Song Of The Day 6/7/2016: P.P. Arnold – “Bury Me Down By the River”

Waxing Gibbous – The Bee Gees' 1970 album Cucumber Castle was a bit of a fractured affair. Robin Gibb had left, leaving just Barry and Maurice to while away the recording studio hours. Their longtime drummer Colin Peterson was axed at some point during the recordings and the guy from Pentagle filled in. The album was paired with a kind of haphazard short movie that didn't make a whole lot of sense, sort of like Magical Mystery Tour. It was perceived as either a stopgap or a comedown from the Bee Gees' high-concept album Odessa. It's put together kind of shabbily. And as you've probably already figured out, I love Cucumber Castle. There were some moments that didn't exactly fit the Bee Gees' existing profile, like "I.O.I.O." (to date the only song I've ever done at karaoke in New York City) and the faux country-gospel tune "The Lord." But it's got two of Barry's best weepy ballads ever: "The Chance of Love" and "If I Only Had My Mind on Something Else." I'll defend that pair of prom tunes for the forlorn 'til the day I burn this castle down.

It also had a song called "Bury Me Down By the River," originally intended as a single. But Barry produced a cover of the song from American soul singer P.P. Arnold, who recorded the first cover of Cat Stevens' handed-down pop-torch standard "The First Cut Is the Deepest," and everyone decided her version was definitive enough to release as a single. Arnold was an expatriate in London who had professional connections with the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Keith Emerson. She sang backup on the Small Faces' hit "Itchykoo Park." The Robert Stigwood Organization signed Arnold to a contract, which is how Barry Gibb got to produce a handful of her solo tracks. Only two ever came to fruition, including this one. Arnold's career has been colorfully under the radar ever since: she sang backup on Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and toured with a very even-tempered Roger Waters in the late '90s and early 2000's. She also originated the role of Belle The Sleeping Car in Andrew Lloyd Webber's disco roller-skating musical Starlight Express. Somebody had to, I guess. No, that's wrong: Nobody had to. They just did.

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