Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I Put a Spell on You - rare Screamin' Jay Hawkins & Keith Richards

I'm gonna reach into your chest, and fumble with your emotions

So sings Jalacy Hawkins, backed by Keith Richards on this darker than usual version of his oft-covered song. I like to contemplate the imaginary video - a cross between a less choreographed Thriller & the Titty Twister acts in From Dusk 'til Dawn... Keith Richards looking undead, some ghoulishly attractive backing singers, a zombie stand-up drummer; and Screamin Jay Hawkins presiding - threatening not just spells, but weird disfigurement & more in his macabre efforts to hold on to a woman. Maybe he's some land-based version of the Flying Dutchman, appearing on Halloween every seven years, hoping to escape his cursed fate through the use of witchcraft.

I guess a graveyard setting, coffins... - no wait; that's just his live act.

A single release on Polydor in 1980, this & the B-side 'Armpit #6' were recorded on December 18, 1979, at Blue Rock Studios in NYC. Producer was Allan Schwartzberg; presumably the prolific session drummer.

I Put a Spell on You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Keith Richards on guitar)
7" 45 POSP 183 (1980)
buy? you might find it on ebay or somewhere specialist for $15 or so

I love it; have always found the 'normal' version rather uhh, silly for the sake of it whereas this sounds more serious; the production & Keith's guitar help of course. I think I mean that there's an air of menace, as opposed to tomfoolery; and to borrow a line from Jon Spencer - "We don't play no blues, We play Rock & Roll".
If you think that sounds like I don't rate the usual Hawkins versions - yes, you're right. Somehow, the first rendition I ever remember hearing of I Put a Spell on You, was on the vinyl you hear above; & the others sound too tame in comparison.

I Put a Spell on You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins

also this very fine video - full witch-doctor get-up, skull on a stick - Marvellous.

There've been dozens of cover versions of Spell on You, I can't be doing with finding 'em all, but expect a few for comparison later on - one's rather bizarre.

Sooo, not a huge Jalacy Hawkins fan overall - but I thought he was excellent in Mystery Train, a film I'd warmly recommend; I've never heard the word 'chimpanzee' in the same way since watching it.

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