Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Can't Explain ...

I am a musicologist. Granted, an amateur musicologist ... but a musicologist nevertheless.

Why amateur? Well, if I was a professional musicologist I'd know a lot more about music. As a professional, I like to think I would be teaching somewhere or at least have some sort of music degree. I do not.

Still, I consider myself such. Because I know a lot about music. Artists, bands, members, theory, titles, lyrics, trivia, eras, trends, history.

The thing about music, however, is there's always more to learn, so much more to glean. (Note: Did you see that? That was a proper use of the word "always." See yesterday's post.) In fact, there's so much musical knowledge out there it's impossible to absorb and know all there is about the subject.

Still ... I know a lot. 

Yesterday, though, I came across a couple musical items I did not know, a few exacting details in fact.

I was reading an article about Jimmy Page (member of The Yardbirds, founder and guitarist of Led Zeppelin) when I happened across an item that surprised me. It came out of the blue, as surprise information often does: Page played rhythm guitar on The Who's "I Can't Explain." Now, I knew he had a history of session work but I don't mind admitting I was a bit gobsmacked by the revelation about this particular item of news. If I was a bigger fan of The Who, or had previously delved into more of the history of Page himself, I probably would have known this news a long, long time ago. But the fact I wasn't and didn't gave me a head tilt at the discovery. A nice little nugget of information there. Interestingly, I also noted there is some question as to whether or not Page was actually included playing rhythm guitar on that seminal track when it was eventually released. There was some reluctance on Pete Townshend's (The Who's guitarist) behalf about letting Page's parts be committed to the final recording. (Because I'm more than curious about this little seductive morsel, I'm going to have to delve into it further.)

Immediately, right in the middle of reading the article, I put on "I Can't Explain" and listened intently for a couple spins at the various guitar parts. I couldn't determine for certain if Page's signature style was what I was actually hearing or otherwise. I wouldn't have questioned it at all but the fact it was raised in the article gives me pause.

And then a name came up as I was listening to the track: Yvonne Elliman. Not knowing anything about her, I sought out her history. Apparently, Elliman was quite the popular artist in her own right back in the day, as an original artist and member of Jesus Christ Superstar, first recording and then joining the original stage cast of the production, and later in the 1973 film version. (Note: Her performance in the film led to a Golden Globe nomination.) One of her biggest recorded hits - "If I Can't Have You" - is instantly recognizable from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. (And had I ever seen Jesus Christ Superstar or paid attention to the track listings on Saturday Night Fever I would have known of Elliman.) But it was the little side step I saw about her having her own version of The Who's "I Can't Explain" that drew my attention.

And, of course, I listened to that almost immediately on reading such. And it's not a bad version of the song, so there's that.

The Page article consumed, the ear candy listened to, the historical snacks and trivia firmly tucked away in my noggin, I went on with the rest of my day.

Little did I know "I Can't Explain" would crop up yet again.

At work I often have music playing. I get in moods: A 1950s bevy of hits here, some classical there, various soundtracks, rattle-your-brain rock and roll, oddities, particular artists' catalogs, et cetera. Last evening it was David Bowie. I'd never heard his 1973 cover versions album "Pinups" all the way through, just bits and pieces. So, "Pinups" it was.

Lo and behold, there was "I Can't Explain" for a third time, the sixth track on the album. And, honestly, it was the least attractive of the versions I'd heard that day, not a good piece of work. In fact, its slow pace threatened to put me to sleep on my feet. But I weathered through it because I had committed to doing so.

Now, why this specific The Who track meandered 'round my vicinity this particular Wednesday I don't rightly know. But it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if yet another reference had popped up to close the day out. (It didn't.) Additionally, why I didn't know all that information above - musicologist that I am - just goes to prove my point: There's always more to learn about music. That's a constant.

As to the coincidences well, really, I can't explain ...

Because I'm an all-around nice guy, below I've provided all three versions of "I Can't Explain" for your dining and dancing pleasure. Please enjoy as you see fit.

.......... Ruprecht ( You can't STOP the music ... )

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