Song of the Day: Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”

Posted on December 1, 2013

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First, allow me to explain the reason for the lame hipsterised photo. What I was trying to show in my eyeballs was my Poppycat staring back at me with his huge pretty eyes. Clearly, that didn’t work out, and I couldn’t be arsed to find another photo, so I lomofied it to hide my shitty skin tone, eye bags and zits. But you can still tell I had a bottle of red for dinner.

Right. Back to business. Here’s Dame Etta, being absolutely transcendental with The Roots Band at the Burning Down the House concert in 2001, just shy of her 64th birthday. Etta James is glorious, so sorry Etta, for what I’m about to do. I’m going to dedicate this song to the 2nd floor toilets in the Goldsmiths Library. Or at least, the song goes out to the toilets; my vitriol is directed at their users.

Ladies-who-are-guilty, you are disgusting. On account of being a bit of a no-lifer nerd, I study in the library a lot. And in the many times I pop into the 2nd floor loos, not once have I failed to walk into a cubicle with an unflushed bowl. This baffles me. It disturbs me, obviously, but it baffles me more. Why would anyone do this? Are there that many people out there who do not know how toilet flushes work?

What is worse is that this phenomenon has made me resort to resuming a habit that I had stopped for years – I have started to remove my glasses before popping my head into the cubicle to check out, you know, the goods. (As in, whether there are any.) I started doing this when I was pretty young – primary school? when I realised that my impressively horrible eyesight served a very useful purpose of shielding me from situations in which reality became too real. I typically removed my glasses before entering toilets, when walking past dump sites, etc. Somehow the prospect of seeing and remembering was worse than the possibility of me missing a step and pitching forward into the filth. I was never really one for cold, clean logical reasoning.

I’m not really sure when I stopped removing my glasses and started not being so stupid about seeing gross things. Getting dysentery in rural India and having to rush into many – any – toilet available (hoo boy) could have made me less silly about such things. In any case, it was quite a stupid, prissy and princessy way to behave.

Alright! I just wanted to get that off my chest. Thank you, if you are still reading! Shitty toilets made me think of this song, but let’s get out of that nasty space now and venture into the beautiful, beautiful world of awesome covers. I love me a cover. I’ve said this a gazillion times but I do I do I do.

The most famous “I’d Rather Go Blind” covers are (probably?) from Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson. Which, you know, meh. Them ladies have nice big pipes, but one doesn’t use one’s big pipes to fight with Etta’s. Best to find your own way. So I trawled through the sticky molasses of Youtube vids to find 5 kiddos who did. My favourite are these boys here:

1) Man Man, 2006

What is there not to love about Man Man? Londoners, they are playing at the Brixton Academy on 13th Dec. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.

Speaking of Brits, my next fav “I’d Rather Go Blind” cover is by a 60s British blues band that have called themselves Chicken Shack. Yep. So now you know Hootie and the Blowfish wasn’t the first dodgy use of animals-in-names. Yeah it’s a similar arrangement to Etta’s, but Christine McVie’s vocals present a different, somehow more wry, deadpan take.

2) Chicken Shack, 1969

Another take on the song, worth it just for the video of the performance alone: The Faces, featuring a psychedelic Rod Stewart in orange satin, Keith Richards on guitar, and lots of fade-in-fade-out video effects. This version, apparently, was quite liked by Etta herself. (Wiki told me.)

3) The Faces, 1973

From boys to girls – and these girls are fun. One of the band members described their sound as “A Quentin Tarantino soundtrack meets Motown“. I have to agree. Lead singer’s Gabrielle Sutton’s vocals are ridiculous. By now I had heard like 15 different covers of the song, but for them I was still riveted until the dying notes.

4) Del Moroccos, 2011

Last spot was a bit difficult to decide on. I really liked the Fleetwood Mac version, but it wasn’t so very unexpected. And for different takes, there is Sydney Youngblood, but I kinda friggin hate what he did to the song. And there were so many others – assorted blues greats, mostly – oh yes and Beth Hart. But I just thought I wanted to give a shout-out to a pretty cool young blues band from Sydney. I found them tuneful and heartfelt. Or maybe it’s just pretty late.

5) Dojo Cuts, 2009

I’m just gonna squeeze one more in, only cos it’s not actually a sung version. Just in case you’re all song-ed out. It’s quite lovely nonetheless:

Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel, performed in 2012

Well then. This makes me feel better about going to those damn toilets tomorrow. Laters!