and Axl’s vocals before they kick it up a notch and crank it out. They kept the horns like the original.  The only real changes were turning it in to a very hard rock version rather than the orchestrated original.  The strings are replaced by Slash’s guitar and the percussion is replaced by Matt’s banging drum set.  Outside of that, they style and sound is still similar to the original.

I do like the juiced up version and Axl’s unique vocals definitely add a different dimension to the song, but not enough in my opinion to really make it their own even though more people might think of it as their song and not Wings.


 

Okay, my decision is rather easy on this one.  I do like the Paul McCartney & Wings version much better.  It has that movie orchestration and punch needed for the cinema and for its original intention.  It is one of the best James Bond movie themes and gives me a little more bang for my buck.  I don’t think Guns ‘N Roses brought anything significantly new to the table with their version and being a GNR fan, that hurts me to say that.  Let me know which version should we let “LIVE” and which one should “DIE”.

“Live And Let Die”

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell

When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die
Live and let die

Written by Paul and Linda McCartney

31 thoughts on “The Original Vs. The Cover – “Live and Let Die”

  1. Great idea for a series….
    I remember Guns playing this live when I saw them on the tour opener in Alpine Valley and almost blinding me with that back of strobe lights(behind Sorum) that they used just for this song….
    I do prefer Beatle Pauls spin on this ..the Axl screech kinda got to me after a while on this track

    Liked by 2 people

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