August 13, 2011

Two Robert Palmer tracks: a progression

Robert Palmer
I love Robert Palmer. There were years when his music was always playing in my apartment. The man was so creative and such a risk-taker. Yes, he churned out mega-hits but he also experimented. At those times, he played right at the edge of the musical cliff: go any further and it's no longer music. He loved dancing on the edge and sometimes took a step further, trusting the air to bear his musical weight. To me, those were Robert Palmer's best moments.

On one of those occasions he wrote "Woke Up Laughing". It's a song about that fuzzy instant between sleep and waking -- and how sometimes, just for a moment, we bring the crazy logic of a dream into the real world. If you've ever awakened laughing at something that a moment later you couldn't even understand, you'll probably like this song.

(Two videos and a bit more wordage after the break)

Palmer released two versions of "Woke Up Laughing". Even the earliest one is odd; it does things that music doesn't do. But the later one -- the more perfect version in his eyes, I imagine -- is really strange (and beautiful; don't get me wrong).

I read (in liner notes, I think) that when the musicians showed up at the recording studio for the later version, they had a hard time grasping what Palmer wanted from them. They felt the piece wasn't music. He had to literally teach each of them their parts and then demonstrate how to play it together. Afterward, the musicians said it was the most difficult thing they had ever played.

Okay, here are both versions. The earlier is on top and the strange, later one is below. I love both. See what you think.

The later version:

1 comment:

writenow said...

Okay, so maybe the earlier version is the stranger of the two. I just listened to both. Funny; I remember it being the other way around. Either way, I love this song.