“Alternate” version of ‘Stone Crazy’
Imagine a man. Imagine you are viewing him from a great height, a God’s eye view. Despite his tiny size, you can see him shaking his fist at the sky and hear his wordless (squeaking) roar against the capriciousness of the fates.
That man is me.
After a decade of work, including more than a few last minute additions, I thought that I had captured them all; every known recording featuring Peter Green between the years 1966 and 1973.
Days before I was to put the book up for sale, I saw a posting on Fleetwoodmac.net message board, The Ledge, for an “alternate” take of the Crazy Blue one-off recording of, ‘Stone Crazy’.
The original recording, credited to the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation when it was released in 1973 on a long out of print double LP “History of British Blues”, was one of three songs recorded by Mike Vernon at a session most often dated as being done in the “Summer” of 1967.
The other two titles, ‘Fly Right Baby’ and ‘Stick Around’ (possibly another Buddy Guy number) have yet to see the light of day after fifty years, and most likely never will.
Sources indicated that there were two “takes” of ‘Stone Crazy’ with only the one being released. And that is what I had written. Here, apparently, was the other take.
Unbeknownst to me, in 2005, a Swedish label, Carinco AG, released a compilation of Stewart’s earliest recordings titled “Up Above My Head” (his first recorded vocal, backing Long John Baldry) as part of their “Pop Masters” series,
I immediately downloaded the track from Amazon.
What my ninety-nine cent purchase got me however was not an “alternate take”, but a “renovated” version of the original recording. (This version can be heard on Spotify – the original cannot)
Where the original found Stewart walking through the ruins of a relationship, stalked by Jack Bruce’s thrumming bass lines and stung by the memories wrought by Green’s guitar, the people behind this version felt it necessary to bring in a professional mourner, an organist whose heightened wailing underscores and capitalizes all the words in Stewart’s eulogy.
Building on the idea that too much is not enough, they also introduce a synthesized string section (which is thankfully dropped during the vocals)
In their place, the drums have been bought to the fore; where on the original recording Dunbar’s cymbals hiss and whisper like gossipers behind one’s back, the trap drums now loudly reiterate what is already over emphasized.
In the second verse, they not only bring back the “strings” they add what sounds like a vibraphone to the mix (though this too is most likely done electronically). I believe this was meant to mimic the singer’s tears; unfortunately, their sound is incongruously happy.
In the break, the drums are dropped in favor of a single piano chord pounded out with the mechanical efficiency and emotion of an assembly line worker, the antithesis of Green’s solo.
Like smoke seeping ominously under the door of a locked room, the organ begins to sound shortly after the break has begun, coming on full force when Stewart resumes his vocal.
Most interesting is a descending scale played on the drums at 4:15 that is not heard at all on the original. It seems possible that the drums on the track were re-recorded and added in with the other new instrumentation (a cruel irony considering that the song was cut as a showcase for a Dunbar-led band)
The producers may think of this as a “remix” (in popular parlance), but the end result is more like a classic Black & White film that has been “colorized” to better appeal to the tastes of modern viewers.
An odd duck from its conception, rarely mentioned in the discographies of those involved, it becomes even odder in this unasked for, unwarranted and almost certainly unauthorized rendition.