The Never Ending Tour Extended: The extraordinary journey of I and I


 I don’t know what it means  either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

The Never Ending Tour Extended: This series primarily uses recordings selected by Mike Johnson in his inestimable masterpiece The Never Ending Tour, and looks at how those performances of individual songs change as time goes by.   The selection of songs from the series, and the commentary below, are by Tony Attwood.   A list of all the songs covered in the series is given at the end.

I and I

I and I was played 204 times by Bob and the band between 1984 and 1999.  And before I offer the earliest recording we have from the Tour (in 1987), I would like (if I may) to remind you of just how the song sounded on the album.

Now if you have taken that in, or indeed if you have a perfect musical memory and you remember that original recording without having any need to remind yourself, have a listen to this, from  first ever article from Mike Johnson’s Never Ending Tour series of articles…

1987 Farewell to all that

It is that introduction that surprised me – the way the guitar is played and the speed change.  This is a really lively, bouncy song, and the way Bob half-sings and half-recites the song from the one minute mark onwards certainly suggests a total rethink of the song.  As indeed does the instrumental work that follows.

And the instrumental section led by the organ just over halfway through also really takes us into a new land.

Plus if that is not enough the constant repeat of a line by the chorus from around 3 minutes 18 seconds on, is something else again.  Come to that so is the prolonged ending!

So what would Bob do after that?

1992: Heading for the promised land

Well, the answer turned out to be something of a retreat after that staggering re-appraisal five years earlier.

There is an almost tired feeling that comes across in the singing. The re-worked instrumental verses certainly do put across a new mood and the percussionist is given a free rein, but everything positive seems to have been lost.   But where this version most certainly does fit musically is that doom-laden final verse.

Noontime, and I'm still pushin' myself along the road, the darkest partInto the narrow lanes, I can't stumble or stay putSomeone else is speakin' with my mouth, but I'm listening only to my heartI've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot

And then we have the long instrumental, where the percussionist has his say.  But for me, what is said is not at the level of that amazing earlier version.

1994: Dancing to the nightingale’s tune

So now jumping forward again, we have an even slower version, with the percussion once more given the freedom to do, well, anything I guess.   For me this is as if Bob is seeing just how depressing he can make the song.

And yes I do understand that there is that line “One said to the other, “No man sees my face and lives””.  But even so…  By now the question is, could the performances get any slower or have and more doom written into them?   Or come to that could the percussionists do anything else?

1998: You won’t regret it

And now having gone as low as possible in terms of the way the meanings are extracted from the song emotionally, we are on the way back.  Not all the way back of course, but still some distance away from the depths.

And having run through these recordings I just find myself still wondering why Bob moved away from that 1987 version.

1999: Inside the museum.

And here we are as the song is ready to be put away for the last time – and what a curious journey this has been.   Just as I adored the very first performance in this selection, so I love this last one.   It is a totally different approach, but the speeding up helps.

Indeed although I haven’t been back to check it really does linger in my mind that this is not the first time that Bob has given up a song after producing a really excellent, insightful and utterly enjoyable performance.

Is that what he does?  Take the song to a new place, and feel “yes, that’s about as far as I can go”? And then (unlike most performers of the genre) admits that is it, and stops?

Well maybe so, but also this time, he seemed to have started at a remarkable new place and wandered backwards and then tried to recapture that first version.  (Which makes me wonder, does Bob have access to recordings of his own earlier shows?)

But of course he’s the boss.  I’m just the guy with the computer keyboard.   But just one last thought – do stay with this 1999 performance to the last note – it is a wonderful farewell.

Other articles in this series…

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