Have You Heard? – (30) What the Stranglers and Smith and Mighty did to “Walk On By”

“Walk On By” is a classic sixties soul song with a jazzy shuffle and lazy trumpet absolutely typical of the era. Penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who else? A poignant break up tune: if you see me walking in the street, and I start to cry, each time we meet…. walk on by.

The original was sung by soul songstress Dionne Warwick and has been covered by many others since. Done in the soul/jazz style, it would be hard to beat Dionne’s rendition.

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But there are at least two versions of the song that I know and love which rip it up and start again.

First up, those hoary old punks from the seventies, The Stranglers. Always a bit more sophisticated than most of their counterparts, and this song, along with “No More Heroes”,  really brought that out. They both had guitar solos. Not punk!

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Listen to this.

Smith and Mighty, you might not know. They were a late 80s/90s band, playing what was sometimes categorised as “trip hop”. A kind of woozy hip hop. Slow beats, but using all the same techniques as dance and rap.  Throwing in a few wobblers. I bought a couple of twelve inch singles, which both had some intriguing beats and sounds.  Just that bit off kilter.  I love the pulsing beat which pretty much ploughs its own furrow, the vocals which exist in their own world. It’s a disconnected record. Kind of weird. Which makes it interesting.

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When a song is so good to start with, you can do a lot with it. The essence survives all the remakes and remodelling. The Stranglers and Smith and Mighty demonstrate that.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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