Sunday, April 09, 2017

Weekend Diversion: I’ll be your substitute

Roger Green recently did one of his “Music Throwback” posts on “I Will Survive”, the huge hit for Gloria Gaynor. It was an interesting post in itself, but it led me into a YouTube spiral, and that turned out to be a substitute for work. Oops. Nevertheless, I learned a few things along the way.

Roger mentioned that “I Will Survive” was originally the B-side for Gaynor’s 1978 cover of the Righteous Brothers’ song “Substitute” (audio above), which was released in 1975. Gaynor’s version didn’t do well, and when “I Will Survive” became a hit, the single was reissued with “Substitute” as the B-side. That was clearly a wise move.

Here’s Gaynor’s version:

(there’s also a 12 inch version to listen to).

I never heard either of these versions until Roger’s post, but I did hear another version by all-female South African pop-rock group Clout (below). The song was released in 1978, in the middle of my first year at university. Their version reached number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Number 1 in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Belgium. It was pretty successful, in other words.

I’d heard the song on local radio in my university town, so I was familiar with it. One day I was browsing in one of the local record shops and saw a very cheap cut-out copy of their album, and I bought it. I liked quite a few of the songs on their album, it turned out, but I felt really uneasy about playing it because they were South African at a time when there was a movement to oppose and sanction the country for its apartheid regime. I didn’t know Clout was South African before I bought the album, and I didn’t want to help the South African government or its cause in any way (I was still a Republican in those days, too, at a time when it was still possible to be a Republican AND a Liberal on social issues). It was a dilemma. So, I didn’t play the album ever again.

Even so, the Clout version of “Substitute” has always stuck in my mind because it was part of the soundtrack of my life in my university years. I eventually bought a copy of the song on iTunes, after I lost the album in my move to New Zealand. I don’t feel bad about playing it now, but I seldom actually do. Nostalgia’s best in small doses, anyway, I guess.

All of this exploration also led, indirectly, to me remembering the “supergroup” Artists United Against Apartheid’s 1985 protest song, "Sun City” [LISTEN]. As bizarre a collection of very different artists as any of the other “supergroup” singles of the 1980s, but the song IS kind of catchy.

So, Roger’s post led me to fall into a YouTube spiral that substituted for work. My telling the tale is a substitute for a more substantive topic. But, then, many of my posts are substitutes for better ones by me or other bloggers. I don’t mind that, actually: When your normal bloggers fail you, I’ll be your substitute, whenever you need me.


rogerogreen said...

I own the Sun City LP (no surprise, eh?)

rogerogreen said...

I just noticed that I Will Survive was #1 on my birthday in 1979!