Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Who put the "delta" in the Vietcong Blues ?

Alright. Fantastic Jagger/Richard compostion as we are all aware. (Note the absence of the "s" on the end of Keef's moniker here, an unnecessary addition and something of an affectation gathered like moss somewhere down the road apiece since the days of Nanker/Phelge.)

According to Wicki there are probably a hundred or so cover versions of the song, and everybody knows their favoured ritual touchstone.

The hit was included on the U.S. release of "Aftermath" (released solely in the U.K. on 45). Chris Farlowe of course covered Jagger & Richard's "Out of Time" in his own inimitable vocal style - English vaudeville meets genuinely histrionic black american soul - and also unleashed this stupendous version of P.I.B. culled from his own 1966 long player release on Immediate Records (home to the Small Faces amongst others), "The Art of Chris Farlowe".

The title of the album alone sums out just how much he was held in esteem. Or was it simply rampant ego on the run ?

This version is grandiose and so full of of overblown gesturing it would make even P.J. Proby blush. But it puts the Stones in the shade and sets the scene nicely for Northern Soul Boy, Eric Burdon.

Never one to shy from centre stage himself, Burdon scarcely hesitated before swaggering up to the mic to give us his rendition on 1967's psychedelia laden "Winds of Change", ditching Chas Chandler & the rest of his fellow Animals the year previous, before relocating to San Francisco and shrewdly rebranding himself for the Haight-Ashbury set. I love this version, but apparently Eric was unconvinced.

Clearly desperate to etch his name in stone and furnish the definitive rendition, on teaming up with War on "Black-Man's Burdon" he promptly dug it out again to polish up an epic (13 minutes plus) nugget retitled "Paint it Black Medley" in 1971. Anything with "medley" in the title immediately warrants suspicion. Ambitious, admittedly, but with the benefit of hindsight it's not so much a diamond as a millstone round the neck. This version is either staggering in its scope or plain old codswallop, depending on your taste for meat or poison. Whichever, it seems to me a fittingly exhausted and never ending epitaph to the era of Richard Milhous Nixon.

Presumably, by this stage the Glimmer Twins were content merely to keep a joint beady eye on a return on their investment, playing around with needles as they watched the royalties continue to trickle home into one of many offshore bank accounts. Not for nothing did Sir Mick attend the London School of Economics. And just where, exactly, did the fall of Saigon leave our bloodthirst for "Paint It Black" ? It took until 1980, maybe, for the bitter taste to dissipate, but you can't keep a whipped cur down. Just when it seemed least likely, along came the Mo-dettes. These untypical girls stripped the song back to its shimmering ivory bones, spitting out the tar and feathers and restringing the carcass in a bald reinterpretation of a much pirated classic.

Mr. Richard - self-appointed William Teach that he is - should be proud.


posted by ib


Sheridan Dupre said...

Cool post. "Paint it Black" always reminds me of the opening montage to the early 90s (was it the early 90s?) Vietnam War TV show "Tour of Duty." A show by the way which I distantly remember being pretty good, and don't think it's ever really gotten its due. But then again I haven't seen it in almost 20 years...

Ace Cowboy said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sheridan. I remember that very same show! It was always on when I came back from the pub, and i'm unconvinced i ever managed to make it through one complete episode sober. Late 80s/early 90s, for sure. Don't even get me started on Tommy James & the Shondells' "Crimson & Clover"! Another one from way back which always makes me think immediately of that war.

It's generally accepted that Vietman was the first major conflict fought and televised throughout the rest of the world to a rock 'n' roll soundtrack... At which point the news bulletins (and reality) bleed over into mere entertainment - as opposed to informed entertainment - is harder to concede...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the props, ace cowboy.

Buddy Bolden said...

There's also an album, Painted Black, that's entirely covers of "Paint It Black"--I like the Fennesz one.

Anonymous said...

buddy: Haven't heard the album, but I followed the link.

I've listened to Circle previously, and also Acid Mothers Temple (both of whom are fine groups indeed from what i've heard - in particular, Finland's Circle) but most of the rest of the artists feature are unfamiliar to me.

The concept is very alluring, and i'd like to hear it!

A propos of nothing else bar the name, have you heard any Buddy Holocaust ?

Mike said...

Excellent post ib. What we call the Vietnam War has always fascinated me and maybe that fascination led to my early music tastes, or vice versa. Though I don't know if the two were actually related.

These covers are definitely interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mike! The Vietnam War cuts through everything from the mid sixities to the seventies, so it's no surprise we should all be so enthralled, i suppose. I know it was a bad war, for those einvolved in the conflict and for those affected, especially, through no fault of their own, but it happened. End of. And the legacy of it lives everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I love the smell of Eric in the morning

Anonymous said...

Yo, Emmett! You're surely not suggesting Eric be napalmed for crimes against artistic restraint ?

Aaron said...

I LOVE this song.

The sad part about it being the intro to "Tour of Duty" is that when they put out the box sets on DVD they chose to not pay money for the rights, so it's not on the DVD intro to each show!

Also, the pop-punk band Face to Face has a really amazing version of Paint it Black.


Anonymous said...

aaron: that they have put out the collected shows on DVD minus the Stones intro is unforgivable! Originally when M*A*S*H aired in the U.K. it played without a laughter track, which is how I always remember it. All the repeats now run with this totally contrived canned laughter, which renders it almost unwatchable. Go figure!

Sarah said...


Thanks for this, I love me some covers. If you don't have it, here is Al Green's cover of Light My Fire.

Anonymous said...

Morty: Cheers! I hadn't heard Al Green's version, as a matter of fact. Very nice.

Richard B. Simon said...

Eric Burdon and War -- especially that Paint it Black -- is one of the finer things in life.

Still, I've always heard it as a bit of the weird blacker-than-thou cockoff amongst the british bluesrockers, post-Hendrix. Look'ere boys, I got me some real loive negroes on this recording! That'll show them Rolling Stones who's got the most soul on this island.

However ... Shazam!