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Track of the Day - 1/24/2007
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Sonic Youth - Superstar

Listen to Superstar on Rhapsody

When you talk about horror music, one band that doesn't usually come to mind is The Carpenters.  I mean, how could that nice little brother and sister act that specialized in such nice classic love songs ever make something that is... well, horrific?  The truth is that they really didn't, but that didn't stop Sonic Youth from taking one those classic love ballads and turn it into something very creepy.

In truth, The Carpenters weren't the writers of Superstar, nor were they even the first to perform the song.  The song was written in 1969 by Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett and first recorded by Bramlett's band, Delaney, Bonnie & Friends as Groupie (Superstar).  In fact, Richard Carpenter first encountered the song while watching Bette Midler perform it on The Tonight Show.  Apparently it took some time to convince Karen to record it and a quick change of lyrics from "I can hardly wait to sleep with you again" to "...to be with you again" in keeping with The Carpenters clean-cut image.  They released the song in 1971 in what has now become the most recognizable version of the song.

1994 A&M Records Ltd. Superstar is really about a groupie longing to be with a rock star once again.  She sits and listens to him on the radio and awaits the day they can be together again.

Don't you remember you told me you loved me baby?
You said you'd be coming back this way again, baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby, I love you... I really do...


Nice and sweet no?  Well, then Sonic Youth decided to cover Superstar for the Carpenters tribute album, If I Was a Carpenter.  They chose to take the song in a slightly different direction.  It is fairly apparent from the opening notes with deep malevolent sigh that this isn't going to be the sugary-sweet version that we all have come to know.  Add in some heavy echoes, distortion and some evil sounding piano notes and the song transforms into edgy stalker tune with more than a hint of danger.

Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But you're not really there
It's just the radio


Sonic Youth does such a convincing job with their take on Superstar, that I quickly became convinced that I had completely missed the point of the song when Karen Carpenter's beautiful, soulful voice bellowed out the exact same lyrics (in fact, Sonic Youth even keep the lyrical change mentioned above in their version).  Could it be that this was a disguised stalker song all along?  Well, after a little reading up on it, including interviews with Richard Carpenter, I was reassured that it was never intended as a spooky stalker song.  However, that only makes me admire Sonic Youth all the more.  It is no simple task to take a well known song and use the same lyrics and record an entirely different spin on the tune.  Turning a love song into a extraordinary creepy song takes some serious vision and skill.  So take a listen and get an entirely new perspective of a classic 70's love song.

This entry was edited on February 28, 2007, 5:15 pm.

 
Filed under: Music, Stalker Songs, Track of the Day January 24, 2007, 3:37 pm | Permalink | 0 Comments
 
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