When you hear the song title “Black Magic Woman”, most people immediately associate the song with Santana and that is because they have the most famous version of the song. However, their version is actually a cover version. I did not know that until a short time ago when I discovered that the original was performed by Fleetwood Mac two years earlier. My world was rocked as I had no idea. I don’t know if life will ever be the same.
The song was written by Peter Green who was the original singer for the Fleetwood Mac and he came from John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers where he originally replaced Eric Clapton on guitar. There is whole story around that and the formation of Fleetwood Mac which we will have to save for another time as this post is about comparing the two versions of “Black Magic Woman”.
The Fleetwood Mac version of “Black Magic Woman” was a real bluesy track, heavy on the drums and the bass with little guitar riffs thrown in. Then there is a great guitar solo that comes in about a minute into the song and goes on for about 45 seconds. It is really great and what would you expect from a guy that replaced Eric Clapton in another band.
Peter sounds great vocally as well and after listening to it, I realized I have heard the song many times before but probably thought it was the Santana song, of course it doesn’t have the same feel, but they aren’t completely different songs.
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For this month’s edition of “The Original vs. The Cover”, we are going to take on a third version as we tackle the David Essex song “Rock On”. We will battle it out between David Essex’s original version vs. covers by both Michael Damian and Def Leppard.
The song was written for a movie that David was starring in called “That’ll Be the Day” which also had Ringo Starr and Kieth Moon. The song, however, was not used in the movie. David wrote the song based on his character from the movie and it has a pure old rock & roll rebellious attitude. The song is actually a tip-of-the-hat to the old time rockers as it mentions “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Summertime Blues” as well as it gives a shout-out to an old Hollywood rebel James Dean.
Since we have three versions, we might as well jump right into it.
David’s version hit #3 on the UK singles chart in 1973 and didn’t do that great in the US, but doesn’t mean we Americans don’t love it. The song is very unique in that there are no instruments that play any chords which means there is No Guitar and No Piano on the song at all. It is all bass, percussion and horns. It is really stripped down.
You can tell a major influence of the song is Jamaican raggae and the whole dub style. The song is driven by the bass line which was done by Herbie Flowers. According to Wikipedia…”(Herbie’s) double-tracked bass guitar was treated with a prominent “slapback” delay effect, creating a complex polyrhythmic backbeat.”
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As everyone is aware, David Bowie had what is called his Berlin Era which was the time period between 1976-1979 when he lived in Berlin and recorded several albums including ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’. During that same period, Iggy Pop was living in Berlin as well and the two got together and wrote the song we covering this month on The Original vs. The Cover. That song is “China Girl”.
The Original version of this song is actually by Iggy Pop. It was released by Iggy in 1977 on his album ‘The Idiot’. David Bowie’s version didn’t come out until 1983 on his album ‘Let’s Dance’. I will tell you that at the time of Bowie’s release I was completely unaware that Iggy had done this song 6 years earlier so I thought this was the original.
There has been discussion over the meaning of the song over the years. One group believes the song is about a Vietnamese woman that Iggy was completely infatuated with. Her name is Kuelan Nguyen. The song is about his desire to be with her, but at the same time warn her of the problems of Western Civilization and the damage it can do as you can see with the line…”Visions of swastikas in my head”. The fact the were in Berlin probably added to that commentary.
The other camp thought the song was about Heroin since the term “China White” is a term used to describe heroin. The girl in the song was considered the Heroin and all the problems it can cause. I can believe either version, but the truth is it was actually about the woman that Iggy was crazy about. I prefer the love story over the drugs. Now, let’s get to the music.
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For this month’s version of The Original Vs. The Cover we tackle “American Woman” by The Guess Who vs Lenny Kravitz’s version. The song was originally released in 1969 by Canadian band The Guess Who. The song went to #1 and became such a popular song in the U.S. mainly because of it’s title.
That is strange because the song is not Pro-American, but it isn’t really Anti-American either. It is a small part Anti-War song (one line says “I don’t need your war machine”) and large part bashing of American women. Bashing is harsh, it was more like American women were too much for lyricist Burton Cummings. Here is what he said about the song to the Toronto Star back in 2014…
“It had nothing to do with politics. What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”
The article goes on to describe how the song developed and it seems like it was by pure chance…
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For this month’s edition of ‘The Original vs The Cover’, we are going to cover the song “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks vs the cover by Van Halen. When Van Halen originally released this song back in 1978, I thought it was an original…what did I know, I was only 9. The Kinks didn’t exist in my world yet. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one as Ray Davies has mentioned that fans have come up to them after shows and thought it was cool that they played a Van Halen song.
“You Really Got Me” was released on Sept 2, 1964 in the US and the song was off the band’s album ‘Kinks’. The song went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it went all the way to #1 in their home country of the UK. It was their third single at the time, but it was the first to really do anything for the band. It was so successful, it became their signature song.
The song has been described by Ray Davies as a “love song for street kids”. It is a rebellious track of sex and lust and all around gritty, dirty love. It is that energy both versions capture so well.
The Kinks’ version had a very Beatlesque quality to it which makes sense since the Beatles were huge at the time. The band wanted to capture that sound and they truly did. The song to me also had a real punk feel to it. It was aggressive and in your face, but it was the guitar sound that really made the song.
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For this month’s The Original vs. The Cover, we are tackling the classic song “All Along the Watchtower” written by Bob Dylan. We are going to explore the Bob Dylan version and the Jimi Hendrix version. The two versions of this song couldn’t be more different. You have Bob Dylan’s version which is more Folk Rock and then the Hendrix version which is pure guitar rock. Each version is a classic in its own right so how do you choose. Let’s learn about each version first before we decide.
Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the song back in 1967. It was on the album John Wesley Harding which was released in December 1967. The song itself wasn’t released as a single until November 22, 1968 which was actually after The Jimi Hendrix Experience released it as they released it as a single on September 21, 1968. If we base the original and the cover based off single release date, then Hendrix’s is the original…right? No, it isn’t but one could make an argument if they so choose.
The song itself is a slow, almost ballad like for part of the song. Instrumentally, the standout is the harmonica which is the main driver of the song. The guitar and drum parts were background and their simplicity is what makes it work. The folksy sound and Dylan’s gritty voice were magical and he sings with such emotion. This is one of the few songs I actually could understand what he was saying.
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This month’s ‘The Original Vs. The Cover’s focusing on the Nine Inch Nails Song “Hurt”. The song is one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs and I am not a huge fan of the band, but this song always struck a chord with me. However, it was the cover of this song by a gentleman who goes by the moniker of Johnny Cash that made me stop and pay attention to this song (maybe you have heard of him). It was one of the most surprising song choices for Cash to cover, but damn! did he make it his own song. Let’s start off with the Original version of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.
NINE INCH NAILS:
The song, “Hurt”, was written by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and is off their album ‘The Downward Spiral’. For those not familiar with the band, their style is very industrial rock and has a very metalic sound. This song is no different other than the slow, plodding pace of song. It comes at you with such a sadness and a dark tone that you immediately feel the pain the singer is going through. The opening lines define the song right out of the gate…”I hurt myself today / To see if I still feel”.
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