for April 17, 2002
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman
We all have needs. Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love needs an indestructible glossy top coat after seeing the new Mercedes-Benz commercial featuring multiple remakes of "Unchained Melody." Tapping one's fingers impatiently, with increasing urgency, with every repetition of the ad during a favorite TV show tends to wear, then shatter one's manicure. The living room floor looks like a failed archaeological dig in a plastics factory. Let's talk, then, about why two black cats skitter on tiny fingernail-shaped red tiles Their Diva steals, when cats aren't looking, and discards poutily.
Once upon a time, which is to say June 13th, 1956, Todd Duncan recorded "Unchained Melody" for a movie you never heard of, so there. Everyone probably including you took a turn at recording this song because apparently there were no other songs but plenty of singers and money to be made from re-recording. The Righteous Brothers recorded "Unchained Melody" in 1965. Chances are very, very good that unless you're an overbooked planner with a wedding band kickback scheme, this is the version with which you're familiar, and there's a very, very good reason for that. This version is perfect.
"My Interesting Monster," you cry, "what in life is perfect, besides you?" Perfect is one of those overused words, Heavens yes, and you cringe every time a canapé-wielding identi-hostesses sashays toward you squealing it. Brides must plan the perfect wedding and hairstyles must be perfect and every women's magazine offers a perfect something. Enough to make one perfectly nauseous. On the other hand, some things truly couldn't be more exactly what they should be, some things exceed what we have seen and become paragons themselves. We may understand those things to be perfect, like 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci on the uneven bars, and good advice. Janis Joplin sang "Summertime" and for non-opera singers, the song is now done. Janis owns that song in perpetuity. Don't embarrass yourself by singing this into a recording device, oh aspiring pop star. And "Unchained Melody" is done. It's done. Which brings us to the reasons why people record cover songs in the first place: love, genius and blackmail.
Reason One: an artist loves a song so desperately life will be incomplete without an historical record of that love. This is not a great reason. If you love "Suzanne", please consider slipping a twenty into an envelope and mailing it to Leonard Cohen rather than ruining great music for the rest of us.
Reason Two: a genius has a brilliant vision of how a song could be redone, and succeeds beyond anyone's expectations and a new generation of listeners learns to love an obscure song or songwriter. Please, leave an address handy, so I can mail you a twenty.
Reason Three: You're an artist. Your Significant Other/Producer/Dying Parent issues a strongly worded demand/contract/deathbed request that you cover a song or he/she/it will never sleep with you again/leave you penniless/haunt you for all eternity. Please. Mail yourself a twenty. You need pity.
To sum up: we need a brand new multiple-rendition cover of "Unchained Melody" like a Bic lighter in a Hess plant, like Osama needs a rock, like Madonna needs $2, like a cable modem into your Apple IIe. We need a pointless remake like WalMart needs polyester, like cab drivers need a serial killer, like Giuliani needs Sharpton, like the Pope needs a gun permit. We don't need it. Your Gentle, Dulcet Darling promises.
©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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