Here at PHL, we tend to avoid covers. Firstly, as self-aware rank amateurs we know that to do a cover would elicit from our hypothetical listener a comparison between our copy and the model, a comparison that could not possibly be to the advantage of our vanity. Secondly, and less ignobly, we reject mimesis as a principle of musical production. As a Rumanian aphorist might say, commentary makes nothing happen. One must speak directly in order to get anywhere. So we do, as best we can, and within the limitations of historical necessity, as Deleuze and Guattari did. We make becoming the constructive principle of our adventure in the Refrain. Still, we have recognized and been intrigued by the possibility that one can cover a song in a way that does not arise from an imitative–that is, a cannibalistic–impulse. But it isn’t just our own becoming-musical that is of concern to us. We have an obligation to facilitate the song to carry on its own becoming. And to do this we have to do what Deleuze suggested one do with one’s philosophical forebears: read them in ways that, while adding nothing extrinsic to them, brings something out that has hitherto been hidden. (Interestingly, this suggestion resonates with what Walter Benjamin called the process of “historical apocatastasis.”) Repeat, but with a difference. Bring out a bearded Hegel, a Marx without hemorrhoids.
So that is what we tried to do with Bobby D’s classic early folk tune “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” We tried to grow a beard on it. The primary way of bringing out the difference in the repetition was to transpose it into a minor key. I doubt anyone has previously thought of doing this, probably because they didn’t need to: they could sing and play well. I can’t, so something more drastic had to be done. One might argue that transposition from E major to E minor is an “extrinsic” addition and thus an imposition. All I could say in response is that the chord sequence is otherwise unaltered. (The substance is the same, only the mode has changed…) In any case, I thing the song’s becoming-minor turned out well; I think it helps to bring out a bit more clearly the creepiness of the “lyrical I,” who, after all, is saying hurtful things to a young girl that refused his sexual advances (“Ain’t no use in calling out my name, gal, like you never done before…”). Clink on the link in the title below to give last night’s take a listen: