Thursday, September 20, 2007

Teenage Kicks Presents... "You Better Move On"

There are songs that once you hear them, they immediately feel like part of your DNA. When I first heard Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On”, it was on Mink DeVille’s extraordinary fourth cd, Coup de Grace. On this disc Willy DeVille finally found that elusive perfect mix of Spanish Harlem and Bowery cool. And “You Better Move On”, with its street corner harmonies, lilting guitar, gauzy marimbas and city slicker cool vocals made it not only the album’s centerpiece but a sweet tribute to the song’s author. I needed to investigate this guy.

Arthur Alexander was a giant… literally. Standing about 6’10”, this soul music titan in one cathartic moment birthed the legendary Muscle Shoals sound with the cautionary warning to a rival suitor, “You Better Move On”. His elegant mixture of simple backwoods country and deep fried southern soul caught the ears of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan – all who recorded his songs. After his early successes, Alexander struggled to cope with bad business deals and became disillusioned with the music industry. He was driving a bus in Cleveland for years when he was coaxed into returning to the studio via Elektra’s American Explorer series. Incredibly, the resulting album, Lonely Just Like Me, was an unqualified success. Just as he was reaping the rewards of his “second act” success, he died of heart failure in June 1993 in Nashville.

In a 1987 Billboard article, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards related, "When the Beatles and the Stones got their first chances to record, one did 'Anna,' and the other did 'You Better Move On.' That should tell you enough!"

With the imminent release (October 9) of an updated and expanded version of Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter it’s time for a rediscovery of the singular talent of Arthur Alexander. Here are three different takes on “You Better Move On”, with Alexander’s version taken from a 1993 Fresh Air performance.


Satch said...

There are few songs that, when you hear multiple versions, you can truly find something unique in each one. “You Better Move On” is one of the prime examples. “The Dark End Of The Street” is another that comes to mind.

But, for me, “You Better Move On” is one of the all time classics. It’s a song that, when sung by a golden throated crooner, it can soar above the clouds … and when done with just the right amount of dirty rasp, can bring a tear to anyone’s eye.

“You Better Move On” – should be on the “Required Listening” list for any aspiring songwriter or singer.


Anonymous said...

I'm a big Stones fan, but I always thought Willy DeVille's "You Better Move On" is better than the Stones' version. The marimbas give the song a whole new flavor.