Sometimes you buy a record when you only know one song, and the results are terrible. You end up wishing you never bought the thing in the first place, with the other tracks tarnishing everything you loved about the one song that interested you. Then there are other times, like when you buy an album like American Woman by the Guess Who, and suddenly everything fits in place. How can I not have heard more of this band before?
I remember hearing the original version of American Woman – before Lenny Kravitz covered it – on the soundtrack to Ben Stiller’s 1996 film The Cable Guy. It’s probably my favourite moment, in an otherwise disappointing film, when the stereo system installed in the apartment of Matthew Broderick’s character, by Jim Carrey’s cable guy, prompts a karaoke party.
I’ve been kicking around a 7” of American Woman for decades, and only just got around to investing in the album. The band sounds like a hybrid of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane, by way of Zeppelin and the Who, which makes for an interesting prospect, with lead guitarist Randy Bachman probably best known for his later work as part of Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The single version of American Woman cuts straight in, with the rhythm guitar part setting up the tempo for the incredible fuzz line that is the centrepiece of the song. I was amazed to find a nice little acoustic passage that opens the song on the album version. Hearing this is akin to hearing the instrumental break in the album version of Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper on Agents Of Fortune.
There are probably plenty of examples of singles being more than judicious in what they cut out of the original song – one infamous example being the single version of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion which disposes entirely of the bass guitar intro. Sacrilege!
Hit: American Woman
Hidden Gem: 969 (The Oldest Man)