In a decision that had nothing to do with one half of the bandbeing dead, the Beatles recently rereleased their swan song, LetIt Be, as Let It Be…Naked, with the sessions the wayPaul McCartney originally envisioned them: without producer PhilSpector’s added orchestral flourishes. This is not a newidea. Pop has been eating itself and reheating its leftovers sinceChubby Checker twisted again and again in the early ’60s. Butthe thing no artists seem to consider when strip-mining pastglories is that they are the only ones asking, “What wouldthis record sound like if it, y’know, sucked more?”Below, some particularly good examples of bad examples.
Ozzy OsbourneWhat got redone: Osbourne recently remixed, remastered, and replaced the bass and drum parts on his first two solo albums, Blizzard of Ozz (1980) and Diary of a Madman (1981).Why this is wrong: Ozzy’s been Fat Elvis since 1973, so youcan’t argue that his muse was somehow more pure when he recorded bothalbums during one intoxicant-soaked year, auditioning boy-geniusguitarist Randy Rhoads between blackouts. Both albums sound like arat’s ass but are classics nonetheless. Osbourne’s new bassist RobertTrujillo and drummer Mike Bordin obviously grew up listening tooriginal players Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake. Erasing them fromhistory is the kind of tactic that people don’t miss about JosephStalin.
KissWhat got redone: What hasn’t gotten redone?Why this is wrong: In 1978, Kiss remade 1974’s “Strutter” withdisco hi-hats and haven’t looked back since. It’s been five years sinceGene Simmons and Co. have even trifled with writing new songs,preferring to trot out repurposed versions of 30-year-old classics. The1988 collection Smashes, Thrashes & Hits featuredrerecorded versions of their best songs and a version of 1976’s “Beth”featuring then-drummer Eric Carr replacing Peter Criss’ vocals on a song Criss wrote.Earlier this year Kiss re-re-re-infinity-rerecorded most of the samesongs with an Australian orchestra. Perhaps in 2004, they will send outrobots to tour.
The PoliceWhat got redone: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (1986) Why this is wrong: You hate your band, and they hate you. Doyou: (a) do the honest thing and break up; (b) launch one last tour andpart as colleagues if not friends; (c) soak your fans by throwingtogether a greatest-hits package and overhauling a big hit from sixyears earlier? If you answered (c), you are living the dream of theblue turtles. The mechanical percussion puts original drummer StewartCopeland’s purported participation into question, Sting faux-wearilyad-libs the Nabokov lyric, and guitarist Andy Summers gamely strumslike a man one royalty check away from giving up his Montserrat estate.
Iggy and the StoogesWhat got redone: Raw Power (1997)Why this is wrong: You’d think a beautiful caveman of an albumthat influenced an entire generation of primal-punk acolytes would be,you know, best left alone. But nooooooo. Iggy Pop — long afterhe could blame drugs for poor decisions — decided to remix this 1973classic so it sounded like every other stupid album that came out in’97: “bigger” guitars, more radio-friendly high-end, and 10 percentlouder. Look out, honey, ’cause he’s using technology.
Adam AntWhat got redone: “Stand and Deliver” (2003)Why this is wrong: Only an iron-hearted bastard could oppose ahigher standard of living for our simian forebears. But even Moby wouldgleefuly blow away every last silverback in Africa after two minutes’exposure to Adam Ant’s feckless remuddling of this 1981 cult classic,retitled “Save the Gorilla” to aid the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. It’skind of poignant that Ant is wearing spectacles over his trademark eyemakeup in the video. But this version, which substitutes ape sounds forthe original’s “na deedly kwa kwa” vocal, tends to squander any suchgoodwill at around the four-minute mark. Still, it’s good to know hehasn’t lost his way with a lyric: “I don’t know the next verse, becauseI haven’t even writ it. Bollocks. Oh, shit. Poo.”