Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 As in, yes, if you are asking me whether I won't, no thanks, I will survive. I will, rather than rejecting the alternative option, but this song offers so much that is apt to this theme that I will disregard any earlier appearance, a decade ago. (Even if it uses up my favourite version ever.) But this is where we all, the survivors, or most of us, stand on 2020, defiant and steadfast against the tide of badness, with light beginning to seep through the cracks. Covid 19? The vaccine beckons. Donald aka Agent Orange? The back door is open and waiting. The economy? Hmm, well, we'll have to see on that one. Boris and his chumocracy of cronies? That too.

It's true, the song was originally a sturdy polemic against a returning suitor, or as wiki puts it so neatly: "the narrator's discovery of personal strength following an initially devastating breakup". The assertive lyric, carried by and coupled with an uplifting and anthemic tune, guarantees for a sea of raised hands on the dance floor, and not just by righteous rejectees. I love it.

Gloria Gaynor introduced us all to the song, an astonishing 42 years ago. I was not, it's fair to say, a fan of disco in 1978, but I could see this was one terrific song. Indeed, even the stuffy old Library of Congress put it up, in 2016, for the National Recording Registry, alongside such essentials of every collection as Alan Sherman's Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah and Swanee, by Al Jolson. (I jest: they have a cracking selection!) VH1 gave it the accolade of the Greatest Ever Dance Song in 2000, Rolling Stone only managing it a number two in their 2012 Best Disco Tracks of All Time.

Over the years many have tried to bring their bit of something to the song, many, most, in truth, poor and lucklustre facsimiles, but some have been really rather interesting. A rule I have is that, if it includes the rolling piano intro, I will listen to no more. Here's a few that don't:

Dig a little beneath the initial hit of gruyere, and this, by the Puppini Sisters, is actually a delight. I don't go a whole bundle of the recalibration of songs into a faux-forties Andrews/Beverley Sisters style, but this  transcends my prejudice, by playing rather more with the arrangement, some glorious walking bass and aan unexpected choral middle eight and coda.Who the Puppini Sisters? A clue; they ain't, but one actually is Puppini by name and they were doing this sort of thing way ahead of Scott Bradleee, if from downtown London rather than New York. (Has Bradlee tackled the song? Of course he has.......)

Much as I adore R.E.M., I confess to finding their throwaway b side live/impromptu covers a slightly less than intrinsic need, but, against that odd, this one conveys just enough charm to make it, Stipe's stumbling through the lyrics a little haphazardly falls just the right side of endearing.

SMM used to have a gentleman's agreement not to include anything too new, mainly then a naive hope that it would keep the RIAA off our case, from the days we put up mp3s. This is barely a couple of months old, but in the spirit of survival, or its flip, given we may not be here next year, mankind, not the site, I feel I have to place it. A terrific version, a slow chant of faith. Lykke Li is a Swede, one of a bevy of Nordic artists firmly finding their feet in the world of electronica and ambient. 

And so finally to Anohni, or, as she still was at the time of this recording, Antony, a song so suited on so many levels, not least the comments on youtube, made to proclaim the ownership of this wracked performance. Some say she overeggs near all she touches. I say bring it on.

So, my new year resolution: survive!

(OK, you want the Cake one too? We all need Cake in these dark days, the darkness potentially deeper ahead the dawn.)

You choose: Gloria, Puppini, R.E.M., Lykke Li, Anohni or Cake. Or all of 'em?

blog comments powered by Disqus