Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Incompetent/Can’t: You’re No Good

Linda Ronstadt: You’re No Good

So far, it seems like all of our posts on this topic are self-critical—I can’t dance, I can’t stand up, I’m a simpleton, etc. But in reality, isn’t it usually someone else that raises the issue of someone’s incompetence? Most of us, I think, have enough of an ego to think that we are at least competent, if not even better than average, but there is someone—a boss, a (former) significant other, a stranger—who tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you suck. [WARNING--link is NSFW]

Over at one of my other blogging homes, Cover Me, there is a relatively new feature, “That’s a Cover?” in which we write about songs that are so well-known that many people might not know that it is a cover. For example, I wrote one a few months ago about The Youngbloods’ iconic 60s tune “Get Together,” which was at least the fourth version of the song. Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “You’re No Good,” also falls into that category.

Not to mention, the song makes it pretty clear that the singer believes the subject to be incompetent:

You're no good, you're no good, you're no good 
Baby, you're no good (you hear what I say)[original lyrics—later versions used “I’m gonna say it again"] 
You're no good, you're no good, you're no good 
Baby, you're no good.

Although admittedly, later on, the singer inevitably (at least for this theme) criticizes herself.

Written by Clint Ballard, Jr., the song was first recorded in 1963 by Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne’s little sister), and produced by Lieber & Stoller.

This version stalled on the singles chart at #117. Warwick had a moderately successful career, although not as much as big sister Dionne, and she struggled with addiction and health issues before passing away in 2008.

The first “hit” version of “You’re No Good” was by Betty Everett, also in 1963, A bit more soulful (and featuring Maurice White, later of Earth, Wind & Fire, on drums), this version topped out at #51 on the singles chart, and was more successful on R&B charts.

Everett’s next song, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" made it to #6 on the singles chart, and although she did have a few more hits, her later career was not as successful, and she passed away in 2001.

The Swinging Blue Jeans, a now pretty much forgotten Merseybeat band, did a gender-reversed version of the song in 1964. It was quite successful in England and France, and even hit #97 on the US charts. It sounds like a version from a now pretty much forgotten Merseybeat band:

The SBJ’s had a few more cover hits, but eventually, as their Wikipedia entry sadly notes, “The band eventually retired to the cabaret circuit.”

There have been many other covers of the song, some in other languages (and even by Van Fucking Halen), but none have had the durability or success of Linda Ronstadt’s version.

Ronstadt began performing the song during 1973, and recorded it with producer Peter Asher (whose sister Jane dated a member of a well-remembered Merseybeat band that Peter also worked with) for her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel. Her version, which became a #1 hit in the US, showcases Ronstadt’s powerful, soulful vocals, and has a great arrangement. Interestingly, Ronstadt has said:

I thought the production on "You're No Good" (her 1974 breakthrough No. 1 single) was very good, but I didn't sing it very well. As a song, it was just an afterthought. It's not the kind of song I got a lot of satisfaction out of singing. 

You could have fooled me. Because she’s so good.

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