Friday, February 12, 2010

Manfred Mann: If You Gotta Go, Go Now

On First Fridays, I normally feature a version of a hit song that was previously recorded by someone else and had minimal at best success. I am going to turn the tables somewhat as I am featuring two hits from Europe – the earlier recording did extremely well and the second version was the biggest single for another band. Both songs were released as singles in the US; however, neither one charted. Despite their lack of success on this side of the pond, both renditions performed well in the UK.

“If You Gotta Go, Go Now” was written by Bob Dylan. He initially recorded the song in January 1965; however, it was 1991 before his version was officially released in the US. Fortunately, I happened onto a copy of it in 1973. It was one of the tracks on the Dylan bootleg album titled “Stealin’” – the first release on the underground bootleg record label: Trade Mark of Quality. CBS did release Dylan’s version as a single in 1967 in the Netherlands; however, this single was not embraced by Dutch radio or the buying public.

The first commercial release of “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” was recorded by the Liverpool Five in July 1965; however, this UK release failed to chart. The hit version came several months later when Manfred Mann covered the song. This September 1965 release topped the British charts at #2. The record performed well despite of (or perhaps, because of) a short-lived ban on the recording due to it having, as the social mores of 1965 were concerned, "suggestive lyrics."

It really is a great recording. For the life of me, I cannot figure why the American release on Ascot Records failed to crack the Top 100. Lousy promotion, stiff competition, poor timing, or apprehension concerning the lyrical content all could be possible reasons for its failure as an American hit single.

Even at that, certain elements of Manfred Mann's version rise to the top. There are the exceptional vocals of Paul Jones - who also plays a pretty mean harmonica. Mike Vickers slide guitar that is tastefully added into select parts of the song. Lastly, Manfred Mann's organ is the glue that holds this tune together.

I'm not sure what brand of instrument he played in those days, but it does not sound like either a Hammond or an RMI. It has the flavor of a Vox, Farfisa, or some other combo organ brand popular in the day. I performed a Google search for some photos of the band, and it appears that it may have been a Vox Continental.

Legendary Vox Continental Combo Organ

Four years later, Fairport Convention recorded this tune; however, with a twist – singing it in French under the title of “Si Tu Dois Partir.” The song was released on the band’s third album, “Unhalfbricking” and employs the fiddle of Dave Swarbrick, who was not officially a member of the band as of yet. The song features the late Sandy Denny on vocals while lead guitarist Richard Thompson is playing the accordion.

According to Patrick Humphries in Meet on the Ledge: A History of Fairport Convention, the French lyrics were developed during a gig at the Middle Earth. Thinking that they would like to do a Dylan song in a French Cajun style, the band asked the club DJ to make an announcement asking if any Frenchmen were in audience. According to Richard Thompson, “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French, or Dylan!”

 Fairport on Top of the Pops doing "Si Tu Dois Patir" in August 1969
Left to Right: Dave Mattacks - washboard, Dave Swarbrick - fiddle,
Sandy Denny - vocals,Richard Thompson - accordion, Simon Nicol - guitar,
Ashley Hutchings - dig that crazy bass, and roadie Steve Sparks on Percussion

Adding to the mystique of the tune, the late Martin Lamble was playing a stack of chairs instead of his drum kit. At the beginning of the break, the chairs fell and knocked over some bottles and glasses in the process. All was caught on tape and the song was released including the gaffe for posterity’s sake. In 2004, Fairport re-recorded “Si Tu Dois Partir” for their “Over the Next Hill” CD. The new version also included Lamble’s break and chair incident as part of the song.

Although sung in French, it was Fairport’s most popular single charting in the UK at #21 in 1969.

Fairport Convention “Si Tu Dois Partir”

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