For this month’s version of The Original vs. The Cover, we have a triple bill of the song “Last Kiss”. We have the original which was written and performed by Wayne Cochran down at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA back in 1961. The 45’s were printed in Vidalia, GA…you know the town that gives you Vidalia Onions. I’ve been to that town, there isn’t a whole lot there but Onions, but that is another story. The first cover is by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers which was released in June 1964 and went to #2 on the Billboard Charts. The final version we will discuss is the one by Pearl Jam which was released on June 8, 1999 and reached #2 on the Billboard Charts as well. Three great versions. Yes, I know there are a bunch of covers of this song, but I settled on these three versions.
The song is said to be written by Wayne Cochran as well as Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal and Bobby McGlon but the later three were never officially credited on any of the releases. All four performed on the song. Speaking of the song, this is a song about a tragic car crash which seemed to be a big thing to do back in the day. Instead of trying to recap the story in my words, let me post what wikipedia says…
“The narrator borrows his father’s car to take his girlfriend out on a date, and comes upon a stalled car in the road. Unable to stop, the narrator swerves to the right to avoid it, losing control and crashing violently in the process, knocking him and his girlfriend unconscious. The narrator later regains consciousness in the midst of a rainstorm, and finds several people at the scene of the accident. While partially blinded by the blood flowing from his injuries, the narrator is able to find his girlfriend, still lying unconscious. When he cradles his girlfriend lovingly in his arms, she regains partial consciousness, smiling and asking the narrator to “hold me, darling, for a little while.” The narrator then gives her the titular “last kiss” as she fades into death and enters the afterlife.“
The song has been said to be a true story of Jeanette Clark and J.L. Hancock, who were both 16 years old when their car hit a tractor-trailer on a road in rural Barnesville, Georgia Here’s the thing. That accident occurred in 1962 and the song was written and recorded in 1961 so kind of hard to believe that theory. Okay, enough of that, let’s get to the song.
The song is from 1961 and when I hear it, I would’ve guessed the 50’s rock sound. It has a great bass groove and I am guessing a standup bass. There were some ladies serenading in the background that feels a little Motown. The bass and drum beat are the driving force behind the song. Wayne’s deliver is solemn and more spoken than full on singing. Wayne sounds a little southern in his accent and makes sense since we are in the South in the 60’s. Now, look at that hair. That hair is probably his strength, his life force and if he ever cut it, his talent would go with it. For such a dark song lyrically, it is quite enjoyable and I can see the appeal to cover it.
J. FRANK WILSON AND THE CAVALIERS
J. Franklin Wilson and the Cavaliers recorded the song in 1964 down in Texas, so still the South. J. Franklin stuck with the sonics and sound of the original speeding up the song a little in tempo. The bass and drums are still the driving force with some keyboards added and the drum beat done a little different with more snare. You still have the same angelic voices in the background which are a great touch. J. Frank sings the song with more feeling and at times with a little more energy and at a higher register. I think I am more familiar with this version probably because it charted so high and is played more.
Pearl Jam recorded the single because Eddie came across the 45 Single in a record store and loved. The band recorded it in 1998 and released it as a fan club single. It would later finally be put on the album No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees to help support the refugees in the Kosovo War. Now Pearl Jam’s version has the drum more prevalent and the guitar is also front and center in their mix. There are no angelic female voices in the background acting as angels. Eddie’s vocals are very emotive and really solemn at times which fits the theme of the song. Pearl Jam’s version is actually a minute longer with an instrumental break and a lot of “aaahs and ooohs” by Eddie. It sticks to the basic map of the song but takes different roads.
I guess I need to give a verdict on the song and with much deliberation between the jury of me, myself and I, I am going to go with J. Franklin Wilson and the Cavaliers cover version from 1964. They edge it out for me as I really like Wilson’s vocals the best and the quicker tempo of the song. It barely edged out Wayne’s version only because I like Wilson’s vocals better. Pearl Jam’s version, although great, really loses some of the heart and complete utter devastation the song is trying to convey which is strange because Pearl Jam songs can be pretty freakin’ depressing and wasn’t that the whole point of grunge.
I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs. Let me know which version you like the best and why. Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a great day.
Well, where, oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me She's gone to heaven so I got to be good So I can see my baby when I leave this world We were out on a date in my daddy's car We hadn't driven very far There in the road, straight ahead The car was stalled, the engine was dead I couldn't stop, so I swerved to the right Never forget the sound that night The crying tires, the busting glass, the painful scream that I heard last Well, where, oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me She's gone to heaven so I got to be good So I can see my baby when I leave this world Well when I woke up, the rain was pouring down There were people standing all around Something warm running in my eyes But I found my baby somehow that night I raised her head, and then she smiled and said Hold me darling for a little while I held her close, I kissed her, our last kiss I found the love that I knew I would miss But now she's gone, even though I hold her tight I lost my love, my life That night Well, where, oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me She's gone to heaven so I got to be good So I can see my baby when I leave this world