The Song Remains the Same? Re-visiting, Re-working, and Re-recording the Popular Song.
Mills, Amanda Patricia
Re-recorded songs and albums by original artists have appeared more often in musician’s or band’s discographies over the last two decades, as they increasingly look back to their earlier works as source material. The continual rise in re-recorded albums and songs has led to questions about why musicians re-visit their work and re-record it. This research argues that the decisions musicians make to re-work songs, and the reasons underlying them, are complex, and include a range of factors from artistic license, to (in many cases) rights ownership. Re-recorded songs or albums are not obscurities within an artist’s discography, but often hold a transitional place, especially if they are presented in a different style or arrangement to the original versions. Occasionally, some re-recorded songs, such as Eric Clapton’s MTV Unplugged version of ‘Layla’ (Reprise, 1992), supercede the original, and become the default version when considering the song. While limited literature exists on original artists re-working and re-recording their earlier work, it frequently focuses on specific artistic examples, rather than a broader overview. The documented evidence (in biographies, texts on cover versions, industry articles and interviews) provides some explanation for re-recordings, but few writers and commentators look closely at re-recorded works as a wider phenomenon, and the implications arsing from them. Using an intertexual framework to examine re-recorded songs provides a way to see how the new version of a recorded text is connected to the original version, and can expose new meanings between audience and artist. This can be a delicate balance, as fanbases are likely to be attached to original versions of songs, especially if the song is successful, or a favourite track. Closely connected to re-recordings are cover versions, which also have intertextual links to original versions, and establish bonds between musical artists as well as a way to pay homage to, or interpret other artists’ music. This thesis examines the varying ways musical artists have re-recorded their works, noting the different kinds of re-recordings, and the underlying decisions and reasons behind them. Examples have been drawn from across popular music genres to represent the wide range of artists who re-record work, and the diverse reasons behind them. Four rationales for re-recordings – financial or legal reasons, ownership of master recordings, updated recording technologies, and alterations for artistic reasons – are explored using further examples of musicians undertaking this process. Two specific case studies examine the re-recorded output of high-profile musicians who re-recorded their music throughout their careers – David Bowie, and Kate Bush – before a final chapter assesses re-recorded musical works from a New Zealand perspective. This chapter on New Zealand musicians and re-recordings includes new interviews with musicians who have re-recorded their work. Their comments and reflections underscore the argument that re-recordings are complex, and affect not only the perception of the song, but also the artist’s engagement with the material, and the audience’s connection to it. Ultimately, a musician or band takes many risks when re-recording their musical works, and their reasons for doing so are nuanced with many factors to consider.
Advisor: Chapman, Ian
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: School of Performing Arts - Music
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Music; Re-recordings; New Zealand; David Bowie; Kate Bush; Split Enz; The Chills; Re-recorded music; Intertextuality; Cover versions
Research Type: Thesis