Sunday, October 7, 2018

Vanilla Fudge – "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (1967)

Let me get over you 
The way you've gotten over me

[NOTE: I originally featured this 2 OR 3 LINES “GOLDEN DECADE” TRACKS HALL OF FAME song way back in 2011.  Vanilla Fudge’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was a stick of dynamite then, and it’s still a stick of dynamite today.  Here's a slightly revised version of my original post about “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” ]

Why is it so hard to do a cover version of a good song that is an improvement on the original?

I think it’s mostly a matter of familiarity.  When you’re used to the original version of a song, a different version just doesn’t sound right.  The more popular the original version was and the more familiar it is, the less likely it is that people will cotton to a cover version.

The covers that I think work the best are the ones that deconstruct the song and put it back together in a completely different way.  

No one was better at doing that than Vanilla Fudge, who took simple little three-minute, top-40 songs and turned them inside out and upside down to such an extent that their own mothers wouldn't have recognized them.   

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“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was a classic Motown song that was a #1 hit for the Supremes.  It was written and produced by Motown’s legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland production team, and I think it’s the best song the Supremes ever did.  It has a little more punch than most of their songs.

Just in case you've forgotten what the Supremes’ version sounds like, you can click here to listen to it.

That’s a really good performance of a really good song – don’t you agree?

The Supremes
If you had been living in Long Island in 1966 and playing in a psychedelic band with a bunch of other white guys, why in the world would you have picked that song to cover and release as your first single just a few months after it had been a big hit for the Supremes?  What would have made you think you could do it better?

I certainly wouldn’t have chosen it as a song to cover.  And I would have been wrong.  (It just goes to show you.)

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I recently stumbled across a video of Vanilla Fudge performing this song on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1968.  

Sullivan's other guests that night included Duke Ellington and his band, Flip Wilson – he did a bit as “Geraldine” – and Topo Gigio, the famous mouse puppet who was a favorite of Sullivan’s.

Ed Sullivan with Topo Gigio
Make sure you’re sitting down before you watch this Vanilla Fudge video -- and if you have a bad heart, have those nitroglycerin tablets handy.

I’m not kidding.  This performance is the damnedest thing you’ve ever seen.  When it ends, you may feel like lying down in a dark, quiet room with a cool washcloth on your forehead.  Or maybe you'll be so jacked up you'll run outside, grab a baseball bat, and start taking out your neighbors’ mailboxes.

Each of the band members appear to be completely spastic (to use a word that was one of our favorites back in 1968).   I’m not sure which one is the most over the top, but I’m voting for drummer Carmen Appice.  

Vanilla Fudge
Appice’s demented performance puts even fellow nutjob/genius drummer Keith Moon to shame, and that is saying something.  (Check out how Appice twirls his drumsticks between beats, and literally hugs his cymbals to silence them.)

I wish I knew what Ed Sullivan was thinking as he witnessed the performance.  It probably scared the bejesus out of him.

OK, enough yakety-yak.  Here’s a link to the Sullivan show performance.  Drop your socks and grab your you-know-whats.  Hit the “full screen” button and set your volume control to 11 on a 10 scale.

Click the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

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