Mix Six: “The Remake”

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What possesses an artist to revisit his or her recordings years later and decide to remake the song?  Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s about a label being a big butt-head, and sometimes it’s just about revisiting a song to see what new wine can be wrought out of old wine skins.  Whatever the case, this week I’m going lay on you the good, the bad, and the ugly of remakes.  Oh sure, some of these don’t even sound like remakes at all, and others you may wonder: “Why the hell did they do that?”  But one thing’s for sure, you’ll probably be scrambling to hear the originals – just for comparison’s sake if nothing else. Okay, let’s get it started, shall we?

“Lady ’95,” Styx (Download)

Now here’s a case of a label being a big butt-head about a song the band wanted feature on a compilation album  The Styx corporation reunited in 1995 to put together a greatest hits collection to, well, make some money, and when assembling their song list they found out that “Lady” (recorded back in 1973 with their first label, Wooden Nickel Records) wasn’t available due to some legal back and forth the band had the good fortune to endure back in mid-‘70s. So, what to do?  They really wanted “Lady” on their latest greatest hit records, so they did what any corporation would do: create a knock-off and hope the fans wouldn’t mind.  This version is pretty close to the original, but if you’ve heard the song for as many years as I have (I remember hearing it when was a little kid in 1974), you get used all the subtle thing going on in the song with the vocals. And just hearing the intro, it’s clear that whatever guide vocals DeYoung was listening to when recording this, he just had to go and add a little flourish here and there and kind of ruin the whole thing.

“25 or 6 to 4,” Chicago (Download)

I know, you’re probably saying “Why?  Why did you take an otherwise novel mix and throw this proverbial turd in the punchbowl?”  It’s really to goad Jeff Giles.  You see, secretly he loves this version more than the original, but he can’t admit this to anyone openly because it would violate a clause in his membership agreement with Club Mellow Gold. Anyway, when this version was released back in 1986, I was enjoying my first paying gig as a radio DJ. One day, this single shows up in the mail, and I was immediately skeptical when I saw the title.  The program director (who is still a friend of mine) took it out of the envelope, and cued it up on the turntable.  At first, he had this quizzical look on his face when the music started, and then he started cranking up the volume and proclaimed to me that the song was “An amazing remake that’s going to introduce Chicago to a whole new generation.”  Now this was during the days of hush-hush payola, and I don’t recall seeing any money or blow in that envelope from the record company, but damn if this wasn’t in high rotation for about two weeks. When it was relegated to the “recurrent” file, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and happily passed over when it came up on their shift.

“After Midnight (Alternate Mix),” Eric Clapton (Download)

Okay, this is not a Clapton song, but rather it’s a song that belongs to J.J. Cale – who recorded a demo of it in the ‘60s.  However, Clapton popularized the song, so it’s kind of fitting to see what he decided to do with it 18 years after it was released. Now for those children of the ‘70s and ‘80s, you’ll remember this version was used to sell a lot of beer for Michelob, and it kind of raised some eyebrows among guys like me who smelled “sell out” when the commercial aired. But by then, many icons of the ‘60s were lending their songs and images to sell products other than their own music, so I guess Clapton saw another way to beef up his bank account and reached for the green.  As a remake of his original cover (how’s that for a weird sentence), it’s a pretty good one.  I could do without the moody intro, but the guitar work and the whole medium tempo groove is simply smokin’!

“De Do Do Do De Da Da Da (1986),” the Police (Download)

First off, let me apologize for the crappy quality of this recording. It’s unfortunately a very low quality rip, but it’s the only one I could find.  Yes, if you’re a fan of the Police, you know the band was planning on re-recording all of their hits for a greatest hits album in 1986.  But Stewart Copeland had a rather nasty fall off a horse and broke his shoulder and couldn’t complete the recording sessions. But before the band called it a career (‘til their reunion in 2008), they were able to remake “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do…”  It’s hard to find this version because it was only released on Every Breath You Take: The Classics (the DTS CD). Now if you have that hard to find pressing, may the music gods bless you because you have, in this day and age of everything seemingly being available on the Internet, a rare recording.  I’m not sure what I really think of this version, because while I don’t hate it, I’m not really feeling it.  One thing I’m really happy about, though: that the band was never able to realize their goal of completely remaking all their old hits.

“Carpet Crawlers 1999,” Genesis (Download)

Now here’s a remake I really love.  The production is lush, full, and the band’s maturity demonstrates that they were able to create a version of “Carpet Crawlers” that could feature both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins – but do so in a way that made me want the band to regroup and record some new songs. Sadly, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but if it did, I for one would be ecstatic.

