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Monday, October 31, 2011

"I Put a Spell on You"

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You (1956)

"I don't even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death."

Alto and Baritone Saxophone for sure. Let's assume a Tenor as well. In between the chromatic reeds runs you can hear the drums better. It's mostly brushes on snare drum, tapped instead of stirred. Also a banjo. Possibly a guitar, but I think it's a banjo. The sax solo around 1:15 really wails. It's so short, in concert that would have gone on for two minutes by itself. Instead, the whole track is only 2:30. The vocals are what made the song famous. He screams and moans and grunts through the number. In its day, it was banned and called "cannibalistic". Hawkins maintained that he never meant the song to sound like that, but that producer Arnold Maxin brought in food and liquor to the recording studio, and they had a party. He claims that he blacked out and doesn't remember recording the song, and in fact had to learn how to sing it in the style of the record, from the record, so that he could tour with it. An entire act was built around the song, and the scary voodoo man who sang it, predating Alice Cooper, Kiss, and other 'shock-rock' stars by 20 years.

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