OK, I admit it. I last posted a track in this series that was released on Epic records, and now, in further blatant disregard, here I am posting a song from 60s Motown. My excuse? Hell, it was a long time ago and no-one will really remember, except those annoying pedants who always delight in the elementary nature of my errors. So, screw you, cos this is the ultimate Motown, and my bete noir of the label, keeping my teenage tastes in music off the number 1 slot for nearly as long as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Lord, Mr Marvin Gaye, did I hate you when I was, um, 10, many years of (sexual?) healing having to occur before I could take you to my, um, bosom. But, time, as ever, is the wiser, and 1967's I Heard it through the Grapevine is really an absolute corker, one of a playlist I will always include one or other version of within.
So Gaye's version is pretty unbeatable? (You've heard it, right?) Hmm, maybe so. But there are a whole lot more inventions around that theme. So here's a trio that each dismantle, each reconfigure and each extrapolate way beyond the vision of Norman Whitfield, the producer. But did you know that it wasn't even the first choice Motown recording, with both Smokey Robinson's Miracles and Gladys Knight and the Pips having first dibs on the song?
Creedence Clearwater Revival always had a thing about soul, or was it that soul always had a thing about CCR. Fairly hot on the heels of "their" Proud Mary, covered so memorably by Ike and Tina Turner, 1970 saw their mammoth take on Grapevine.
In truth it adds little, beyond Fogerty's extraordinary diction, "hoyaid" it thru' the grapevine etc. A more extensive demolition/remolition had to wait until 1979 for the Slits. It is true that the vocals need a little tolerance on behalf of the listener to accept their dystonality, but, that apart, the arrangement is stunning, a spiky and skanky guitar, some frantic drums and a dub baseline, itself courtesy producer, UK reggae giant Dennis Bovell. I loved it so much I made the mistake of buying the album.
A completely different approach was taken by the UK folk club darlings of the mid 80s, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, whose ballsy live take, on single acoustic guitar and voice was beefier than many a full blown orchestrated and/or electric version. A high point of their then shows, Gregson's masterclass guitar could double or triple the length of the song, spinning subtle excerpts of other songs mid picking. I still find this version astonishing. (There is talk of his reprising much of this much missed duo's work, with singer Liz Simcock, during this summer. Meanwhile Collister is back on the boards with Richard Thompson, for a special at this years Cropredy festival.)
So, dare you really say this wa s song unworthy of inclusion, if only for reason of accuracy? Shame on you.
Gaye, CCR, Slits or Gregson & Collister? Take your pick!