Thursday, September 25, 2008

Walking in the Rain - the cover, and the original

One of my favorite songs while I was growing up was Flash and the Pan's "Walking in the Rain." I couldn't find the original version on YouTube, but I did find Grace Jones' version.

If you're only familiar with Jones' version, the original is like Jones, only with less emotion. Snufkins:

This song was never a single—it was, in fact, the B-side of a single, “Hey St. Peter,” that I never cared for much (and still don’t). This was one of those times where, after hearing the song on the radio once (maybe played accidentally?), I bought the little cheap 45 for the flip side. Even today, I enjoy the palpable atmosphere it carries. To me, this is some of the earliest trip-hop out there, minus the drums.

Flash and the Pan were largely made up of Harry Vanda and George Young. The album that contains “Walking in the Rain” came out in 1978....The open-fifth synth drone in the background periodically swells out of the mix, much like the hum of traffic on rainy streets. The synthesized percussion reminds me of footsteps echoing on the wet pavement. The vocals, oddly filtered and spoken rather that sung, sound robotic like the “Fitter, Happier” android on Radiohead’s OK Computer. The bass playing is also notable, for its understated dub-like effect. All in all, the song brilliantly conveys a kind of spooky, futuristic desolation and alienation.

And if the names Vanda and Young sound familiar, they were associated with a dramatically different kind of music:

Young’s brothers are the Young brothers of AC/DC; Vanda and Young also produced several of the early Bon Scott-era AC/DC albums. Previous to that they were best known as members of the Easybeats, who gave us the psych-pop “Friday on my Mind” back in 1967....For 60s flower children to turn around and produce crunching hard rock and then turn around and embrace futuristic synth pop seems like a series of stylistic leaps that are just a bit drastic.
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