Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Odd Songs #003: Gonna Get Along Without You Now

The whole of the last post about Patience and Prudence was just a preamble to this, the link being that this song was their other UK "hit" single, "Gonna Get Along Without You Now":

It reached no. 22 in the UK in 1957 (no. 11 in the USA, their second-biggest hit there).  As a not very interesting aside, this makes Patience and Prudence quite unusual in that both their UK singles made the charts but failed to hit the top 20 in the days when there only was a top 30.  That takes some doing (i.e. I can't think of any other examples).

Of course, that wasn't the first version of the song that I heard (being born 14 years after it was a hit probably did for that). The first version I heard is the one that most people know, the Viola Wills disco version:

It was a big hit (number 8 in the UK charts) in 1979 and I think it's testament to the strength of the song that it actually sounds as though it was written as a disco song in the first place.

It wasn't, of course, but nor was it written for Patience and Prudence.  It comes originally from 1951; written by Milton Kellem and apparently the earliest recording is this one from Teresa Brewer, recorded the following year:

So to begin with (assuming this was the original arrangement) it seems like it was written as a swing number and had this been the first version that I heard, I think I'd consider it the definitive one.  It's lyrically quite hard-edged and Ms. Brewer delivers the lines with the appropriate amount of sass.

But this is (again apparently, as it was recorded after the fact) the original arrangement:

Either way, these earlier arrangements that just make the Patience and Prudence version seem even weirder.  Then add this into the mix, a version from 1956 by the Bell Sisters:

But before getting into just quite how weird the Patience and Prudence version is, let's hear some other versions (there's been, to use a technical term, loads of them).  So, in roughly chronological order following P and P's version:

Chet Atkins does a purely instrumental (guitar) version (date unknown I'm afraid):

Skeeter Davis (1964), in a a distinctly more countrified style:

Tracey Dey (1964) giving it the old Wall of Sound treatment:

The Caravelles (around 1964), much closer to Patience & Prudence's arrangement:

The "other" UK hit version, a Latin-influenced version from Trini Lopez (1967):

And then - also in 1967 - came a rocksteady version by Brent Dowe & The Melodians:

And here's a quite splendid Northern Soul version from The Vibrations (I'd guess late 1960s):

Bad Manners, undoubtedly influenced by the Melodians' version, did a ska take on it in the early 1980s:

And finally a couple of contemporary versions; the Lemonheads do a good one (extremely faithful to the original, bizarrely):

Even Zooey Deschanel has had a go, recording a version with M. Ward under their "She & Him" moniker:

And there's a whole load more - it must be one of the most covered songs ever, which is not something I was expecting when I started out on this - Tina Charles, UB40, Soraya Arnelas, Kati Kovacs and a load of others that I can't be bothered to track down right now.  You get the idea.

But back to Patience and Prudence's version.  As with everything else they did, it seems to have this weird production; the words "ethereal", "eerie" and "otherworldly" come up a lot when describing their stuff and I'd not argue with that.  It describes their sound well and never better than on "Gonna Get Along Without You Now".  Everything just comes together to make it one of the weirdest pop records ever.

Perhaps it's not wise to investigate exactly why; something to do with the undoubted weirdness of having two sisters (10 and 11 years old at the time, remember) singing a fuck-you-I-don't-need-you-sneaky-lying-fucker-I-don't-need-no-man lyric, all over what was - for the time - a quite sophisticated orchestral backing.

Is it cognitive dissonance?  Something like that.

Anyway, it's a fucking brilliant song, whoever's singing it.

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