Sunday Night Serenade

Aha! I’m back.

Before you gasp in amazement and awe that I’ve I actually managed to follow through on this silly little music review idea, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I am in fact writing this post barely 5 minutes after I posted the last one.


Yes, I’m cheating and working ahead. I don’t feel bad about it at all. Magazines do it all the time as they publish a month in advance, as to most webcomic artists. It’s called building a buffer and working ahead of your deadline. It’s probably a good habit to get into but for the moment, for me at least, it’s still just an amusing trompe-l’œil. Am I live or am I Memorex? Yeah, I’m easily amused. Does it show?

Alright, on with the show before you all decide to travel back in time and lynch me.

This week I’m going to do a bit of a comparison between two versions of the same song. Which song you ask? Why the answer is, of course, Common People by Pulp. What else would it be? Which versions you ask? We’re obviously going to go with the original on one hand and on the other we get the version by The Shat himself, Mr. William Shatner.

First the original:

And now Shat, along with Joe Jackson and Ben Folds:

I always loved the original song, I have ever since I first heard it back in ’95 during a time when I was listening to a lot of British bands (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians and Pop Will Eat Itself to name a few) and I enjoyed it immensely. It just clicked with me for some reason. The lyrical monologue gelled perfectly with the music and I eagerly bobbed my head in time with it whenever I heard it.

I even managed to track the album down at one point and it was purchased, repeatedly listened to and enjoyed, shelved and eventually (and regrettably) sold along with a number of other things at a time I was trying to clear out some clutter.

The song then filtered into the back of my mind, filed into that category of “a happy musical experience from days gone by” and had the song turned up on the radio at some point I would’ve amazed people by gleefully singing along verbatim while they thought me mad (as often happens).

Cue late 2004 and someone mentioned to me that William Shatner had recorded an album. I was dismissive and thought nothing of it at the time. After all, Shat was Shat, a larger than life caricature of himself that, at the time, was doing Priceline commercials and doing all sorts of odd things in an effort to make a buck. More power to him I thought and moved on.

Then the magic that is YouTube was born and eventually the gem that you see above passed through my radar and I was shocked and amazed. Here was a great song that I’d known 10 years ago getting a new treatment and possibly new life. There was much rejoicing. Hooray for the digital age!

Now I suppose I should actually get around to it and compare and critique the two versions. That’d be the whole point of this excercise now wouldn’t it.

Despite the second version featuring Shat, overall I actually prefer the first one. It’s much more concise and musically pleasing to me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Shat’s version though. His spoken word take on the song is impressive but he’s not really singing and that detracts somewhat for me. It’s fun and quirky, but doesn’t retain listenability for me.

My favourite parts of the second version is when Shat isn’t talking and Joe Jackson is singing. I think Joe nails the parts that he sings and I’d actually love to hear Joe’s version of the full song without Shat interfering.

Comparing Joe’s version with the Jarvis Cocker original is tough. Personally I think Joe has a voice that lends a deeper resonance to the song but as he doesn’t sing the whole song, it’s an incomplete comparison. Jarvis knows the song intimately and the live version at Glastonbury is classic. Both are great and in the end it doesn’t really matter. It comes down to one song with two versions. Both are really good. Just enjoy them.

One thought on “Sunday Night Serenade

  1. Now, for me the Shatner version is superior. While I too have long enjoyed the original Pulp version, I would say that Shatner manages to give the song’s lyrics a deeper resonance than Cocker did, as the latter has numerous moments in the song where the lyrics must conform to the music and thus get lost therein.

    I agree that Jackson is who makes the song, but, if you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend the album version, as it is superior to this live one you have here in most respects.

    I can safely say that Shatner’s version of Common People is one of maybe 3 or four songs on my MP3 player that I never skip when it comes up.

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