Significant Songs (16)

Betcha By Golly Wow

OK, I apologise in advance. An incredibly slushy, Philly Soul song, of little importance, with annoying falsetto vocals, and a silly title. So, what is it doing in my ‘Significant Songs’ category then? It is all about significance to me, and the particular relevance of this song, is that a cover version, many years after the original, actually made me like this song, and want to own a copy.  It isn’t even as if the cover changed the song, in any way, shape, or form. It is a faithful reproduction, and to an accidental listener, it might even be confused with the first version. I will try to explain.

In the early 1970’s, The Stylistics were one of the old-style male vocal harmony groups, following in the footsteps of such giants as The Temptations, and The Four Tops. They added the new ‘Philly’ sound to their performances, as did many of the new wave of soul groups hailing from the city of Philadelphia. This was a smoother, less punchy sound, and often had a falsetto lead. The suits were still awful; lurid colours, themed piping, and flowing bell-bottoms. The dance routines, if they could be called that, hadn’t changed in years, and the format was still successful, so these groups saw no point in altering those traditions. Other bands doing much the same thing at the time, included The Delfonics, The Trammps, and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. Most of these groups were doing nothing wrong. They churned out nice soul songs, and had hit after hit, with a large following for their sound, on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, The Stylistics just took it all too far. Too much sugar, too many falsettos, and songs of even less merit than most of the competition were recording. It didn’t matter though. They were a household name, and could do no wrong, selling millions of records. But I was getting overwhelmed by the syrup, and beginning to yearn for Motown to come back with something better. So I turned my back on the Philly Sound.

Almost twenty-five years later, Prince was going through a period of transition, something that has often happened in his long career. A dispute with his record company, in 1996, saw him then known only by a symbol, as he was not allowed to use any of his previous stage names, due to contractual difficulties. At that time, he was perhaps at his most irritating, yet also most productive, in many new ways. He was able to record and release songs and material previously denied to him by his former record company, and he finally released his cover version of ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’. When I first heard it, I just couldn’t believe that it was that good. Here was a song that I had always hated, and couldn’t bear to listen to, and I loved it! The arrangement was the same, and even the annoying falsetto was in place, so what made it any different?

Maybe it was the twenty-five year gap. Perhaps I was the one that had changed, not the song. I still didn’t care much for the original, so why did I like this one so much, that I went out and bought a CD single copy immediately? It had to be talent, pure and simple. Prince just felt the song, and sounded as if he really meant it. The production values were higher, and the overall sound, simply superb. I was drawn in, and couldn’t let go. He had turned around my feelings about a song, and made it into one that I still adore today. But only his version.

This video is almost a parody, so be advised. It is completely over the top, and I recommend listening to the song, without watching the visuals. As for the slush and sentiment, consider yourselves warned…

It appears that this has been removed from You Tube, and I cannot get a version online. Apologies.

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