Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gaudy Covers: MANFRED MANN does Harriet Schock's "Hollywood Town"

On a cold night, when the temperature and your bank account are a bit too low, you are very thankful for...COVERS.

Does it matter the garish color in the dark? No.

Most every songwriter can point to a pretty bad or strange version of their song...that brought in the big bucks and some publicity to the author. Sometimes a version that seems outrageous turns out to be definitive (think of the Jimi Hendrix take on Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower.")

The Manfred Mann version of "Hollywood Town" is...different, that's for sure. Maybe it's "Hollywood Town" as intended for the "Day of the Locusts" soundtrack. How about that pimply synth! The sudden moany country guitar riff at one break point and then the heavy metal one at another? Wait for the clip clop beat that suggests Jed Clampett's clan have come to town on a donkey cart and found Beverly Hills. The lyrics disappear during a tense synth break that suggests the spotlight is about to reveal Peter Gabriel dressed as the misplaced lamb who lost his way from Broadway to Tinsel Town.

Let's just say I'm used to the classy, elegant original from Harriet Schock's album of the same name. But I'll bet the royalty check from the publisher was much bigger for the Mann usage than on her own disc.

"Hollywood Town" should've been the breakout album for her. For one thing, it was the only one of her three albums to have a stylishly done cover with a truly flattering and also compelling picture of her. Critics are still shaking their heads over how 20th Century Records rose and fell so quickly, taking along their two most promising artists, Schock and awesome Patti Dahlstrom.

Aside from being on a weak label, at the time there was way too much competition in the singer-songwriter field. For Harriet, she was up against expert and established stage acts such as Helen Reddy and Joni Mitchell. Reddy covered Harriet's "No Way to Treat a Lady" and Joni was first choice among college co-eds when it came to studying lyric sheets. Too bad, because any fan of poetry or literate lyrics had a lot to like with Ms. Schock. Take a look at the opening of "Hollywood Town" with those polished internal rhymes and near rhymes (like the flowing use of hide and high, go and those):

Down, down in Hollywood town,
The lost and found come to find their way,
Walking outside, feelings they hide,
Putting their pride through well known paces,
Stepping on stars and shining on cars,
Passing by, their heads are high,
But their hearts are low down, dragging as they go,
Reaching out to those other faces....

There's a lot going on in there, double meanings, things you might pick up months or years later. A lot more subtle than Ray Davies, was Ms. Schock, especially in referencing the stars on the sidewalk of the Hollywood Hall of Fame. Any songwriter interested in the art of the lyric would do well to get a copy of her book "Becoming Remarkable." It not only references her own hits, but analyzes the work of others, various techniques for creating a good song, and what has and hasn't worked for the many pupils she's had as a teacher and coach.

To give you an idea of just how enduring Schock's songs are, let's add that "Hollywood Town" turned up on Mann's "Angel Station" album some seven years after it was first recorded by her. A song has to be considered pretty classic or special to be covered after years have passed. The only other cover on that album was "You Angel You" by Bob Dylan. Pretty good company for Harriet Schock.



1 comment:

Timmy said...

I like 'em both... Thanx!