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)

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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)

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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)

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And here’s the original:

The Beach Boys – “Sail On Sailor (1973)

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

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