Saturday 24 December 2016

Always On My Mind

Cover version of the month #20

Pet Shop Boys take on Elvis!

As always, I learn something new about a song when I write my monthly cover version of the month blog. Elvis wasn't the original performer of Always On My Mind - it was soul singer Gwen McCrae. There are over 300 versions of the song that composer Wayne Carson said that he wrote in 10-minutes with the help of his friends Mark James and Jonny Christopher.

FACT - I once got on stage and danced with Gwen McCrae at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh in 2003/2004. Her song 90% Of Me was on a compilation I adored and I dug deeper into her catalogue.

Gwen released the song as You Were Always On My Mind in 1972, Brenda Lee also released a version and then later that year came Elvis.

A number of covers blogs have highlighted that the song that went on to be a HUGE hit started life as a b-side and that was also the case with Elvis! It was released as an A-side in Britain though and was voted Number 1 Elvis song in a 2013 poll. Elvis' voice croons and sooths, you believe every word he has to say.

The Pet Shop Boys take a huge song and turn it into a massive disco hit. The stabbing synths at the start grab you and pull you in. In the background it sounds like they have hit the play button for the rhythm section, but that doesn't matter. Strings sound divine, Neil Tennant sound soothing and uplifting at the same time and the Pet Shop Boys fairly tear through it.

The stabbing synths return every so often to dramatic effect and Tennant pleads with heartfelt soul;

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn't died
Give me on more chance to keep you satisfied
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

The Pet Shop Boys get and got pop music. Tennant once worked (up to Assistant Editor) for Smash Hits. Their first single was the incredible West End Girls!

Tennant and Chris Lowe turn a slow burner into a pop anthem. But then you go back and listen to Elvis, Gwen or any of the other versions and you realise that this was a pop anthem in the waiting all along.

The reflective lyrics, the pleading, the soul, the fact it's not quite an's a beauty.

Previous covers of the month

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