Wild Horses couldn't drag me to hear Susan Boyle sing this

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.


NancyDaQ said…
Susan Boyle's rendition is wrong on so many levels. Ugh.
Mardel said…
Wow! I wouldn't even think it was the same song, well the words are the same. She can't touch it.

And Gram Parson's still rips right into the heart of the matter and touches the deepest parts. I can't advocate a life like Parson's and always thought it was a shame, but I also cant' imagine a life not knowing or feeling the emotional depths Parsons plumbs.
Belle de Ville said…
Great post, great song.
You would have thought that Susan Boyle would have been able to sing this with longing in every note...longing for the life she never had....longing for the man she never had.
greying pixie said…
Simon Cowell's existence is wrong on so many levels!

Would the world really be worse off without him and his superficial saccharine views?
Duchesse said…
Belle: From press profiles, she seems inexperienced in the lovelife dept. But she has had quite an adventure, going from living in her village to a world tour...can only imagine what that might feel like.

greyingpixie: I've seen him rarely and didn't enjoy it!
materfamilias said…
Can't steal time write now to listen to the songs, tempting though those links are, but have to say I really enjoy your writing in this post -- is there some rock journalism in your past?
mette said…
These are two different songs for me. Enjoyed the latter, the roughness of it.
Well Done said…
what is all the fuss over susan boyle? Another "celebrity" who does not deserve to be.
Parsons really carried on his self-destructive family's traditions - sad.

I never really liked Susan Boyle's performances for the reasons Duchesse mentioned, though it was heartening to see her overcome the prejudice her appearance and seeming slowness of wit led to. Not my cup of tea at all but some people will like her and I hope she does ok in fame and doesn't get manipulated.
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: There is rock in my past and journalism in my past; sometimes they collide.

metscan: I'd say two different planets :)

Well Done: Perhaps the "fuss' (s you put it) is due to the novelty of her achievement, considering the premium the culture puts on looks ahead of talent.

lagatta: I hope she has a good accountant.
materfamilias said…
Thought so! You've got a credible and knowledgeable voice when you write about music (as you do in other areas!)
greying pixie said…
Is is common knowledge your side of the Atlantic that Susan Boyle has, what we in the UK call, 'learning difficulties'? I'm guessing from some of the comments here, that you don't know this.

I find the whole situation to be really exploitative, which is why I prefer to lay into Simon Cowell rather than criticise Susan's lack of feeling for the song, etc.
greying pixie, I guess I was being too polite or euphemistic - it seems obvious that Susan Boyle has a moderate intellectual handicap.

She handles some songs well, with a beautiful clear voice (though not a type of songs I care for) but nothing that demands irony, subtlety or a sense of "hard-living".

I'm certainly not criticising her, though I hate this kind of sentimental story. I wish her well and hope she is not exploited, either in terms of earnings or of sentiments.
Duchesse said…
greying pixie: I knew this.
WendyB said…
Never, EVER saw (or heard) the appeal of Susan Boyle. She sounds like cats being boiled alive.
sisty said…
Thanks for being brave enough to post this, an out and out butchering. I was hesitant to comment elsewhere because of all the raves she's getting. And whether or not she is mentally handicapped, the criticism says more about the listener than the singer. No one can really think this version does the song justice, can they?
WendyB said…
P.S. I hadn't thought of or listened to Gram Parsons in years and years, and this video (of him, not SuBo) reawakened my interest. Thanks for sharing it. SuBo's bad singing did a good deed after all...

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