Today I want to share a few related thoughts with you and also formally invite anyone hiding in the fringes, or the shadows, or the fringes of the shadows to come out and join us BOTBers if they'd like. There's nuttin' to fear but fear itself (...and shutouts).
I was so pleased that my last BOTB blog bit posted automatically as scheduled, because I was on the road (again) and wouldn't have been able to
Those of you who are amongst the devil's minions can rest easy: I don't have any more Gospel BOTB songs lined up in the immediately foreseeable future, following my April Fool's Day BOTB. And if this next one seems too "Gospelly" for your tastes, just remember how I recently Rocked your world with percussion from War and the blitzkrieg of "Who He?" Hoey! I'm NOT a one-note Charlie and a one trick pony... or dogG.
Dixie Polka (dp) expressed some doubts recently about how to find potential BOTB songs and worthy competitors. This strikes me as odd, seeing as how dp has already posted some really good BOTB blog bits. But she's still a relative newcomer, so I gave her some advice that went like this:
I agree that you shouldn't pick your Battles based on how you think others might respond...
As far as HOW you come up with your two contestants, that's TOTALLY IRRELEVANT (and there's no reason to even tell the audience HOW you arrived at them). I do know quite a bit of music, so I would guess that 75% of the time I know beforehand which artists I am going to pit against each other.
But in that other 25%, I will either go to Wikipedia (at the bottom of each "Song" page they usually list other notable performers who have recorded it) or go to YouTube and just put the song title into the Search Window, and all the YouTube-posted versions will come up in your Search results.
Also, of that 25%, there have been times when I planned to use two specific artists but out of curiosity, I searched to find out who else may have recorded it. And as a result of that search, changed my mind about one of the two I was intending to use.
A good example of that is when I was going to use the Atlanta Rhythm Section hit 'Spooky'. I was going to put ARS up against someone else, but at YouTube I found the unknown (to me) Dusty Springfield cover and thought it was really good and might make an even better match-up than what I had planned...
So I put Dusty's cover up against the ARS hit (which I voted for) and she udderly wiped them out on their own song!!! I was surprised like you wouldn't believe! I mean, I KNEW she was going to get some votes ('cause her version was damned good) but I did NOT expect her to win. ...And sometimes the surprise is the best (and most fun) thing about BOTB.
You can ask ANY BOTBer and they will all tell you that... "You never can tell."
[My biggest BOTB shock ever came in my second Battle Of The Bands installment. I put the Fleetwood Mac original of 'OH WELL' against the cover by The Rockets, which is far better in every conceivable way, in my op. I was sure The Rockets would clobber The Mac on their own song. To my slack-jawed amazement, my own totally honest vote for The Rockets was the only vote that saved me from a dreaded shutout!]
In my opinion, the MOST IMPORTANT 'BOTB' RULE-OF-THUMB is to (almost) ALWAYS use two recordings that YOU personally like.
In the past, I think a couple of BOTBers have gotten themselves in trouble when they put 'Dramatic Diversity Of Arrangement' ahead of 'Do I Like This?' on their list of considerations when preparing a BOTB blog bit.
If you always select song versions that YOU genuinely like, you can never go wrong with your BOTB installment.
Only TWICE (so far) in 40 BOTB installments have I used a recording that I really DIDN'T like in a BOTB contest. The first time was in MY VERY FIRST 'BOTB' BLOG BIT, when I used the exact same vocal track by Bebel Gilberto of the song 'AGANJU' with two different backing bands and drastically different arrangements. That FIRST Battle of mine was meant as an object lesson in the importance of arrangements in song recording, and not a "true" competitively matched BOTB installment. I really like the Latin Project version of 'Aganju' and I dislike the Spiritual South version. I expected a shutout in that BOTB installment, but one person (God bless her!) voted for Spiritual South, and saved me from a shutout, which I could have accepted... that one time only. (I've never yet had a shutout and I hope to keep it that way.)
Yes, it's fun to see how outrageously different we can get with our BOTB competitors, like putting a White male Rocker against a Black female Jazz singer, etc. But I think it's important to first make sure that the BOTBer likes BOTH versions before considering the diversity of performers and arrangers. Be true to yourself first... and only then should you think about how "wild" you want to get with the choices.
There is also something to be said for using recordings that aren't THAT much different, thus forcing the listener/voter to really concentrate on the minor differences to justify their vote for one or the other. (Sometimes just the vocal quality alone, or a brief instrumental break can make one version of a song seem better'n the other.)
However, having said that, you don't want to use two versions that are just WAY TOO SIMILAR in almost every respect. Example...
I am a huge Waylon Jennings fan - he is one of my very favorite musical artists of all-time and the most entertaining concert performer I ever saw (and I saw many, from Punk Rock to Jazz) - but there is no way I would ever put Waylon's version of 'CHEVY VAN' up against the original by Sammy Johns. That'd just be begging for a shutout.
Then there are certain songs where, even if you could find a cover, you really have to question the wisdom of putting something up against the original. For example, Thin Lizzy's title track 'BAD REPUTATION'...
Or perhaps Radio Birdman's 'ALOHA STEVE AND DANNO'...
Could anyone REALLY come up with covers that might give them some serious competition in voting? Maybe. But I wouldn't want to be the bloke who tests that water. I like being able to say "I'm shutoutless".
So, you wanna be a
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Just last week I was watching something that suddenly gave me a new idea for a BOTB blog bit. Within the next couple months I may again add a new "twist" to the BOTB format. (Don't worry, no Tiny Tim involved.) If I do this thang, I will actually be using a song I really hate. And I won't 'splain my (good and interesting, methinks) reason for it until after the voting and the results are in. But you may... or may not... find this new BOTB-envelope-expanding idea fun. We shall see, but not before the middle o' May.