For music geeks, it’s always interesting to chart the evolution of a song…from the earliest demos, to various recorded takes, to later live versions. Some musicians are known for radically rearranging their songs live, while others are prone to cannibalize bits and pieces of several unreleased songs to build new ones (on the basis of the bonus discs on Elvis Costello’s reissues, he’s a champion at this).
So here are several versions of the New Pornographers’ “Myriad Harbour.” The demo version is almost exclusively acoustic, except for an electric lead that shows up near the end, with multiple Dan Bejars outlining the song in its basic form. The studio version on Challengers is, of course, more elaborately arranged, in keeping with that album’s aesthetic. The multiple vocal parts benefit from actual multiple vocalists – especially since the lyrics mention “Carl” and “John” (one presumes Newman and Collins, guitarist/songwriter and bassist/producer respectively). The arrangement, particularly in the instrumental coda with its scraping cellos, recalls avowed Newman faves The Move in that band’s latterday formation (around the time they were evolving into the Electric Light Orchestra).
The live version from a KCRW broadcast adds a new element, returning the song to its acoustic basis but playing the lead line now on a mandolin. The steady thump of the rhythm, along with the mandolin sound, reminded me of something…but I couldn’t quite place it at first.
And then I realized what song the arrangement was heading in the direction of: Led Zeppelin’s “Boogie with Stu.” I wonder what that song would sound like with A.C. Newman on the vocals… (Or maybe Neko – given its rather extravagant higher notes.)
Update: Following up on some e-mail comments: of course I know Danny Bejar sings lead on this song…the comment about A.C. Newman singing the hypothetical cover came about because he has a higher range more likely to be able to handle that song’s high-pitched vocal line.