365 Day Song Challenge: Day 63 – “I Got You Babe”

Day 63: Your favorite duet.

“I Got You Babe” – UB40 featuring Mo Birch

UB40 - CCCP: Live In MoscowI hear you saying “Who the hell is Mo Birch?” Well, if you’ll hold your horses and be patient for a minute, I’ll tell you. Chill out.

So when you think of a duet, what qualifies? Does it have to be boy/girl or are two singers of the same gender okay? Do the people have to actually sing together (like, same words at the same time)? Or is it enough to have two people who don’t normally perform together on the same track? Does the credit have to include “&” or “And” or can you include “featuring” or “with”?

Because if you swap those criteria in or out, I’d have different answers.

So it’s a little mind-boggling to try to work all that out. (Read: it’s handy that I can obfuscate my confusion and indecision by pushing the vagaries of the challenge back on its creators.)

Not familiar with a song I’ve mentioned?
Click the > button above to hear samples.

I wanted to avoid songs by artists I’ve already featured, but that’s getting harder to do with each passing day. So finally I just sucked it up and decided.

I’m going to get flack for not picking “Under Pressure” and I may lose my Genesis cred by not picking one of a few Phil Collins duets (for the record, I hate “Separate Lives,” so that wasn’t even an option, but “Easy Lover” was). For something more obscure I thought about “Candy” by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson (of the B-52’s). I even considered “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink and Nate Ruess (from fun.) which I like very much, but decided against it.

No, in the end I picked a song that most of you know, but a version most of you haven’t heard. “I Got You Babe” was originally by Sonny & Cher, and in 1985 UB40 and Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders) did a cover of it. While I like Sonny & Cher’s version for its period kitsch, I think the song does lend itself to a reggae beat quite well.

As I’ve mentioned, in 1985 when the UB40 version with Chrissie Hynde was released, I didn’t care much. It was only afterward that I really latched on to UB40 (and reggae in general). Even with that 20/20 hindsight, the recording on the album is a little flat. Chrissie Hynde is not the most dynamic vocalist and the keyboard voice chosen for the riff was so-so at best.

In 1988, after seeing UB40 live, my friend Amy bought me a copy of CCCP Live In Moscow for Christmas. Back then, the Iron Curtain had not yet fallen, and bands from the West were not generally allowed to play in the Soviet Union. So it was a special treat and the crowd was obviously very much into it. I enjoyed it because it reflected my then-recent live experience well. And overall, there was simply more life to the live renditions than the studio recordings.

But “I Got You Babe” was more. It was an epiphany. I loved it from the moment the band’s toaster, Astro (who recently left the band), announced “We’re going to do an old 60s number… originally done by Sonny & Cherski… ‘I Got You Babovich.'”

Mo Birch, (I told you I’d get there) was one of the band’s regular backup singers both live and on record. She took the Cher/Chrissie Hynde part in live shows and her performance gave the song more life than it had in either of the studio versions I’ve mentioned.

And then there were the horns. The weak keyboard voice from the album track was replaced with UB40’s horn section and the difference is amazing. So this duet has been high on my list for a long time, and as good (even great) as some of the other songs that I’ve mentioned are, this one has a special place in my heart.

That said, Laura told me about hearing the isolated vocals from “Under Pressure.” So I had to check it out. She was right. The domination of the bass line and the backing tracks in general hide how amazing the vocals really are.

It still wasn’t enough to sway me. The power of Mo Birch is just too much to overcome…

Have a listen, anyway:

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 14 – “Dance With The Devil”

Day 14. A song you like that’s instrumental only

“Dance With The Devil” — UB40*

DanceWithTheDevilLet me start by saying that, on the whole, I like instrumentals. While some people may think that a song with no words is a cop-out, as if the songwriter is only doing half the work, I think that to write a song that holds your interest without vocals is a challenge. Well-done instrumentals are worthy of your attention.

Now that I’ve bored you with that (always a smart move when trying to keep people reading), I’ll move on to the rest of the post.

My introduction to UB40 was in 1985 when they released the cover of “I Got You Babe”they did with Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. I didn’t pay much attention. Not really my thing.

In 1988 my friend Mark was my ride to school. Then he got a girlfriend and I got relegated to the back seat. Perfectly understandable, but I was nonetheless unimpressed to be stuck back there. I really don’t like riding in the back seat, even today.

To her credit, however, she introduced him to some new music, including Bob Marley. That was my first real introduction to reggae, and I kind of liked it.

One morning we were listening to something that, in my ignorance, I thought was Bob Marley. Turned out it was UB40. “Red Red Wine”was climbing the charts, no doubt to the simultaneous joy and dismay of UB40, since “Red, Red Wine” was five years old at that point and they’d recently released a new album that wasn’t getting much attention at all.

Because of that, I started paying attention to UB40. That year they toured, with one of the stops being Springfield at the then recently reopened Paramount Theater. We went to the concert, even though my only exposure was still only Labour Of Love.

After Ipso Facto (the opening act) finished, we waited. After what seemed like a very long time, some music started. The riff repeated for, again, what seemed like a long time before the band actually took the stage and the horns started. I like horns. So despite the wait, the band got my attention, and kept it throughout, even though I didn’t know many of the songs. It convinced me I needed to get more of their music.

Shortly thereafter I got their recently-released UB40album. (The one I mentioned before that hadn’t been getting attention.) I immediately recognized the first track on the album as the song that had started (and ended) the concert. If you’re paying attention (and if you’ll recall I told you to pay attention way back on Day 1) you should be able to figure out that song was today’s entry, “Dance With The Devil”

It’s a horn-infused instrumental (with reprise at the end of the album) that may very well be the best song on UB40. It was the start of a journey that culminated in my acquisition of a dozen albums, a bunch of singles, and a bootleg or two. (Ssshh. Don’t tell.)

So after all that, can I say that relegation to the back seat was worth the discovery of a band that has provided me who-knows-how-many hours of enjoyment?

No. No it wasn’t.

* Another change from the original choice last year. The original was “Charm” by Tony Banks. I love that song, but since no one but Genesis fans know that Tony Banks exists, I decided to go with an artist that was at least a little bit mainstream. I’m also trying to use songs and artists that you can actually get easily, thus the links to Amazon, and Tony Banks doesn’t fall into that category. Most of his stuff is available on CD, but not digitally. That said, if you still use CDs, I’d encourage you to check him out.