By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
Aaron: Little Sadie tells the story of a man, who is apprehended after shooting his wife/girlfriend. He is then sentenced by a judge.
Tony: It is strange that such a horrific set of events is set to such a jolly, bouncy tune, but somehow it seems to work; maybe it is because we don’t actually take any note of the reality – the music just takes over and we enjoy the piece because of that, not because of the content of the lyrics. And of course at the time of its composition, attitudes were different.
Aaron: It is thought that Bob took his version from the March 1930 recording by Clarence Ashley
Tony: The extra speed and the exciting banjo playing means that I now hardly even hear the lyrics as a set of words with any sort of meaning. I’m just listening to that banjo.
Aaron: Hedy West performs Little Sadie on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest
Tony: Now that is invaluable – brilliant Aaron. To see how the right-hand works to get that sound is terrific. OK that is me getting carried away because I always want to know how the music works mechanically as well as how it works as work, but hopefully I am not the only one fascinated by mechanics.
Aaron: Bob’s version appeared on Self Portrait
Tony: I am thinking this is a different recording from the one I slipped in at the start of this piece, rather than a re-mix – the accompaniment is different. I’ve not played each one over and over to work out the level of differences, but there are some – either in the mixing or in the actual performance. But they are not that great.
Aaron: The song has been covered over 90 times. Here are just a couple modern versions I liked.
Tony: Ah well, if it is Old Crowe, then it must be worth listening to. And of course they find something new to include – violin and harmonies and some extra guitar work. The wonderful thing about these guys is that the arrangements like this never feel over-crowded. It seems they can throw everything into the mix and it still works. Wonderful.
Aaron: Crooked Still
Tony: It’s actually a shock to come to this version with its modern accompaniment. And what a brilliant version it is – 100% for the arranger. This approach makes the song of interest and worth hearing all over again. I love it.
If you, dear reader, have slipped through to the end just to see what the selections are, and haven’t played this final version all the way through while giving it your most fulsome attention please do play it through. It is two and a half minutes of absolute genius.
Footnote: Aside from this blog, Untold Dylan also has a very active (and excellently moderated) Facebook page. If you don’t know it just go to your search engine and type in Facebook Untold Dylan.
Previously in this series…
- Other people’s songs. How Dylan covers the work of other composers
- Other People’s songs: Bob and others perform “Froggie went a courtin”
- Other people’s songs: They killed him
- Other people’s songs: Frankie & Albert
- Other people’s songs: Tomorrow Night where the music is always everything
- Other people’s songs: from Stack a Lee to Stagger Lee and Hugh Laurie
- Other people’s songs: Love Henry
- Other people’s songs: Rank Stranger To Me
- Other people’s songs: Man of Constant Sorrow
- Other people’s songs: Satisfied Mind
- Other people’s songs: See that my grave is kept clean
- Other people’s songs: Precious moments and some extras
- Other people’s songs: You go to my head
- Other people’s songs: What’ll I do?
- Other people’s songs: Copper Kettle
- Other people’s songs: Belle Isle
- Other people’s songs: Fixing to Die
- Other people’s songs: When did you leave heaven?
- Other people’s songs: Sally Sue Brown
- Other people’s songs: Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
- Other people’s songs: Step it up and Go
- Other people’s songs: Canadee-I-O
- Other people’s songs: Arthur McBride