“Prayer ’94,” Bon Jovi (Download)

I hear the original version of this song every day at work, and yes, I’m sick of it, but I gotta hand it to Bon Jovi for breathing new life into a song that’s been very, very good to him.  I’m not sure what possessed him to go semi-acoustic on this song, but maybe it was a desire to demonstrate that he was more than just a guy with girlish good looks and hair. I’m not sure the lyrical content warrants an unplugged version, but do we really listen to Bon Jovi songs for their lyrical insight?




  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    A favorite quote: If you're going to be referential, self-referential is the worst. In more than one instance here, the redux is gimmick first and song second. Styx could have had “Lady” from RCA/Wooden Nickel if they had offered the owners (at that time) Bertelsmann Music the right numbers. We're now in an era of unprecedented cooperation between conglomerates because the industry is hurting so bad. Sharing for the sake of a more complete retrospective is seen as good advertising versus watering down the assets.

    But the root cause is still the same: the money. One can only imagine Dennis DeYoung saying, “We do these things to make money, not to spend lots of money making them. Screw it, we'll just re-record the thing!” Meanwhile BMG was ready to deal.

  • nathan_az

    I like the 1986 version of “25 or 6 to 4″ better than original. Maybe because I was 16 when it came out (everyone's musical sweet spot). Maybe just because I like it better.

    Of course, I don't like Chicago (the band) very much. The city is another story.

    Oh, and you overlooked one of the bands that actually did remake all their hits just to spite their former label – Cracker. Their Greatest Hits Redux album is in no way essential, but I still enjoy it.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Seems that falling out between Styx and Wooden Nickel was more personal than about the money — which is probably why A&M/Polygram couldn't get them to “yes” when Styx wanted “Lady” on the greatest hits album. Then again, you're probably right: Polygram low-balled Wooden Nickel on the song, and they probably told them to go to hell.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Congrats on being a very brave man! Maybe we'll hear from more folks who really like this version. Jeff? Are you there?

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Ted Asregadoo is a bastard and a horrible liar.

  • Malchus

    Good God, that Police remake is an atrocity.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    You could work for Fox News, Jeff! That's brilliant mud slinging.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I've heard it a number of times, and maybe it's because I've gotten used to it, but it's not that bad to me.

  • JPH

    Wow…when I first saw the Police track up there, I thought “he obviously meant to type 'Don't Stand So Close To Me '86'”, and was surprised a Popdose writer could make such an error. I had no idea such a track existed. If anyone digs up a higher quality version, let us know!

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    It is YOU who slung mud, sir. At long last, have you no decency? Have you no shame?

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Shame? Hardly! I was just testing the waters to see how much you really hate that version.

  • http://www.bastardradio.com steed

    It's not very good but way better than the remake of “Don't Stand So Close To Me” – not even close.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Agreed. When “Don't Stand So Close To Me '86″ came out, I liked it because it was kind of novel, but that wore thin after about a week.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffyjohnson Jeff Johnson

    Whaaat? No love for Joni Mitchell's 2000 redo of “Both Sides Now?”

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    How would I work that one in? Maybe between the Police and Genesis:

    http://popup.lala.com/popup/360569496710621614

    Then again, I don't think could do it!

  • Old_Davy

    As a big Police fan, I guess I'm in the minority when I admit I kinda like the remade versions and wish they had gone through with the plan of the remake album. I think both remakes don't hold a candle to the originals, but I find the new arrangements interesting and I wonder what they'd do with the rest of their hits.

    The Genesis remake, on the other hand, is just flat-out brilliant. Wasn't there talk of rerecording the entire Lamb album at one point?

    The rest of the remakes I can do without. Bleh. I can't hear that Clapton song without seeing a Michelob commercial in my mind. I like the original better, as well as the original version of 25 or 6 to 4. And for Styx and Bon Jovi, I couldn't care less.

    How about The Kinks remake of “You Really Got Me” except they called it “All Day and All of the Night”?

  • Pingback: A Batch of Remakes Including…Styx “Lady ‘95″…Plus Some Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Chicago, The Police, and Genesis « Rock God Cred

  • mc3

    Is it just me or does that “25 or 6 to 4″ remake sound like it was inspired by Frida Lindstadt's 1982 smash hit “I Know There's Something Going On” ??

  • nathan_az

    Maybe that's why I like it…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe-xNmI6jMU

  • http://twitter.com/jeffyjohnson Jeff Johnson

    When I think of successful remakes of songs by the original artist, Both Sides Now is the first thing that comes to me. I admit though that I wasn't aware of it until I saw Love Actually and was struck by how effectively it was used in that movie.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    If it wasn't in a movie, what would you think of the song?

  • Kathy

    Check out the “Valleys of Neptune” by Jimi Hendrix: http://www.spinner.com/2010/02/18/jimi-hendrix-