Monday, May 21, 2007

“Go Now” / The Moody Blues


I always thought the Moody Blues were a complete bore. Almost everybody I knew as a teenager had Days of Future Passed on their shelves, and they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t listen to it. (Believe me, I tried, more than a few times.) They thought Justin Hayward was a genius. I thought he was a pompous fraud.

Then a couple of years ago I discovered that there was a pre-Justin Hayward Moody Blues – with none other than Denny Laine fronting it. (Yes, that Denny Laine, the one from Wings.) What’s more, their single hit, “Go Now,” had been swimming around in my 1960s mental music stream all the time -- I just never identified it with the Moody Blues.

As our friend Ton told us a couple days ago, “Go Now” was originally sung by the American R&B singer Bessie Banks, but this cover is classic Merseybeat sound, full of echoes, close harmonies, and tinny production values (the Moodies were from Birmingham, not Liverpool, but that was close enough). I love tracks that start with an unaccompanied vocal like this: Denny Laine, singing in a weary flutter, “We’ve already said – “ Then he falters; an electric piano hammers a few majestic descending chords, and he finishes the sentence with a heavy-hearted drop, “– goodbye.” The whole band pitches in, in ragged harmony: “Since you gotta go, oh you better / Go now.” Denny repeats another straggling couple of “Go nows” by himself, as if shooing her away in disgust.

But the story gets more complicated. “Go now, before you see me cry,” he explains, miserably; then he starts cramming words in, almost stammering, against uneasy shifting chords and harmonized oohs: “I don’t want you to tell me just what you intend to do now / ‘Cause how many times I have to tell you darlin’, darlin’ / I’m still in love with you now.” Aha. That’s different. Now when he repeats, “We’ve already said . . . so long,” you can feel the pain throbbing, still fresh, in his heart. The next go-round, he babbles: “I don’t want to see you go / Oh you better go now . . .Won’t you even try?/ Telling me that you really don’t want me to end this way / Darlin’ darlin’ can’t you see I want you to stay.” That authentic R&B testifying – what other British bands besides the Animals went in for that? Denny Laine had a good voice for it, too, with a boyish sort of wounded yelp.

The lyrics aren’t what you’d call poetry, but the emotional angle is pretty sophisticated – all those warring fluctuations of desire and hurt and anger. The gender switch improves the song, I think – there’s a big difference between a guy sounding hurt (read: sensitive, vulnerable, sexy) and a girl sounding hurt (read: victim, martyr).

I like to pair this with the Kinks’ “Set Me Free” -- if “Set Me Free” comes on a Tuesday, “Go Now” follows on Wednesday. Though she’s officially set him free, she’s still trying to keep her hold on him, and he’s just beginning to get FED UP. Notice those unresolved chords, that touchiness in Laine’s vocal, the jazzy dark piano in the instrumental break -- bitterness is starting to crowd out the heartsick yearning. He’s already moving on, even if he doesn’t know it yet. Every time they hit the harmonized “Go now!” it sounds more closer to “I’m outta here!”

I sure wish the Moodies had kept on like this. Just think of all the hours we wouldn’t have had to spend listening to overblown pseudo-classical psychedelia.

Go Now sample


Ton said...

Whooaa, Holly, The Exciters did 'Do Wah diddy'. Go Now' is by Bessie Banks (on Red Bird Records). Her version is bit more R & B'ish, but the Moodies stayed very, very close to the orginal. You can hear the orginal song here. It's Disc 1 track 8:

Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks for the correction, Ton. What would I do without your encyclopedic knowledge? That's a tasty track indeed; everybody check it out!

G12 said...

I have to disgree, if they hadn't gone on to the prog/classicist souund, they'd be stuck on those horrible 60s package events like Gerry Marsden or Peter Noone, destined to play at fairs and share the bill with dozens of other mostly forgotten faces. They still play 8,000 seaters in the UK, something most 60s bands (who, let's be honest, haven't done much in 35 years to capture new fans) could only dream of.

Power to them! Also, check out Denny's album of Wins tracks.

Holly A Hughes said...

Just because they sell a lot of tickets doesn't mean the music's worth listening to! Yes, 8,000 arena-going fans CAN be wrong. I prefer to keep my classical music and my rock 'n' roll separate, thank you very much. :)

Iñakink said...

You don't like Days Of Future Passed???? Boooooo!!!!! XD

Go Now has to be one of the best songs ever done, it's a shame people only remember the Moody Blues because of Nights. In my opinion the live version of Go Now they played on the NME concert (yeah, the one of the Lennon/Davies story) is even better than the original.

I had never thought of the Set Me Free parallelism, but now you mention it I think it can work very well.