Wednesday 15 March 2023

Sympathy For The Devil

Cover version of the month #84
Sandie Shaw covers The Rolling Stones

Choosing to cover the Stones Sympathy For The Devil has to be classed as a bold move. I mean, it's understandable that artists would want to play the song, to jam the song, to feel it out ... as Sympathy For The Devil is an exceptional groove and an incredible song. But to cover it! 

The Rolling Stones recording of the song, over 5-days in June 1968, was captured on film by Jean-Luc Godard and released under the title One Plus One. It's quite something as The Stones really take their time on it. You can find it on YouTube

You see Jagger and Jones working on the vocal melody, soon joined by Richards, looking resplendent in shades. Richards adds a bit of groove, Charlie Watt adds the beat while Bill Wyman looks bored and stoned on bass. 

Richards groove is stripped back, Jagger slows things down and he has been quoted as saying he originally intended it to be a folk-y Dylan number. How things change!

The footage is extraordinary. Richards jamming on a bass, the band taking it down a blues-y route and then just before the 24-minute mark in the documentary, we heard extra percussion being introduced. The groove is back, faster, pacier and it is hugely enhanced. I love the scene with The Stones and friends all crowded round a microphone recording the woo woo's, the camera then pans round a screen and you have Jagger singing the lead vocal. Incredible stuff.

Sympathy For The Devil opened the Stones Beggars Banquet album and became a real highlight of their live sets. Jagger would act possessed and really play to the audience and cameras, as demonstrated on The Rock n Roll Circus album/film.

The groove running through Sympathy For The Devil is simply extraordinary, the Stones are in top form. Lyrically, Jagger touches on Christ, the Russian revolution,  the Kennedy's (with the remarkable line -  I shouted out who killed the Kennedy's, when after all, it was you and me), cops and finally introduces himself as Lucifer.

Decades down the line, favourite bands of mine like Primal Scream (Loaded) and The Charlatans (One To Another) would take inspiration from Sympathy For The Devil, recognising the importance of the groove and how the woo woo's could be sung en masse by their fans.

Sandie Shaw's version doesn't stray too far from The Stones. After all the riff and groove are both so unbelievably strong, why change?!

Her guitarist goes for it, the beats and percussion are 100 mph at times, the bass is just about keeping it all together and Shaw's voice cuts through everything like a knife. 

At around 4 minutes 10 seconds things slow down and Shaw is almost whispering her vocal, but as the instruments cut, her voice rises with dramatic effect to deliver the line;

I was around when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain

I made damn sure that Pilate, washed his hands and sealed his fate

Everything comes back in and the closing 50 seconds are absolutely furious as the beats and percussion get faster and faster. Everything eventually fades out. Somewhere, lurking in a studio vault, is the recording. I'd love to hear how long it went on for and if it eventually just collapsed. The drummer and percussionist would probably be in a heap!

Nothing can top The Stones though! Just check the 8-minute + official video from the Rock n Roll Circus. Jagger is on fire, whipping himself, his band and the crowd into a frenzy!

Sympathy For The Devil official video (live from the Rock n Roll Circus)

Album version

Sandie Shaw version

All previous cover version of the month blogs are listed below. 

I've also compiled the Everything Flows Cool Cover Versions playlist, featuring original versions and covers on Spotify. CLICK HERE The Stones original and Sandie Shaw's cracking cover have been added.

Previous covers of the month

13. Hurt
39. ABBA-esque
40. Jumpin' Jack Flash
64. Lola
82. Drop

No comments: