This song was written in 1956 by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as a ballad, but he claims the producer got him drunk in the studio and that’s when he started Screamin’, and people loved it, so he never stopped. Since then, it’s been recorded a whole lot. I’m here to recommend a mini video festival’s worth of takes, and one recording, and this may be a little weird but I think it’s the best out there, by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I actually think the Jay Hawkins story is a little sad. He was a good songwriter with a huge, thunderous voice, and after this song he turned his stage act into a sort of slapstick voodoo-shaman sideshow. I have to admit it makes for pretty amusing video; also I gather he got paid pretty well for it, and it’s hard to be against anything that gets a musician paid.
Anyhow, the way I Put A Spell On You became a Song of the Day is I was walking to the train listening to Shuffle All Songs and this wicked-sharp excellent blues came on, just outstanding singing and feeling and guitar, and I asked myself “Who the hell is that?” and it turned out to be Creedence. When I sat down to write this I immediately discovered Screamin’ Jay, and, well, just skip down to the Links section for some weird and wonderful stuff.
I suppose few people under sixty even know that there was once a band called Creedence Clearwater Revival but when I was about twelve the teenager upstairs used to play them, and I’d lie in my room with the window open and just listen. If this goes on long enough I’ll drop in one or two more of their songs, which are a unique blend of soulful American electric flavors. It turns out they were mostly a vehicle for John Fogerty, who wrote a lot of songs that you’d recognize even if you never heard of Creedence. But anyhow, this is just a cover of Screamin’ Jay’s original.
Links · Spotify playlist. Creedence’s take on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. Now, as for video, oh my goodness gracious. I guess I should start with the classic Screamin’ Jay shtick. And since I recommend the Creedence recording, here they are at Woodstock (sloppy), and then here’s John Fogerty in 1997; a very fine performance, maybe the purest, and John really brings it on guitar.
Now, for some reason, there seems to be something that happens when two famous and entirely unrelated musicians get together in a studio that makes them want to do I Put a Spell on You. For example, here’s British blueswoman Mica Paris with a super-hot slow-burn, some dude named David Gilmour playing guitar. Speaking of Gilmour, here he is backing up anther skinny Brit white boy, name of Pete Townshend. Two of the biggest guitar names in history on stage and they don’t play much, but you might want to watch this anyhow, Pete bites down hard on the vocals in a weirdly campy way but with total commitment, it’s a really ace piece of blues singing. Famous guitarist/singer combos? Here’s Jeff Beck and Joss Stone and they’re only OK. Let’s leave the guitars behind and appreciate some late-stage Joe Cocker; not everyone’s cup of tea but I thought it was honest and moving.
I’ve saved the best — well, the weirdest, anyhow — for the last; Iggy Pop with French chanteuse Catherine Ringer. I totally lack words to describe what they do, but if you watch it, you won’t soon forget it. Seriously.