Its Just The Radio

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He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you, before the second show
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But it’s just the radio and you’re not really here

It’s a solid fact; since the days of the Hillbilly Cat – and probably way before that – girls have always fallen hard for the boys with guitars. And the nomadic lifestyles and aloof personalities that often accompany the young men that play that six stringed bandit just add fuel to the fires burning within their hearts. Before there was ever a name or term for those girls so madly in love with the boys in the band, the inevitable attraction simply was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

And there’s no hurt on earth like the pain of unrequited love. Promises made and never kept. Feeling it so strongly and knowing it will never, ever really be returned. And wallowing in such heartache, even in this self deceit is found such sweet anguish. The Bible tells us that He will heal us of such pain, but trying to tell that to those so afflicted with this particular brand of longing, is like telling an orphaned child that he’ll get over the fact his mother left him and said she would be back, but really will never return.

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again?
Come back again and play your sad guitar

In the heady and wild, early days of what we now know as classic rock-n-roll, women like Bebe Buell, Bianca Jagger, Pamela Des Barres, and Anita Pallenberg brought fame to the term “groupie”.  They were professionals. But these were not the women that a young Bonnie Bramlett was writing and singing about in “Superstar” – a song with the working title “Groupie”. This was real – the girl next door kind of real.

Listening to the original version of the song – it was the B side of Delaney & Bonnie’s 1969 single “Comin’ Home” – gives one the impression that Bonnie had some firsthand knowledge of this kind of feeling. Like most kids back then – glued to Top 40 radio – my first intro to the song came from the Carpenters cover in 1971, with Karen Carpenter’s rich, pure contralto voice pouring out of the speakers. It wasn’t until many years later, long after becoming familiar with Delaney & Bonnie via their hit singles “Never Ending Song Of Love” and “Only You Know And I Know”, that I found “Groupie (Superstar)” tucked away on an album sandwiched between “Comin’ Home” and “Country Life”.  I wondered if it was the same song. Fortunately, I was working in a record store by that time, so I was able to simply pop the wrapper and find out for sure that it was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Having become so accustomed to the Carpenters version – which was a huge hit – listening to Bonnie’s original was a rare treat. The Carpenters version was so ingrained in my head, it felt like D&B’s version was the cover. And while Bonnie’s vocal starts out strikingly similar to Karen’s, it quickly morphs into a delightfully soulful “Stax Records” sounding, blues-infused confession of longing love. Give it three more listens and suddenly Karen’s vocals sounded…well…more like a Carpenters record. A sweet and touching ballad for sure, but way more pop sounding – “Easy Listening” as the category was referred to back then – than real rock-n-roll.

Here’s a few interesting notes about “Superstar”:

  • It has been covered by dozens of artists as diverse as: Cher, Vikki Carr, Ruben Studdard, Usher, Elkie Brooks, David Sanborn, Chrissie Hynde, Luther Vandross, Sonic Youth and The Motels
  • It has appeared on multiple movie soundtracks including: Tommy Boy, Juno, The Frighteners, Wayne’s World 2 and Ghost Rider
  • The lyrics in the second verse were changed by Richard Carpenter from “And I can hardly wait, to sleep with you again” to the more socially acceptable – at that time – “And I can hardly wait, to be with you again”
  • The Carpenters cover version went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart

Bonnie’s career has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years and – as Hank Jr. might have said – she has definitely lived out her life in the songs she wrote, sang and backed up. One thing is for sure, no matter whether she was singing with Delaney or Eric Clapton, backing up Albert King, or belting it out as the first white singer to join Ike & Tina Turner as an Ikette, she did it in her own style and with that unmistakeable sound you can pick out on any recording she ever did – with your eyes closed.

And, as for all those love torn, rock star crazed young ladies; the bad news is he ain’t ever coming back. The good news is there’s someone out there who knows exactly how you feel.

To learn more about what Bonnie is doing today check out her profile at: Leadership Artists LLC

Listen to the Delaney & Bonnie original here:

The hauntingly beautiful Bette Midler cover here:

And my favorite soulful cover by Luther Vandross here:

My sources for this song included:

Leadership Artists LLC: http://leadershipartists.com/bonnie-bramlett/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstar_%28Delaney_and_Bonnie_song

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2 thoughts on “Its Just The Radio

  1. Interesting article on Delaney and Bonnie. I recently found one of their Lp’s “Soul Kitchen”, With Little Richard, Duane Allman, etc. George Harrison introduced their back-up band to Eric Clapton which became Derek and The Domino’s (Layla) when Harrison and John And Yoko played with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends touring England, after Beatles broke-up. A lot of young people don’t unfortunately know how respected other musicians held them (D & B), which your article helped them learn about. Blog: “John And Yoko’s Peace Campaign.” https://www.scribd.com/AlanChrisman

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