Other People’s Songs: Sally Sue Brown

By Aaron Galbraith (in USA) and Tony Attwood (in UK)

Aaron: Bob’s band on the track includes punk legends Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) and Paul Simonon (The Clash).

Tony: This is one of those tracks that sounds good, but having not played it for years (and so effectively coming to it quite afresh) I just wish they had had a little more time to rehearse and consider the sound of the vocals – the backing vocals always sound like they are sung as if a little unsure of what Bob is going to do next!

It’s one of those songs that is great if you are there, bopping away, but sitting at home on a rather grey and dismal morning (the 40 degree heat of the first two days of the week now a dim and distant memory) I just feel the need for something a trifle slicker.

Aaron: Arthur Alexander is the only songwriter whose songs have been covered on studio albums by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. This was his debut single in 1960.

Tony:  Oh, an absolute classic sound – complete with the sort of echo that Elvis had on his rock songs and the Little Richard style piano.  And one thing I know about Arthur Alexander is that this first single of his  – Sally Sue Brown – was released on the record company owned by the brother of Sam Phillips, who founded Sun Records on which… well you know the rest.

Aaron: Louisianan swamp-rock musician C. C. Adcock, included it on his self-titled debut solo album in 1994.

Tony: Those first five notes are an absolute classic of the genre.  And I rather prefer this version as the vocals have a cleaner sound – no hint of echo and the piano is given a more meaningful part to play.  Somehow the overall sound just feels more in keeping, to me, with the meaning of the lyrics.   That’s not to say there’s anything amiss with Arthur Alexander’s version, it’s just this is even better.

It’s one of those tracks that I wish lasted more than the regulation 2 minutes 20 seconds.  (Whoever laid down the law that each side of a 45 rpm record should be under 2 minutes 30 ought to be tried for crimes against music).

Aaron: Elvis Costello picked this one, possibly due to the Dylan connection, to cover on the 1994 tribute album “Adios Amigo: A Tribute To Arthur Alexander”

Tony:  Wow, that’s a surprise – I was completely taken aback by the opening and wondered if I was listening to the same song.  A real re-working – although the brief solo guitar part seems over the top.  But everything else is wonderful as a tribute.  Really, really enjoyable.

And now, what I have just done, having played through the versions Aaron has supplied, is played Dylan’s version again, and I think I now really appreciate it far more.   If you have time and have enjoyed these recordings, do go back and play Dylan’s version one more time.  I think listening to the earlier versions gives us a greater amount of context.


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