Tuesday, August 09, 2005

various strawberries forever

i was 11 the first time i heard 'strawberry fields forever'. it was almost springtime in vegas and i was a virgin to most things rock, (tho i did love the beatles and not the monkees). i used to hang with my friend, doug, all the time. his dad worked on satellites for the military industrial complex and his supermom was a teacher and listened to pop radio while cleaning the house on weekends. doug was like some kinda mad child genius, always making liquid oxygen or some other vile substance and storing it in their freezer for future use, (we would spend hours in the hot desert shooting off these rockets he built. he always carried a shit-load of notebooks and would spend hours making these odd hieroglyphic-like symbols surrounding de vinci type drawings of devises better left alone by the hands of man. i often wonder whose nuclear/plasma power/laser program he is working on now).

it was a saturday morning, we were in the back room cooking up his latest concoction and his mom was doing the house up all suzy-homemaker-like with the radio blaring out the top 40 hits, (for the life of me i can't remember the vegas rock station's call letters, it was just some innoculous southern nevada a.m. station during the 60's).
then a song came on and filled the house with this incredible sound, permeating the walls and cutting thru the chemical stench. the sound from the tiny radio in the kitchen grew fat and thick as the song built in its majesty. the simple flute-like mellotron and dreaming vocals in the beginning verse, then the strings, punching and swirling, building into a stampede while being chased by tribal drums ... and then the horns chime in, all shiny and prancy, cascading around the maelstrom. the guitar kicks in for the false ending ... then the bitch turns the radio off. i heard her cry out, 'that's not my beatles!', and ranting something about 'rubber soul' and '. . . hold your hand'. i made excuses and split to my house across the street. i ran into my wreckroom, turned on my little box radio and duly waited the usual top-40-hour to hear the song again. it came back on, with big fanfare from the d.j., and by the end of it my life had changed. i had a purpose, a reason ... to accumulate as much of this sound as was humanly possible. it was sandwiched in between alot of motown tunes and pre-psychedlica garage band stuff, but that music seemed a lifetime away... it was my born the first time again experience. after that day, thru today, i have never stopped looking for that initial rush, kinda like a crack addict i guess, or sex addict, it is never as good as the first time ...

anyways, i have been working on this idea for awhile, to compile all the cover versions of 'strawberry fields forever' that exist, (or that i can find).
i found all the demos and outtakes of the beatles 'strawberry' tapes long ago, and to hear the song from germ to infection to complete plauge is beautiful. it took the wonderful internet to find all the demos and takes, and ebay supplied the bootleg cd.
over the years i have found an abundant amount of the wierdest versions of the song by sneaking around, hunting and pecking, looking high and low. some may think it a daunting task, but i just laff at their lack of feverish drive to achive the mundane. ha!
...well, it is just a bit daunting, (just how many people tried to pull it off anyways, i sure don't know), and trying to cop all these oddities by hook or crook can be time-consuming. but as with almost anything else there are a few gems in the dredge. i am up to 30 different artist's take on it. some versions are not too bad, like 'candy flip', 'xtc', 'todd rundgren', 'peter gabriel' or 'ben harper's' renditions, while a few are just weird and silly like a few whiny sounding a capellas by 'the swingle singers', 'king's singers' and 'the real group', 'zappa's' twisted take on it in oslo 1988, 'the runaways' doing it not at all punk, some nashville session players doing a bizarre bluegrass version from 'pickin' on the beatles' or 'fatboy slim's' feverish remix.
but as i say, there are some really good versions; 'tommorow's' crunchy, rocking, very 'move'-like 1968 cop on the classic, 'me first and the gimme gimmes' wild, sloppy and dead-on bar-mitzva attempt, 'los fabulosos caddilacs' excellent ska vision featuring deborah harry and 'laurence juber's' delicious acoustic rendition . . .
i keep looking, (i know there is a miles davis take on this i may have to buy), but i seem to be running out of sources, if anyone knows of a version that i need to finish my mission, please reply.

... here's some mp3s of the tastiest strawberries i've found (via yousendit):

me first and the gimme gimmes

tomorrow ('yes' man steve howe's first band)

los fabulosos caddilac (feat. deborah harry)

laurence juber

john's 'it's not too bad'


Anonymous said...

