Song of the day: Steve Hunter – "Eight Miles High"

December 17, 2009

Back when I was a mere whippersnapper and in a band, our lead guitarist (Hi, Mick!) was mad on Steve Hunter and couldn’t get enough of him (or Alex Lifeson of Rush).

If you haven’t heard of Steve Hunter, don’t sweat it too much. He was a behind-the-scenes guitarist in the 70’s, and never a star in his own right. Steve was a sideman for people as diverse as Lou Reed (Hunter was one half of the superb twin-guitar attack on Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, one of my all-time favourite live albums), Alice Cooper (Welcome To My Nightmare), and Peter Gabriel (his debut album, frustratingly called Peter Gabriel*).

“So what?” I hear you ask, quite rightly. “Just get on with today’s song.”

Okey dokey, then, I will. Here’s a well-known Byrds song given the power-trio treatment by not-terribly-well-known guitarist Steve Hunter:

Steve Hunter – “Eight Miles High (1977)


That pummelling version of “Eight Miles High” opened Steve Hunter’s solo album, Swept Away. The album was produced by Bob Ezrin who also produced the aforementioned Welcome To My Nightmare and Peter Gabriel. Bob Ezrin was one of those 70’s producers who had a signature sound (in his case it was bombastic and with incredibly well-recorded drums). He also produced KissDestroyer and Pink Floyd‘s The Wall. Listen to any one of those albums and you know you’re listening to Another Bob Ezrin Production. (You have to make them capital letters because they’re big productions.) You can hear his production style a mile away (or, if you’re in Australia: a kilometre away). Big, rich, full, and clear – that’s our Bob. (I was going to call him “Bob the Producer” but then thought that would be an even weaker joke than usual, especially if you don’t watch kids’ television.)

And I’ve come to the realisation that I use parentheses way too much (and commas, too, perhaps) and need to do something about it. Just have a look at that last paragraph. Way too many. Are there any help groups on the Internet for people who use too many parentheses?

By the way, guitar-slingin’ Steve appeared on plenty of albums produced by Bob Ezrin, so I’m guessing that whenever Bob had an assignment the first guitarist he’d call would be Steve Hunter. I’m glad he did, because Hunter’s a great guitarist and added immeasurably to the albums he appeared on.

Before I forget, here’s what “Eight Miles High” originally sounded like:

The Byrds – “Eight Miles High (1966)


Even though The Byrds’ version is great (well, it would be – it’s the original, and it’s by The Byrds), I also thoroughly enjoyed Steve’s effort with its rampant guitar, distorted bass, and stampeding drums.

(At first I thought the drums were galloping but then realised that they were actually stampeding.)

Actually, I enjoyed it so much that I’m in the mood to play you another Hunter-fied song.

Here’s Monsieur ‘Unterr again, but this time reinterpreting The Beach Boys:

Steve Hunter – “Sail On Sailor (1977)


And here’s the original:

The Beach Boys – “Sail On Sailor (1973)


(*Peter Gabriel’s first four albums were all called Peter Gabriel. Grrr).

Song of the day: William Shatner – "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"

October 3, 2009

William Shatner‘s version of The Beatles‘ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is indescribable – but I’m going to give it a go anyway:

Imagine Mr. Shatner reciting, in his inimitable Shakespearean (Shatnerian?) manner, some nonsense lyrics as if they were the most profound words ever conceived. Now imagine an unusual but pleasant arrangement of a popular song that appears to be recorded by experienced session musicians who are completely unaware of just who will be performing the lead vocals for that song.

“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” appears on Shatner’s equally indescribable album, The Transformed Man (1968). I’ll try (and fail) to describe the album. This album is an exercise in dementedness. It’s music from a parallel universe. It’s the only album of its kind – anywhere. It’s the product of an utterly unique mind. It’s an album that is impossible to appreciate by reading about it. It’s an album that could have only be made by one particular man. It’s…

Well, you get the picture. Now it’s time to get the Shatner:

William Shatner – “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1968)


On the album, each song is preceded by words that I can only term ‘words’ – I can’t really call them ‘poetry’, or even ‘lyrics’, and they’re delivered by the only man on Earth who can deliver them in the way they’re delivered. In order to get you straight to the song, I’ve edited out the spoken-word bit.

If you want to get the full effect (you know you do), you definitely need to hear the whole album. It really is one of the most bizarre albums ever recorded.

The original:

The Beatles – “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1967)


As a bonus (?), here’s William’s version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” which also appears on The Transformed Man. It’s not as Earth-Shatnering (sorry about that) as “Lucy”, but it’s still unbelievably demented:

William Shatner – “Mr. Tambourine Man (1968)


To bring you back to reality, here’s the more familiar version:

The Byrds – “Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)


And here’s the chap who wrote it:

Bob Dylan – “Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)