Multigenerational Three Way: Willie wasn’t the first, nor the last – “Always On My Mind”
Willie Nelson has a new album Last Man Standing available now on iTunes.
by Walter Price
I have to say, the way I was introduced to Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson’s “Always On My Mind” was in 1982 via the great one, Willie Nelson. A Grammy award-winning version that further cemented my love of the Red Headed Stranger. But back then I was a naive youngster that wasn’t exactly sure what my mom was talking about when she blew my noggin with the factoid that Elvis Presley did it first. She should have said he recorded it before Willie, but I hadn’t the skill set to quibble over pop culture semantics at the time.
But my trusty ol’ mama was correct. Elvis recorded it in 1972. Had a bit of a hit with it as well. But to my shock and pleasant dismay, two weeks ago I discovered that the track was actually first recorded by no other than Gwen McCrae followed by Brenda Lee in the same year as The King. Definitely, a ‘more you know’ sorta situation.
Anyhoo, by the mid-eighties, I had ‘matured’ a bit and branched out a bit beyond my love of outlaw country, (and KISS) and found my sonic fingers digging into Brit-pop, synth, and all things alternative. Which was super fun and kept me intrigued for years to follow. In 1987, one of the songs that brought my past into the then now was when I heard Pet Shop Boys covering Willie’s massive hit. WTF, a synth act doing things to a beloved country classic?!!
I was seriously confused for a hot second. Driving around in my ’71 Dodge Dart trying to understand how these worlds could ever collide or even knew of one another. But there was no denying the captivating way PSB did the song up. A small number of structural changes, but the old bones were still intact. So at the end of the day, what a delight it was to have the song’s pop culture importance prolonged.
“Always On My Mind” has been recorded well over three hundred times throughout the years, and there have been some fantastic, if not ‘interesting’, versions. But, for me, the incarnations I love the best are the ones that hold significant bookmarks in my weird life. So, in an attempt to be as obviously personal, per se…here is a three-way that will keep you satisfied. Or something.
Pet Shop Boys
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