The Park Central Squares cover 'Strawberry Fields' on their self-titled cd. This group is Donnie Thompson's one-off from the Morells and Skeletons. I'd be happy to burn a copy for you or you can get a used copy at Amazon for .99 cents! Randy rmarlin@ranchlife.org

tom wood said...

Thanks. Great post. I collect cover versions of Beatles tunes and this is one of the hardest to come by. Do you know the covers by Tomorrow or The New World Electric Chamber Orchestra? I might be able to e-mail them if you're interested.

sleepybomb said...

hey randy, i might take you up on that offer, i am sure i have something you'd want in return.
tom, thanks for the heads up, i could use the electric chamber song, but if the tomorrow is steve howe's band, i already have it and love it.
thnks guys.i will take any strawberries thrown my way, and be happy to reciprocate . . .

Johnno said...

Mate, this is superb, I'll even go out on a limb and call it "world class". Truly great writing.

That's about all I can add. I've just been blown away.

I'll link this and hope some people come your way from my way.

sleepybomb said...

well john, i am speechless, i am without speech. thanks man, and i thought it was just some stoned ramblings, i can never write a short, consice anything.
and i owe ya for such a wonderful post about the wreckroom, you are a great blogmate!

Snave said...

I collected about ten or eleven versions of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and put them all on one CD... it's one of my favorites! I tried doing one for "Witchi-Tai-To" but could only come up with about seven artists.

I never really liked the Beatles until Sgt. Pepper, which I heard in 1967 when I was 10. I had already gotten albums like "The Who Sell Out", and "Are You Experienced?", and had been into artists like Paul Revere and the Raiders, Johnny Rivers, Buffalo Springfield, and the long-gone but not-forgotten The Sunshine Company. But Sgt. Pepper caused me to sit up and take notice, and I was hooked from that point on, eventually collecting all the Beatles LPs from Yesterday and Today forward.

A friend of mine made me a 2-CD set of Beatles covers that is just fantastic. Come over to my site, Sleepy, and let me know if yer interested. At the least, I can let you know what's on it! Cheers, Snave

dickvandyke said...

Sterling work Sleepy. Cream on the strawberries! There are few songs which evoke such feeling. I couldn't begin to scratch the surface in explaining the sensory shenanigans that this song conjours up. But you've just about stitched it up like a kipper!
How lucky are today's youngsters who discover it for the first time.

Lashings of respect.

dickvandyke said...

Oh, and we posted a baggy (circa 1990) version recently by the shoddily named northerners 'Candyflip'. It hit the UK charts. It's very much of its era but, dare I say it, it's not actually that bad.

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Anonymous said...

Slim Tim here... Great post! Loved the tunes. Debbie Harry still makes me drool. I'm no fan of tribute albums because they often sound tossed together, probably cause they are tossed together by some record company exec. But the clever take of a cover song slipped between a band's originals is a sweet moment. DEVO was ingenious the way they did this.

Also, a friend of mine had a whole album of "Louie, Louie" that was just hilarious. The best was the Black Flag version. Flat out killer!

Anyways, loved the strawberry treats, looking forward to more.

sleepybomb said...

snave, i guess i'm gonna have to e-mail you for that list, i wanna see it as i never get too many beatle cover cds, well i need more. . .
and i need to change the name of this blog to 'lashings of repect'... mr. van dyke, that is the funniest thing i have heard in a long time, i am trying to find a way to fit that into all my conversations ... when i converse.
timmy you old dog you, let's start a band when i get home!
oh, and sorry about the spam ya'll, i just leave it coz it is so stupid. . .

rockcityagencia said...

can I ask you to send me these tunes by mail? the link is not working and i love what you did!


sleepybomb said...

thanks baby! the songs are posted for just a week, but i do requests. you'll have all these and whatever else i can fit from the strawberry archives a.s.a.p.

Wastedpapiers said...

Too late for these. Thats the trouble with You Send It but enjoying your blog and especially the Owsley guy who I'd never heard of. Thanks for that!

sleepybomb said...

not to worry michael ... go check your mailbox. i sent ya all the strawberries and the owsley to boot.