Sunday, December 7, 2008
Billy Swan - "Don't Be Cruel"
This is the song we get the most emails about, and the song which I find I am most often asked about at cocktail parties.
Here's the story:
They used to make these things called "break records". They were basically bootleg collections of songs with dope drum breaks pressed on vinyl for hip hop DJs to cut up, sample, or have rappers rap over them or whatever.
Since they were bootlegs they almost never had the artist information on them. Just the track names.
One of these series of break records was called "octopus breaks" and on one of these volumes was a particularly haunting version of "Don't Be Cruel" sung by a women who sounds somewhat like dolly parton - my colleague Kenan had this record and searched for years trying to find the artist who recorded this gem. He bought any and all covers of don't be cruel sung by women (of which there are quite alot he would soon find).A lot of them were good too, in their own way, but every time he'd put on one of these don't-be-cruels, he would be disappointed to find it was not the one he had been searching for.
Until one day, by chance, he plays a version by Billy Swan which sounds suspiciously like the elusive gem but slower and, you know, more manish.
Then it dawns on him. The tricky bootleggers behind Octopus Breaks had sped it up and pressed it on the record that way so that the drums would sound funky.
(and boy, that break, with the naked drums & sped up vocal, is very, very beautiful)
The original version is nice too (& slow) but having heard it in it's other-worldly sped up incarnation, we can't hear it any other way.
Download: Billy Swan - Don't Be Cruel (45 rpm)