Two aged songs and performances in music have crossed my mind this morning and then blended together to make me think what if? It’s not the music exactly that gets me wondering as-so-much a performer and how a song would be covered if said-performer got a go at it.
Both songs are classics and stories of their own. Both performances I’m thinking of and linking together are classics too. One from 30+ years ago (that gets little focus at this time) and the other from 25 years back.
The Beatles released the Abbey Road album 49 years ago. Heck, earlier this month (on August 8th) was the 49th anniversary of the Abbey Road cover photo shoot. That’s getting away from the point, and even talking Fab Four is away from artists of focus. The album featured the song “Something”, which was penned by George Harrison. Fantastic love song and later covered by Frank Sinatra, who declared the song his favorite from Lennon/McCartney (oops). Read the facts over at Wikipedia pertaining to Frank and the tune. He recorded two versions of the song, and one live performance was filmed and marketed on TV (I remember seeing it re-air as a kid in the 1980s… Not necessarily his performance of “Something” but the taped performance in general):
Frank passed away in May of 1998, four years after Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Almost five years after Nirvana’s unplugged performance in New York. Yeah, that’s where I’m going with this pairing. Odd, isn’t it?
Nirvana’s Unplugged sessions contrasted what you would see from so many other artists who performed (including Paul McCartney – I had to make another Beatles reference ? ) where electronic and hold-to-arrangement was the norm and actually unplugging was ignored. Nirvana might have held to the arrangement of songs like “Come as You Are” but it wasn’t in an intensity-driven fashion (and no stage diving). One of the songs that sold this writer on the band, a tune I so often caught on MTV’s re-airing of the show, was “All Apologies”.
“All Apologies” is no love song, it’s autobiographical from Cobain talking about his life with Courtney Love, though the details aren’t truly cleared up – Cobain was gone five months after this performance, 14 months after the song was recorded for the In Utero album. With or without details, the song’s unplugged performance remains a classic.
Now could you imagine if Frank Sinatra – in more fit form than the mid-1990’s – was compelled to do his own cover of the song?
Just thinking about the contrast – a jazz singer and a grunge band – makes me crack up. Yet, thinking about that unplugged session and thinking about Sinatra’s cover of “Something”, it almost comes off as fitting to wonder just how Frank would have covered “All Apologies”. Really, it’s Sinatra’s cadence and the arrangement that accompanies it that leaves me both amused and intrigued. You just take the “Something” performance and apply it to “All Apologies” and…
I wish I was you… … … …
Find my nest of salt… … …
EVERYthings my fault
I take all the blame… … …
Sunburn with… … freezer burn
CHOKING on the ashes of her enemies
Text can’t really do it justice, but I’m not about to try recording myself singing as if I were Frank Sinatra. Hell, I’m not worthy of torturing you and others by way of it.
Getting back to the point, getting back to that delivery, it’s really the end of the song that leaves me perplexed in how Sinatra would have handled a cover. The end refrain/coda of “All in all is all we are” has the dual-vocal element and harmony which you don’t often hear from Nirvana performances. Would Ol’ Blue Eyes going solo with the song do it well? How would he have delivered it in comparison to what’s done by Cobain/Dave Grohl? This is Sinatra I’m talking about here, so thinking about harmonic comparison is sort of moot, ain’t it?
It’s ridiculous, a what if? That can never play out. It’s amusing to think about, but it’s moot in the end. Frank Sinatra’s been gone for 20 years and the idea of him covering Nirvana seems a mite implausible even if Sinatra was capable of doing so. I still have an amused curiosity though, regardless…