There’s a demo version of Bob Dylan singing Like A Rolling Stone, just Bob at the piano, it’s just over a minute long. I like it more than the original. It’s part of the original Bootleg series and that’s easily one of the most important collections of music I ever heard in my life. It opened doors, and worlds – so many songs swirling past my ears, so many new (and old) things to discover as a result of that; including a lifelong membership to the Dylan fan club.
His demo version of Rolling Stone falls away and he announces, “my voice is gone, man”. And people that do not understand what Dylan’s voice is and what it does will be lining up for the cheap-shot joke. And fair enough. Get ’em while you can. But you’re wrong.
Even when Dylan’s voice was – by his own standards – gone it still sounds pretty good to me.
Remembering the Meat Loaf show from just a few years back – obvious example. He would sign his retirement with that tour and the appearances in Australia hawking a bit of sport. Well, he hasn’t quite retired – but he should have.
And here was a guy who could really sing.
But that voice is in tatters now – as happens when you are out there working it for so long, so often.
I was never the biggest Meat Loaf fan but I knew his music – had a couple of entertaining phone calls with him, one not really an interview and one so much more than just an interview…but that concert really was the worst. An embarrassment. If I’d have paid with anything other than my time I would have wanted my money back – because it didn’t do what it said on the ticket: Meat Loaf was advertised as being there to sing. And he could not.
I was also revisiting the time Blondie and The Pretenders played a winery gig a few years back. Good show, this – even though Deborah Harry could no longer sing. She seemed to get by, because she was trying and because the band sounded great and the energy was right and you realised that it was about more than just her, it was about a fantastic catalogue of songs (even though that catalogue of songs and the band’s worth were all built around Harry as the selling point).
The Blondie gig was better than the Meat Loaf gig – to compare two shows where the singers were struggling. But that’s because you can get more from a Blondie show than just Debbie Harry; the songs, the other band members…also The Pretenders were great (perhaps a little underappreciated on that day by that crowd).
But those are two most obvious examples – as well as the car crash that was K-Ci & JoJo – where the singers were out of luck; their voices gone, man.
Have you ever been to a show where the lead singer was working way beyond borrowed time, should have thrown in the towel, couldn’t actually deliver? It’s a rather heart-breaking thing if you’re a fan of the band or artist. And it’s just insulting if you’ve paid a heap of money.