Susan Boyle will perform here tomorrow evening. The program will include Wild Horses, the much-covered Rolling Stones classic written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, but first released by Gram Parsons in 1970, when he was with The Flying Burrito Brothers. And now apparently a hit for Boyle.
I was gobsmacked a la Simon Cowell when I heard her sing it:
Susan Boyle mishandles this song grievously, leaching the desperation and longing from one of the all-time great country/rock hurtin' songs and displaying the artistic sensibility of a salami by using a cheesy, The Homecoming-style piano arrangement. The product: an easy listening dirge that rates voice, ten, soul, zero.
Her fans apparently adore the version: "Oooh, never liked the song before now."
Parsons said he inspired the song (he and Richards were close friends and partners in crime); other contenders include Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithfull and Richards and Pallenberg's son Marlon. The "graceless lady" in the song suggests Parson's mother, Avis, an heiress to the Snively orange-grove fortune who died of alcoholism.
Parsons got a demo tape from the Stones and convinced them to let him release it first on Burrito Deluxe, one year before before the Stones included it on Sticky Fingers. Having already recorded soulful ballads like Do Right Woman and Dark End of the Street, Parsons knew a Burrito-flavoured hit when he heard it.
Here's Gram singing Wild Horses on the audio track of a photo-montage tribute. It shows his famous white Nudie suit emblazoned with flaming cross, naked women on the lapels, marijuana leaves and pills.
His tenor occasionally wobbles, but no matter; the song is infused with broke-down longing deepened by Sneaky Pete Kleinow's keening steel guitar.
Susan Boyle is alive and twinkly; Gram, as a result of reckless rock star living, not. Not to advocate bad behaviour on Parson's seismic scale, but Susan needs a few unhinged roadhouse nights of her own before she can go (as Jagger said of himself) "very inside this piece emotionally".
She has to reach down to the place where, as one critic said about Loretta Lynn, "she puts a tear in every note".
Keef and Mick are still rockin'. You might think "Well, written by two Brits, why shouldn't a Scottish lass sing it?" The Spoof.com has published its satire here.