Thursday, 18 June 2009

The new originals

Years ago I heard Chicken Shack’s version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” on a tape given away with NME or Melody Maker. I’d never heard of them and thought they had a terrible name but I sure loved that track. So I was a bit bummed when I lost the tape. For years afterward I’d go on forlorn rummages in the attic at my parents but it never turned up, (currently doing the same for a Rolling Stones book - it's a really big book, I just don't understand where it's got to). Anyway, I found out it had been released as a single way back and so I ordered it from the back pages of Record Collector. Only it wasn’t the same version as the tape. Some time after this I remembered that it was a tape of Peel Session versions and got it from the Strange Fruit website. It had been a long wait and in the meantime, jonesing for the tune, I’d gone to the more widely available source: Etta James. I thought that she'd mop the floor with the weedy Chicken Shack but I was surprised to discover that I far preferred the Chicken Shack version. I thought it was a bloke singing and I like it when singers just sing the lyrics in songs like this without swapping the genders around. Maybe because it suggests that they're playing it on the spur of the moment and for sheer love of the song. Also, I find the Etta version overly mannered. Something that turns me off is too much "technique", the Chicken Shack version seems to come more directly from the heart, a more honest reading of the song.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the version of a song I hear first will tend to be my favourite, regardless of the relative standing of the artists involved. And in most cases I seem to go for the version with the simpler arrangement.

Chicken Shack: I'd Rather Go Blind

Etta James: I'd Rather Go Blind


  1. I was a bit confused by the name Chicken Shack because I recognized this version. Then I had a look at the songs on my CD "The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac" (amazing album, btw) and, yes, there is the name Chicken Schack, as the name of the performer. By some reason it is on that Fleetwood Mac album, so Green must have played guitar there.

    I also prefer that version better than the Etta one. Etta is better at more energetic tunes, in my view.

  2. Hello Jenny, the vocalist in Chicken Shack went on to join Fleetwood Mac so there's definitely a link. I've got "Rumours" in my collection somewhere - it gets the occasional spin. Years ago I read an article about "Tusk" and thought, "I must buy this album" but I haven't got around to it yet and it's become a bit of a cult joke (the album, not my procrastination).