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May 02

MECHA-STREISAND VS. NEIL DIAMOSAUR: FITE!

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MECHA-STREISAND VS. NEIL DIAMOSAUR: FITE!

Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits:

Gary Guthrie was a particularly astute disk jockey. While spinning records for his AKY-FM show in Louisville, Kentucy, he realized that not only had Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond each included a version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” on their latest albums, they were both signing in the same key. To give his listeners an “exclusive,” he spliced the two songs together to create a duet. When he played the tape on the air, the switchboard lit up with callers clamoring to hear it again, followed by record store owners besieged with customers wanting to buy their own copies.”

Soon enough, a real duet was recorded between the two. A number one record, Grammy nominations and MOR ubiquity followed. But that’s right: this famous Barbara Streisand/Neil Diamond duet had its genesis in a bootleg. Or what could be called one, anyway. Sure, it’s inarguably a case of record A + record B, not new vocals + old record (Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable”) or a revamped existing record (your average remix). But whereas many bootlegs, in their promiscuous style-ransacking, seem to imagine alternate pop histories and imaginary genre reconciliations (…so that’s what a REAL punk/rap synthesis might sound like, ah…), it’s not as if a duet between these two singers was ever out of the question. So while “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” is a good song — classy MOR melodrama, yum — there’s no thrill of cultural friction here, no vs. It hearkens back not to the soundclash but to the older pop idea of the fantasy jam session.

Anyway…what this example might prove is that there is some kind of precedence for industry-acceptance of the bootleg. But does that mean anything today? Probably not. Without the kind of mass acceptance of DJ culture on radio that the UK enjoys, and with the overwhelming homogenization of media outlets, it’s hard to imagine a bright young DJ earnestly introducing his (or somebody else’s) tape-splice project in Clear Channel’s America. Or the RIAA-addled post-Napster America, for that matter.

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