Sunday, January 15, 2012

Song #87 of 9999 - No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature by The Guess Who

Song #87 of 9999

Title: No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Artist: The Guess Who
Year: 1970
Album: American Woman

It's my last day in 1970 and I was looking at a whole bunch of good songs (which I'll keep to myself for future years!), including "American Woman" by The Guess Who. While researching, I discovered that the B-side was "No Sugar Tonight" (remember this still during a time when the record company was willing to put two hits on one 45—can you imagine "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" on the same single today?). This led me to the album version which is actually quite interesting.

So apparently, Randy Bachman (yes, the same guy from Bachman-Turner Overdrive), came up with this song "No Sugar Tonight," presented it to lead singer Burton Cummings and the record company and it was deemed too short (which is weird because it's the exact song that appears on the single, clocking in at 2:04, but whatever...). Cummings, in the meantime, had written this other song "New Mother Nature," which happened to be in the same key and they figured out a way to join the two and voilĂ !—album cut. 

But what's interesting to me is how well these two verses fit together. I wonder how much, if any, rewriting they had to do to make it work. Bachman's tune has these short, two-beat lines that alternately descend and ascend quickly (8-6-5, 3-4-5), while Cumming's tune has an ascending blues-based melody that requires nearly two bars to get through one line. The way these two melodies blend at 3:54 is really quite clever and seems almost too perfect to be a coincidence. The real stroke of near-genius (I mean, come on—it's The Guess Who, not Beethoven) is the little waltz-like interlude that connects the two songs and I like that they were smart enough to preview it at the beginning of the track, prepping the listener for what's to come. Very intelligent writing from our friends in the Great White North.

See you tomorrow in 1980. Oh, and don't forget I now have a Spotify playlist of all the songs featured in my blog. Become a subscriber!

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